Women Athletes Issues

By Athena Constantinou, Managing Director, APC Sports Consulting, Nicosia, Cyprus

Sport is a universally-shared human culture and, as such, it should be equally shared by men and women across the globe.

Women’s history in sport, however, is fairly new; it dates back only to the 19th Century.

The first time that female athletes participated in the Modern Olympic Games was the second Olympic Games held in 1900; there were just twelve female athletes out of a total of 1,066 athletes competing from nineteen countries.

Gender inequality in sport is, unfortunately, a fact of life and gives rise to a multitude of issues.

Issues faced by women athletes include their limited professional opportunities in sport; gender pay gap in professional sport; balancing an athletic career with family life and raising children, as women are still seen as the primary care givers; and the list, sadly, goes on and on!

Even though some progress has been made in promoting gender equality in sport, there are still many challenges to be addressed.

This month our Money Smart Athlete Team at APC Sports Consulting aims to highlight and address the issues faced by women athletes and to offer insight and guidance to them on handling them as best as possible.

We envision a sports industry where women athletes are given a fair chance and we wish to empower women athletes to use their voices in the ongoing battle of the gender pay gap; their continuous objectification; and their inequitable media coverage. Our ultimate goal is to see women athletes equipped with the tools which will, eventually, allow them to achieve true equality in sport!

As Mayi Cruz Blanco, a leading protagonist for women’s rights in sport, points out in a blog  of 6 March 2019 in the March Newsletter on the Money Smart Athlete dedicated website (www.moneysmartathlete.com):

“Although girls and women have been able to access sport in growing numbers in the last decades, very few women have been able to reach senior leadership positions in the world of sport.”

Cruz Blanco adds in her blog as follows:

“Moreover, investment into girls and women sporting careers remains dramatically low within international sports governing bodies; a direct effect from lacking critical mass of female leaders across the whole industry.

Currently, it is estimated that fewer than 20% of chief executive positions in sports are filled by women. At the chair or president level, this number falls to well under 10%.

At the Twenty-First Century, girls and women face difficult hurdles to be recognised for their athletic talents. On the financial and economic level, the sports industry struggles to compensate women fairly, both on sporting and executive levels.”

This disparity is particularly true in the case of women’s football, whose popularity is continually on the rise around the world – not least in Europe. The pay gap between the men’s and the women’s game is quite dramatic. For example, the captain of the England men’s team, Harry Kane, earns £200,000 per week; whereas, the captain of the England women’s team, Steph Houghton, earns £1,500 per week!

Recent figures from the English Football Association show that the average hourly pay for a man is 23.2% higher than a woman.

Whilst, to take Rugby, another sport in which women are actively engaged professionally, the Rugby Football Union reports a 23% gender pay gap in the hourly pay of men and women.

The financial trend in other sports globally is similar with men earning more than women in terms of wages, prize money and sponsorship. For example, there was only one woman on the 2017 Forbes’ List of the World’s Top 100 Highest Paid Athletes and that was Serena Williams, with an annual income of US$27 million, who was in 51st place on this List.

Such financial inequalities need to be rectified in sport generally in order to put women athletes on a financial ‘level playing field’ with their male counterparts.

This is quite a challenge for sports governing bodies to meet and requires their urgent attention in the modern world of sport which is now a significant industry in its own right!

Athena Constantinou may be contacted by e-mail at ‘athena@apc-sport.com’