“There is still so much more to do to achieve gender parity in support. A successful sport needs a balance of consumer, media and commercial appeal. The revolution for women in sport is moving off the sports field and into the broadsheets, boardrooms and sidelines.” – Emily Glen
Emily Glen’s talk was jam packed with statistics; real life figures that highlight very succinctly what female athletes are up against. She put it to attendees to look at what their role is within this and to begin conversations that will bring about change. She has kindly let us republish it here. Published also on her own site forthelongrun.org. Emily Glen is an amateur runner, sports enthusiast, part time adventure seeker, and cake baker. From Dublin, she is Policy & Communications Manager for an international NGO and self confessed policy nerd. Writing for several publications on a variety of issues including social policy & women in sport, Emily is passionate about the role of sport and recreational activities in engaging communities. @Emily_Glen
Emily Glen – For the Long Run
My name is Emily Glen. I am an amateur runner, recently completed my second marathon. I’m a sports fan and general sports enthusiast. I write about sport and social issues on the world’s least influential blog, I also happen to be a woman.
I wouldn’t have been able to introduce myself in this way 50 years ago. For a lot of reasons, chief among them I wouldn’t have been allowed to run a marathon 50 years ago. 50 years ago, we as sports fans wouldn’t have been able to cheer on Jess Ennis, Hill in the Olympics or the Irish Women’s rugby team. Because 50 years ago women weren’t allowed to compete to these standards.
The last thirty years have been a revolution for sportswomen.
The London 2012 Olympics have been dubbed the ‘Women’s Olympics’ because they were the first Olympic Games in which women competed in all events. The 2012 Olympics was the first in which all of the 200+ participating countries sent female athletes to compete. The first women’s 10,000 meter race took place during 1988 Olympics – one year after I was born – until then it was still argued that it was dangerous for women to run longer distances. Women made up 61% of half marathon finishers in 2013.
We open a sport summit which will be attended by some of the finest minds of our time – working on sports in which female athletes are trailblazing! A woman MMA fighter would have been unimaginable thirty years ago. When Cathal Pendred takes to this stage tomorrow, I’m sure he will tell you about Aisling Daly, Ireland’s preeminent female MMA fighter. She, like many female athletes are competing in ways which was unimaginable thirty years ago.
As a demographic of amateur athletes, women are focusing more than ever on their physical fitness. The number of women playing a sport has increased by 4% in Ireland in 2013 alone. In the UK, there are 250,000 more women taking place in sport today than there were in 2010. Women are less than 50% of participants in many sports – just one in ten cyclists is female, 30 % of triathletes, 40% of runners and over 50% of gym users are women.
There is still so much more to do to achieve gender parity in support. A successful sport needs a balance of consumer, media and commercial appeal. The revolution for women in sport is moving off the sports field and into the broadsheets, boardrooms and sidelines.
Sponsors, the media, and even fans sometimes have lagged behind the pace set by female athletes. When female athletes win major sporting events – there is a large chance you’ll never hear about it. Social media has given athletes amazing platforms to connect directly with their fans – and to monetize this relationship. But the BBC broadcast around 1000 hours of women’s sport each year. That’s just 20% of its sports coverage dedicated to women’s sport. Sky Sport showed women’s sport on 200 days in 2013.
Print media has been even slower to catch up, only 7% of sports media coverage is devoted to women’s sport. Traditional sports media defers to teams with proven track records. Which means sports that are traditionally associated with female athletes such as gymnastics, receive more coverage than women’s football. It makes these sports less interesting to sponsors and less accessible to fans.
When female athletes do win events, they can expect to receive an average of 70% of the prize money that my male counterpart would receive. The PGA has a total of $256 million dollars in prize money; the ladies association has a total fund of only $50 million. The Women’s Sport & Fitness Foundation reported that in 2013 women’s sports received 0.4% of the total value of commercial sponsorship. This inequality impacts every aspect of women’s sport, from athlete development to coaches salaries and the standard of the facilities in which female athletes can train.
