Being an athlete and women’s sports advocate, a recent article by Kelly Wallace titled “The real March Madness: When will women’s teams get equal buzz?” on CNN.com caught my eye.
The article thoughtfully outlined the numerous disparities between men’s and women’s sports; attendance numbers, media coverage and player salaries (The average salary for an NBA player is 70 times that of a female player in the WNBA), then considered the keys to growing the popularity of the women’s game to move towards more equality.
Included in the article was a shocking statistic from a poll done by the Always brand for their popular ‘Like A Girl’ which challenged the negative stereotype of doing something “like a girl”. They found that a significant percentage of both women and men polled said men are better at sports, with 32% of women feeling that way and 47% of men.
Obviously women’s sport still has a long way to go towards equality and a shift in perception needs to occur before other pieces of the puzzle can fall into place.
For professional women’s sports teams to be successful and remain economically viable they must attract and retain more fans and television viewers, which then attracts increased media attention, which then attracts the sponsorship and advertising dollars, which then fuel larger budgets and player compensation.
But with the current state of small marketing budgets for women’s teams, games played at less popular times, minimal coverage in the media and people’s skewed perception that women’s sports are “lesser” in some way, where do we even start to grow the game?
Deborah Slaner Larkin, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation has a thought. And it’s a good one: (as quoted in the CNN article)
“Once sports are recognized as a birthright for both genders, the rest will fall into place. Helping get us there, is a new generation of moms who played sports as a result of Title IX, which became law in 1972. These women identify as athletes and women’s sports fans, and they will now pass down their experiences to their daughters.”
Hear that my fellow moms in sport? It starts with us.
We are one of the first generations of women that grew up playing sports or have picked up playing sports later in life. We are in a unique position to raise our daughters and our sons in a way to change the perception that women’s sports are “lesser” and not as competitive or exciting.
By being strong, healthy moms who are active in sports we are showing them that it’s normal for both women and men, mommies and daddies and girls and boys to play. Taking them to see women play in the professional leagues helps the teams with attendance and allows your children to see that women’s sports are not “lesser”, they are fiercely athletic, competitive and exciting. Our girls are inspired by watching these strong female athletes on the field and (whether they will admit it or not) by you.
Women’s sports are slowly growing in popularity as more girls participate in sport. The 2015 FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup tournament is currently being played and attracting record numbers of viewers, media coverage, social media buzz and sponsorship dollars. Along with the momentum the ‘Like A Girl’ and other empowerment campaigns are gathering we are headed in the right direction.
So moms, let’s keep getting out there, being active & playing the sports we love. Along with the health benefits (physical and mental), you are being a strong role model for your children and especially for your daughters.
Attend a women’s sports event in person with your family. Let them be inspired by these active, healthy, strong female athletes and let your daughters know that they too can become strong, confident women, team players and leaders.
The change in mindset that’s needed for women’s sports to be successful and for gender equality to occur starts with building a strong foundation. Moms are the key to building it. We can make it happen.
Go, Mom, Go.