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Why is there still a gender imbalance in sport?

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There can be little doubt about it; regardless of raging debates, hundreds of columns dedicated to the matter, and the social media frenzy that follows almost every recorded instance, there is still a huge gender imbalance in the world of sport.

We were collectively outraged more than once during the Rio Olympics as female athletes and medal winners were heralded concerning their husband’s, or partner’s, achievements in spite of their own. Simone Biles, the decorated US gymnast was forced to correct those who compared her to male competitors: “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.”

Jessica Ennis

There has been a huge rise in the popularity of female sports and their stars, and still those biases remain. While it’s certainly very easy to ask why such an imbalance is still prevalent, and how it’s allowed to happen, what we really should be asking ourselves is how we can overcome such a gender bias. What can you do to alter the sporting world’s perception of you as a strong, confident woman, and how can we, as a united front, ensure that the sporting world changes for the better in time to greet our children?

How we can combat gender imbalance in sport

Hey ladies, isn’t the increasing coverage of women’s sport enough for you people? Well, no, actually. Despite a rallying interest around the women’s rugby and football world cups, and increasing investment in sports such as cycling, swimming, and gymnastics, women are still being paid less than their male counterparts, and being referred to in less favourable terms.

According to a Cambridge University Press study, which analysed 160million words from across the media, men are still three times more likely to be recognised for their sporting achievements, while women are judged upon their marital status, appearance, or age. Add into that the media coverage that women’s tournaments reap in comparison to men’s, and the investment proffered to each, and you’ll notice that it’s not okay. So, what can we do about it?

Recognise that it’s not okay

The first step toward addressing the gender balance is to recognise that it’s not okay and to ensure your children grow up to understand that their efforts are amazing, regardless of how many races they win – or whether they’re boys or girls. John Inverdale was heavily criticised following his post match interview with Andy Murray, during which he lauded the tennis star as the first to win two gold medals. Murray had to remind the journalist that Serena and Venus Williams had actually both won four each. How is it possible that top brass media types are still acknowledging men’s achievements over that of women?

Get involved

As a mother, your first step will often be to inspire your children. One of the biggest arguments for gender imbalance is that girls just don’t have the role models that boys do – although this is changing all the time with Olympians such as Ellie Simmonds, Laura Trott, and Jessica Ennis Hill, and stars including Venus and Serena Williams, and Steph Houghton stepping onto the stage. Nurturing a love of sport could be as easy as undertaking physical activity yourself; what could you and your friends become involved in? Even gathering together one evening a week and enjoying online betting websites with your friends will involve you in the world of sports, and perhaps encourage you to engage in a team sport or tournament of your very own.


Embrace physical activity from an early age

Recent studies conducted in Northern Ireland found that the percentage of girls taking part in sport was far higher during their primary years than it was at any other time, and that while the numbers of boys playing sports increased as they aged, girls were less likely to continue beyond compulsory sporting activities carried out at school. A lack of confidence, a desire to prioritise academic subjects over sports, and a fear of failure were all touted as reasons why girls may give up sport. This lack of confidence is hardly dispelled as children see their achievements so heavily scrutinised in later life, so encourage your child to undertake sport for the enjoyment, and the way it makes them feel, rather than the prowess.

Regardless of whether you’re a mother to sons or daughters you’re no doubt concerned by the gender imbalance that still clouds the sporting world; particularly if you can see your child nurturing ambitions to run, swim, cycle, ride, throw, or kick. Yes, the times they are a-changing but are they altering quickly enough? Shouldn’t our children be able to engage in sporting activities without an automatic bias, or favour? The attitudes that you encourage and endorse will affect your children for years to come, so never be afraid to speak your mind; let’s change the face of sport together.

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1 Comment

  1. September 30, 2016 / 3:02 pm

    Great post – I completely agree with the points you’ve raised here!

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