We need to recognize female athletes with equitable funding and coverage

Gender disparities prevent women and girls from meeting their full potential in sport

Women perform just as well as men, if not better, in sports, so why don’t we reward them just as well? Photo by Jeffrey F Lin via Unsplash

By: Naaz Sekhon, SFU Student

Being the year 2019, one would expect equality to have been achieved in all aspects of life, including sports. However, the harsh reality is that there is still much work to be done in the battle over gender equality in women’s professional sports.

Despite their tremendous skill, female athletes still have to fight to be recognized and paid as equals when compared to their male counterparts. The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, for example, has in the past proven its superiority over their male counterparts, and yet they are currently suing over an unfair gender pay gap. It’s time we acknowledge that they deserve more recognition and support for their efforts in the sports field than they are currently getting.

I have seen many instances of inequality in sports. As a child, I played sports for the sake of physical activity, but was never encouraged to explore beyond the realm of “fun.” However, when it came to my younger brother, the situation was entirely different. My parents have always taken his sports more seriously, and my brother now plays soccer competitively with a desire to be signed to a major soccer league.

In the US, around half of people in sport are women, yet they receive less than 10% of media coverage. (This could also partially explain why female-oriented sports lack funding.) When it comes to scholarships, male athletes receive $179 million more than the female athletes, once again reiterating the massive lack of equity.

However, with the right media emphasis and funding, female athletes are able to flourish. According to the World Economic Forum, when female athletes receive the same funding as men, not only is participation increased for female athletes, but these athletes also show tremendous capacity to excel in their sports.

It’s important to reduce gender inequality in sports for both current and future female athletes. Without an equal playing field, female athletes receive the message that no matter their efforts, they will always be less valuable than men. In turn, this affects the younger generations of female athletes who are discouraged by lack of recognition next to the much higher-profile male athletics, affecting their likeliness to participate in sports.

Recognition and praise for the accomplishments of female athletes is crucial, and so is proper media coverage and funding. It’s time we break the cycle and start investing in the success of our female athletes.