I remember it was a late night and I was scrolling through channels on the TV. The 2012 London Summer Olympics was in full swing at the time. So, I curiously decided to watch a women’s football match between the U.S. and Canada. These were two neighbours squaring off in a match which honestly did not sound interesting to watch. But to my surprise, it was an incredibly contentious affair. The game needed extra time to settle a 3-3 draw. Even then, during the final seconds of injury time of extra time, Alex Morgan from the U.S. team scored a header and stole a win. This wrapped up 120 minutes of excitement that has since made me grow a fascination and an appreciation for women’s sports.
Unfortunately, since then that time too, I have also come to learn that they do not receive a great deal of attention.
So why more attention?
Fast forward to today. Women’s sports only receive an average of 4% of ALL sports media coverage. In fact, this number does not go beyond 10% even during worldwide events such as the Olympics and the women’s FIFA World Cup. It is a startling statistic when you realize that women account for approximately 40% of participants in sports (outside of worldwide competitions). Why is there such a disconnect?
I have heard all the common chit chat about how men are more physical and athletic and this makes them more entertaining to watch. These traits are undeniably shared by women as well. Remember the U.S. Women’s team I mentioned earlier? Well, they are far more accomplished than the men’s team. They have been crowned the champions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 3 times and the Olympics football champions 4 times. I have watched more than enough to know that they carry a tremendous amount of entertainment with them.
Furthermore, these women are equally strong-willed and talented. Mind you, they are doing the same job and most are performing on the same level as their male counterparts. Just, for example, take those playing in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). It is a common notion that female basketball players possess a greater and higher consistency in defending and scoring free throws. The late Kobe Bryant believed that those in the WNBA were outperforming those in the NBA and predicted that they could very well play together harmoniously in the same team.
My opinions are not unique. Conclusions drawn by research on how regular people described women’s sports across countries like the U.S., the UK, Australia etc. shown below are exemplary of women’s sports are paving their own way into the opinions of everyone’s minds:
“progressive”, “clean”, “inspiring” and “family-oriented”
What is the future like?
There are many more reasons I could name but that does not mean that the future is bleak. Hope is far from lost. Interest in women’s sports is fast and growing. The 2018 U.S. Open final between tennis stars Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka averaged 3.1 million views. That’s almost 50% more than the men’s final held in the same tournament of the same year. Besides this, the women’s FI FA World Cup final outperformed the men’s World Cup final held in the same year by 22% amongst U.S. viewers.
It is extremely important to note that this is more than just a single matter of attention. It is also about creating a more equal environment for future generations. By increasing visibility and providing greater access to women’s sports, outdated gender stereotypes and norms can be broken down and forgotten. The “no one cares” or “get back in the kitchen” attitudes of the past can be rid off once everyone recognizes how truly talented and how much of an equal skill level professional sportswomen are. Not only this, but women will be empowered and future generations can be inspired to consider the world of professional sports as a viable opportunity and not a thing to just be relegated to the backwaters of ambition.
Written by Sofiyan Ivan Shahran