Perhaps most frustratingly are the events from which women are still systematically excluded. In the 64 years since it has existed, the Grand Prix World Championship has had only 5 female entrants – compared to over 800 men. There is no women’s equivalent to the Tour De France.
It’s a cycle that we’re all aware of;
- Media say their under – representation of women in sport is proportional the demand by supporters.
- Sponsors say their sponsorship is proportional to the market share of sportswomen in the media and among sports fans.
This dilemma compounds itself when female athletes who don’t receive the same sponsorship & funding have to fit training around employment
Unfortunately, the point of my talk is not to tell you the solution to this conundrum. It’s more complex. And here’s the thing; in some cases, you are the media, the sponsors, the coaches, you’re using and designing the communications and technology that will be driving advances in sport for the next thirty years, and as a fan I’m so excited to hear what you’ve got planned.
At a basic level, you’re probably like me – sports fans & amateur athletes. We all have a role to play in this, not just in showing up to but in driving the conversation forward and keeping women on the agenda.
So let’s use the Sport Summit to set an agenda for women in sport – lets start the discussion about how we as a community support our female athletes.
While this list is not exhaustive or conclusive, lets start the conversation – here are some discussion topics for the Women in Sport Agenda, 2015 and beyond.
- Firstly, the Olympics are the only time female athletes across multiple sports receive mass attention and funding. That’s once every four years. Accepting this is ignoring the massive value proposition of women’s sport. Funders and sponsors need to be brave and see the value of getting involved in a movement or with a sport that has not been traditionally attractive to women.
- Secondly, if the cycle that supports the under-funding and under representation of women in sport can end anywhere, I believe it can end with fans. Fans can engage and shape the structures in which our athletes compete. And the opinion of sports fans are that girls are deadly; 61% of those surveyed by the Women’s Sports & Fitness Foundation said they believed sportswomen were just as skillful as their male counterparts and over half said women’s sporting events are just as exciting to watch. When Katie Taylor, our Olympic heroine won her sixth European Championship in 2014, none of her fights were screened on terrestrial TV. That’s not OK with me – not because we’re both women – but because I’m a fan and I wanted to watch that. The audience for women’s sports is valuable – and it’s not only women, 70% of views for women’s sports events are men. Women’s sports and female athletes provide relatively low cost investments with huge potential returns.
- Thirdly, traditional media – print, broadcast, radio- needs to catch up. Social media is capitalising and monetizing the relationship that athletes are cultivating directly with fans. Print and broadcast media have a traditional role as commentators. But so often the quality of commentary is so poor that it discourages women from getting involved in sport. It discourages women from even watching sport. Those commentators are limiting the potential market of investors and sponsors. They are doing fans and athletes alike a disservice. The quality and quantity of print and broadcast media covering women’s sports needs urgent revision – or it will become obsolete.
- Lastly, more women are getting involved in sport. In Britain ¾ of a million people took up a team sport after the Olympics, 2/3 of whom were women. And we’re taking up sports we’ve never done in such numbers before. Sports that we have never thought of as being traditionally feminine. Sports that are not funded at elite level, like ultra distance running, or Olympic weightlifting, the list goes on. With more female participants, more fans and sustained levels of support, the potential market place is exploding.
I’m asking you to use the sport summit to start a discussion. Addressing the issues which hinder advancements for women’s sport.
But what exactly is a Women’s Sport? What can men do that women can’t? David Epstein spoke with you this morning stating there is no reason which supports women being prohibited from competing to the same standards as men.
Women’s sport is a term we use as short hand for female athletes and the events they compete in. Yet we don’t use the same gender prefix for men’s sports. When we say the ‘Irish Rugby Team’ we really mean the Irish Men’s rugby team. We need the term Women’s Sport right now to highlight the discrepancy that exists and the positive action we need to take, but at the end of the day – male and female athletes are united by a unique drive & determination & ability. Athletes now need support and combined action to remove the prefix from sport to make sport just sport.