Women’s sports, both amateur and professional, have existed all across the world for centuries. Female participation and its acceptance in sports increased greatly in the 20th century, especially in the last quarter-century, mirroring changes in modern societies that draw attention to gender parity. Even though the level of participation and performance still differ largely by country and by sport, women’s sports are mostly accepted all across the world today.
However, despite a surge in women’s participation in sports, a huge discrepancy in participation rates between women and men still prevails. These discrepancies are widespread globally and continue to hamper equality in sports. Many organizations and programs still remain conservative and do not contribute to furthering the idea and practice of gender equality in sports.
Women who play sports face countless hurdles today, such as lower pay, and lesser media coverage. Many female athletes have been involved in peaceful protests, like playing strikes, social media campaigns, and confederate lawsuits to mark these inequalities.
Professional sports refer to sports in which athletes are paid for their performance. Opportunities for women to play professional sports differ by country. Some women’s professional sports leagues are directly associated with a men’s professional sports league (like the WNBA is associated with men’s Basketball, Women’s T20 League associated with the men’s Indian Premier League Cricket); others are independently owned and managed like the NWHL (National Women’s Hockey League).
While women currently do have the opportunity to play professional sports, the pay for women’s professional sports is notably lower than that of men’s, a phenomenon known as the gender pay gap in sports. Many female professional athletes hold second jobs in addition to playing their respective sports due to their lower salaries. Female professional athletes play in lower quality and smaller facilities than male professional athletes play in, and more often than not have lower fan attendance at games or matches. Many women’s professional sports are not regularly broadcast on live television like many men’s professional sports but are live-streamed on platforms such as Twitter or Instagram instead.
Not only do female athletes themselves face inequality, but also the women wishing to enter the business area of sports. Research has shown that women inhabit leadership positions in sports business at a much lower rate than men do. When women do occupy the same positions as men, they may be paid less.
Even though various professional women’s sports leagues have been established across the globe, they mostly fall behind in terms of exposure, funding, and attendance as compared to the men’s teams. Nevertheless, there are noteworthy exceptions. The 2015 Women’s World Cup final was the most-watched soccer game ever in the United States. In addition, in 2017, Portland Thorns FC of the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) had higher average attendance than various men’s professional teams, including 15 NBA (National Basketball Association) teams, 13 NHL (National Hockey League) teams, and 1 MLB (Major League Baseball) team. The Thorns’ 2019 season saw a much higher average attendance of 20,098. This was higher than all but one of the 30 NBA teams in the 2018-19 season, all but three of the 31 NHL teams in the 2018-19 season, 15 of the 24 MLS teams in the 2019 season, and 6 of the 30 MLB teams in the 2019 season.
Media coverage for women’s sports is remarkably less than the coverage for men’s sports. Valuable studies indicate that women’s sports and female athletes gain only a small fraction of sports media coverage globally. Studies that have surveyed this have shown that it can be attributed to three particular factors that govern sports news work: the male-dominated sports newsroom, deep-rooted assumptions about viewership, and the structured, monotonous nature of sports news. According to the Tucker Centre for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota, 40 % of all athletes in the United States are women but women’s sports only receive about 4% of sports media coverage. This amount of coverage has decreased in the last 20 years although there has been a major surge in the numbers of women athletes rising in stature in their respective sports.
Media coverage has slightly increased and this is mostly due to social networking. Social media has further promoted women’s sports to the public world, and often at a much greater rate than traditional news media. Traditional media has also improved its coverage of women’s sports with the help of more exposure time and making use of better equipment to record the events.