Interesting juxtaposition in today’s media coverage of women in sport. While The Independent (more on them later) gave overdue and much welcome front-page attention to the challenges facing female sporting participation, Sport Magazine provided its Power List 2012. And boy, does it make interesting reading. Literally. It is almost exclusively filled with boys.
Disregarding the sole female representation team entry (The Paralympians, number 23 in the list since you ask) only 5 members of the 50-strong power list in sport are women. 5. 10% of the power in sport, according to Sport Magazine, sits with women. The selected 5 (Nicola Adams, Clare Balding, Jessica Ennis, Barbara Slater and Maria Miller) are, undoubtedly, worthy representatives but is this really all there is?
What of Hope Powell or any of her England Women’s team charges? Are the 3 members of the England men’s hierarchy, plus the 8 managers, owners and administrators of the beautiful game really more worthy of inclusion – particularly during a year in which men’s football has largely underwhelmed and disgraced itself, while women’s football has seen exponential growth of its profile? Is the newly re-integrated England cricketer Kevin Pietersen truly a more powerful presence than Charlotte Edwards and her newly recognised teammates?
And why is David Sheepshanks, newly appointed Chairman of the St George’s Park complex deserve a higher profile (any sort of profile) over its undeniably more operationally involved Managing Director Julie Harrington?
What of neither Laura Robson nor Heather Watson enjoying a presence while the severely under-performing Lewis Hamilton sits as the 25th most powerful person in sport for 2012?
Could it simply be that the media is so used to seeing power in sport as an expressly masculine characteristic? And if so, why is this a comfortable position for the media to take? Is there anything that can be done to ensure the 2013 list will have a stronger degree of female participation?
Well, the Independent gives us some hope…
Well, when we say hope, we sadly don’t mean a more gender equal sports section (that would be far too simple), but instead a roundup of the All Party Parliamentary Group on women’s sports meeting in the House of Lords on Wednesday 24th October. Although the subject matter within the double page feature makes for some disheartening reading, the fact that The Independent has begun to see a problem and is willing to make the article front page news is indeed something to be celebrated.
The headline ‘Why Mother of Sporting Years will End in Crisis’ screams across the top of the page, accompanied by pictures of just a few of the golden girls who strutted their stuff this summer. The article then breaks down into handy bite size pieces demonstrating the vast amount of areas where sport and women are currently not seeing eye to eye:
1. The lack of female leadership in sporting organisations. It’s getting there, but it’s a slow and steady process.
2. How young girls need inspirational role models to get into exercise and to learn that strong and healthy is better than just skinny. Also how not capitalising on the gifted opportunity of the female London 2012 heroes would be a madness only our current government would be capable of. (I said that, not the Indy)
3. Not allowing female athletes to become professional. Our current England football squad will never be able to improve past a certain point if their players (earning about £16-£20k a year) have to cut time in training to get to their part time job.
4. THE LACK OF MEDIA COVERAGE. The world is an ignorant place – if it is not shown good women’s sport, it will not know it exists.
Although negative in its topics of discussion, by The Independent just printing the story it has shown to its readers and its print rivals that it is taking women’s sport seriously, a fantastic step forward by any account. There is a deep rooted problem at the heart of our sport loving but by pointing out the insanity of how little women’s sport is represented, profiled and sponsored in Britain and accompanying the story with stats on female inactivity and the health problems related, writer Robin Scott-Elliot has brought to light just how important this movement is. Let’s just hope that the Indy keeps up its good work and begins to up its level of women’s sport reporting – our Sunday paper round up this weekend could certainly be an interesting one.
CS and FQ