Some big changes are in progress for women athletes
According to the Olympic Charter, the practice of sport is a human right, which includes equal opportunity for success.
Equality in women’s sport has always been an issue but luckily teams, sporting bodies, companies, government groups and individuals are all fighting for change in a way that made 2019 one of the greatest years yet for women's sport.
The benefits of sporting inclusion are undeniable. Sport can give women teamwork skills, self-reliance, resilience, confidence, and good body image, all while smashing stereotypes, creating positive role models, and positioning women and men as equals.
In 2019, some big changes were made to improve women's participation in sport.
Despite winning their fourth World Cup in 2019 and generating more revue than the men's team, it was revealed that the US women's soccer team were paid a quarter of the men’s team.
In protest, the women's team filed a wage discrimination act against US Soccer.
The result? Wage and bonus increase, better travel benefits, and improved financial support for pregnant or adopting players.
In Australia, the women's soccer team, the Matildas, also fought for equal pay - and suceeded. This deal also included better parental leave benefits and access to business-class international travel
Professional Footballers Australia Chief John Didulica called the deal one of partnership, equality and investment.
Marketing and exposure
However, equality in sport is a lot more complex than just equal pay. Women's teams also need to receive the same exposure through marketing and promotion - particularly as it gives a great comeback to naysayers who argue women should be paid less because they don't generate equal interest.
The US women's soccer team understood this well when they filed another lawsuit regarding marketing, and how the lack of it in women's sports leads to lower attendance, lower televised viewership, and lower merchandise sales.
This year women's cricket received great exposure and support from a global pop superstar. On International Women’s Day, Katy Perry performed at the final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, the biggest women’s cricket match to date.
Women’s sport is also getting far more screen time and is becoming more meaningful and popular among mainstream audiences.
In the UK, 30% of coverage on the BBC is women’s sports. IThe BBC aired the FA Cup Final, Fifa World Cup, Netball World Cup and Women’s Ashes. UK national newspaper The Telegraph has also launched a women’s sports section.
The Fifa Women’s World Cup broke broadcasting records, with a total of 1 billion views tuning in to watch the tournament that was ultimately won by the USA.
Lack of sponsorship is a common issue in woman’s sports but, after the US women's team's lawsuit, deodorant brand Secret promised a large contribution to the team while US Soccer’s biggest partner, Nike, publicly spoke out for pay equity and created an advert celebrating the team’s victory.
More sponsors should pay attention to women’s sport and its champions. With the increase in popularity this year, women’s sport is growing rapidly in comparison to their male counterpart.
Increasing focus on women’s sport is just smart business sense. The more promotion, the more fans. The more fans, the more ticket sales, merchandise sales, and overall increased revenue – which benefits men’s teams as well.
What’s more, it’s found that women are seen as more marketable than men – scoring higher for influencer traits like inspiration, social responsibility and healthy body image.
Brands would do well to associate themselves with successful women’s teams.
Fight like hell
It’s impressive how far women’s sport has come. Until mid-way into the 20th century, women’s sports were labelled ‘unfeminine’ and either discouraged or banned. Women have had unstable and often non-existent foundations to build on, so the success of women’s sport in 2019 should be celebrated as a massive breakthrough – and one that will hopefully continue into 2020.
As soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe says: women need to “fight like hell” until equality comes to their door.