We are making progress, but what is holding us back?

2019 was a huge year for Women in Sport (cue Megan Rapinoe, Bianca Andreescu, Simone Biles etc.). The industry is on the rise, but I thought I’d provide some perspective on where the industry stands as we start the new decade. 

 

Being a huge advocate for Women in Sport, I nerd out and do hours upon hours of research. From my understanding, there are three key hurdles that the industry is facing:

  • Participation
  • Coverage
  • Leadership.

I’ve laid out some pretty eye-opening stats below and offered some simple actions we can all take to keep the momentum moving forward!

 

 

Participation

When I think back to my childhood, I have very few memories that are not based around sport. I cannot imagine growing up without it. Sports are where I learned the skills that I rely on today; confidence, perseverance, teamwork, determination, communication.

As much as it pains me to say this, most of today’s youth don’t experience the same. When reading the stats below, think of how good staying active has been for both your mental and physical health, regardless of your age:

  • Only 2-8% of girls are getting enough physical activity.
  • 41% of girls and 84% of women do not participate in sport.
  • If a girl doesn’t participate by age 10 there is only a 10% chance she’ll be physically active at the age of 25.
  • Girls drop out of sport at 1.5x the rate that boys do by age 14. By age 17, more than half of girls will quit playing sports altogether:
    • 46% because they don’t see a future for themselves in the sport.
    • 32% because they didn’t feel they were good enough. 
  • Girls who are active in a sport during their youth are 20% less likely to get breast cancer later in life.

 

ACTION TO TAKE: Considering Still Stoked’s previous #IGOTYOU campaign, it’s critical we support each other, especially the youth. A simple smile and some words of encouragement can go a long way. More sporting organizations are working hard to make the sport more accessible but it’s up to us, the women participating in sport, to make it a positive environment and lead by example for the next generation.

 

Have you watched the new Sport England #ThisGirlCan ad?

 

 

Coverage

I was speaking with an executive of an ad agency and she explained that a project they were working on, which provided grants for people or companies who were promoting women in sport, was denied media coverage. They offered to cover all production costs for a short segment, and the network still declined!

All production costs covered, and they still weren’t willing to air this content!?!  I haven’t been able to shake this. Many studies have been conducted proving that there is a demand for women sports content  (live, on TV and online) from both male and female demographics.

  • 84% of general sports fans are interested in female sports and this is an even split of a male and female demographic.
  • 46% of the population say they would watch more if more women’s sports were accessible on free TV.
  • Although nearly half (40%) of sportspeople are female, they only received a mere 4% of coverage.
  • 0.4%. This is the number of sponsorship deals that are invested in female sports across the globe. Not even a full 1%!!! 

 

In the past, the narrative of the coverage on women’s sport strays away from the actual sport and focuses on stereotypical “female” topics: motherhood, fashion, etc. Think Eugenie Bouchard being asked to twirl during the Australian Open or Ada Hegerberg being asked to twerk while being the first female ever to receive a prestigious award….*facepalm*.

As well, the production quality of female sports is significantly worse (fewer cameras equals fewer angles to capture from therefore less content to make a compelling video) Thankfully, both of these issues have improved in the last few years due to brands investing in campaigns like #CoverTheAthlete, 20×20, She Breaks Barriers, Dream Crazier and so on.

 

ACTION TO TAKE: Attend or tune into broadcasted (online or TV) female events. The higher the attendance and viewership, the more coverage the sport will see and the larger the sponsorship deals will be (a significant source of funding for athletes). Thankfully, social media has provided athletes a FREE way to promote, go and give your fav female athlete a follow.

 

 

Leadership

“It’s hard to be what you can’t see”. This doesn’t just apply to athletes, but to leaders as well. How is our next generation supposed to strive to be a leader in this industry, if they rarely see it? Although it’s increasing at a marginal amount, female leaders are significantly underrepresented across the industry, sporting organizations, brands, media companies, broadcast networks and so on.

We need women at the leadership level to be advocated for other women, drive changes top-down and is at the forefront of the decision-making process. It’s time we shake up how the sporting organizations and companies within the industry are led:

  • There are more CEOs named John than there are female CEOs.
  • The benefits of sport don’t end in childhood, they are likely to help advance your career: 96% of females in C-Suite positions participated in a sport, of this 54% participated at the college level.
  • Only 11% of all coaches at the RIO Olympics were female.
  • Diverse boards are more likely to perform better as they are more closely able to mirror their customers and clients.
  • Women have up to 80% purchasing power in a household, having a female representative on the board will best be able to relate and apply their thinking patterns.

 

ACTION TO TAKE: Don’t discount how much sport can benefit you in your career. Be a leader, wherever you are. There are tons of organizations out there that have specific tools to help with these issues: CAAWS, Women In Sport, Women’s Sports Foundation, SheIs.

 

Get out there and continue to participate in the sports that make you smile, encourage others to participate, and support those that are. Let’s harness the momentum that is so rapidly building and close these gaps once and for all.

 

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