THE DISPARITY OF WOMEN IN SPORT: WHO HOLDS THE SOLUTION?
18/07/2017 | BY AALIA WALKER
Blaming the media seems like an easy explanation for the disparity between men's and women's sport.
We recently attended BadassWomen’s Hour where the topic was debated, and we spoke to Imogen Gaunt, Director of Communications at Harlequins FC to find out where the solution lies. As it turns out, it's closer to home than you might think.
BADASS WOMEN’S HOUR
Last month we attended the Badass Women's Hour - Women in Sport event where panelists Emma Sexton, Harriet Minter and Natalie Campbell were joined by guests:
- Kate Dale, Head of Brand and Campaigns at Sports England - behind #ThisGirlCan
- Alison Kervin, Sports Editor for the Mail on Sunday
- Kate Richardson Walsh, Captain of the England Olympic Hockey team
The discussion kicked off on the release of Wonder Woman but inevitably veered to the topic of Hollywood and Sport failing to treat and pay their male and female stars equally.
WHERE ARE WOMEN IN SPORT ON THE EQUALITY SCALE IN 2017?
While there’s no doubt that the disparity has reduced - 2017 actually marks the tenth anniversary of equal prize money at Wimbledon - and a new study shows that the gender prize money gap is narrower than ever. It is also the year that Real Madrid's men pocketed £13.5m for their Champions League win over Juventus, while defending champions Lyon took home (a comparatively paltry) £219,920 after defeating Paris St-Germain in the Women's Champions League final.
IS THE MEDIA TO BLAME?
While Kate Dale and Kate Richardson were lauded for their efforts to reignite a fire in women’s sport, Alison Kervin was cornered for being part of a media industry that fails to give women’s sport the coverage it deserves.
Alison Kervin, Sports Editor at The Mail on Sunday - and the first and only female sports editor of a British national newspaper - provides a perfectly eloquent argument as to why it’s not the media alone to blame.
Alison explained, “Ultimately we’re a commercial organisation”, referring to how a piece of coverage on the Premier League can get tens of thousands of hits, while a feature on a women’s team may struggle to hit even one hundred. Kerwin turned the spotlight around and asked who in the room had attended their local women’s team rugby or football event, and questioned whether anyone even knew the name of a single player. Tellingly, not a single hand was raised.
THE CHANGE STARTS HERE
At SMACK we decided to take action immediately - not only vowing to book tickets to support our local women's team, but also using our collective marketing and creative prowess to support a ladies sports team with some of our time pro bono. We contacted Harlequins FC, our local rugby team - and have now agreed to support their women's team. Making our own small difference to supporting our women in sport.
We spoke with Imogen Gaunt, Director of Communications at Harlequins FC to also further understand how we can close the gap, where positive differences are being seen and how the club is encouraging more female fans.
WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN WOMEN'S SPORT OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS?
"There have been some significant changes, in particular around increased media presence and attendances at women’s sport events. There is, however, a long way to go before there is parity with the men’s sporting arena and we hope to see significant further developments in the coming years."
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS DRIVING THE CHANGES?
"The quality of women’s sport will be playing a big part in the increased attendances, and success across a number of different sports helps to strengthen the image of women’s sport. The creation of individual personalities is also helping them to move into the mainstream and as a result, brands are starting to use them as ambassadors in the same way they do for men. Jessica Ennis is a perfect example of a female athlete leading the way in this."