Imagine that your favourite AFL star had a twin sister...
Let’s assume that they had exactly the same upbringing, worked just as hard, were just as super-fit and made exactly the same sacrifices to be their best. She would find out fairly quickly that her opportunities to have a professional career in pretty much any sport she starred in would be far fewer than his – not because of her abilities – purely because of her gender.
There’s no doubt there are biological differences between males and females that have an effect on average times and strength. But sport is about more than speed and strength – if we were only interested in seeing the ‘fastest’ and ‘strongest’, we would race humans against cheetahs and watch them wrestling gorillas. And keep in mind that the world’s best female athletes would annihilate the average man – even very fit ones. Let’s see how many footy players could catch Sally Pearson on the track, or how they’d go in the ring with UFC champ Ronda Rousey!
While biological differences might mean males and females don’t compete against each other, they do not justify the lack of career opportunities or rewards for female athletes. Australians cheer just as loud for their female athletes in the Olympics. And they have good reason to. Since 1928, women have won 80% of our track gold medals and won a stack of medals in the pool, even though they only made up about 20% of the Australian Olympic team during the 20th century.
The average wage of a male AFL player is $265,179. An average player on the Australian National Netball Team receives $43,000 per year, even though the Diamonds have won 10 World Championships since 1963 and finished runner-up the other three times. Only 2 women are in Australia’s top 50 sports earners: six-time world surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore (#39 at $1.75m) and World Golf Hall of Famer Karrie Webb (#50 at $1.28m). They are both way behind the top two: Andrew Bogut (#1 at $16.2m) and Adam Scott (#2 at $15.5m).
In spite of huge successes on the world stage, women’s sport only receives 7% of Australian TV sports programming and 9% of sports coverage on the news. Even horses get more coverage than sportswomen! That lack of coverage means less funding, less sponsorship and lower salaries. And when we don’t see women’s sport on TV, we’re also missing seeing women in positions of leadership and great role models for girls.
It’s not only the lack of career prospects and limited opportunities that discourage female participation in sports; researchers recently concluded that teenage girls were less likely to participate in organised sport than boys as they experienced higher rates of teasing and body image concerns.
“More voices across the community means there are more opportunities to stop violence against women”. – AFL player Marcus Bontempelli
Let’s make sport fairer for girls and women and encourage more girls and women to participate, so that our sisters, friends and daughters have every opportunity to be their best. Let's tell the media we want them to showcase more women in sport, like AFL, soccer and rugby because girls won't strive to be what they cannot see. Let’s make sure nobody is disadvantaged by their gender.