The on-going fight against gender division in sport

Despite the achievements of our sportswomen, the disparity between men’s and women’s sport remains significant. Society’s movement towards equality has been particularly slow in sport, with women’s sport representing little more than an afterthought for the media.

Gender inequality is especially evident in cycling, and women’s cycling suffers from a severe lack of investment. Not only are there very few races on the female professional calendar, but the prize money in women’s cycling is dwarfed by the men’s. While Chris Froome took home €450,000 for winning the Tour de France, Mara Abbott, the winner of the Giro Rosa – the biggest race on the women’s calendar – gained just €460.

This inequality has led to a group of female cyclists launching a campaign for a women’s Tour de France. The ‘Le Tour Entier’ campaign hopes that the establishment of a women’s Tour will provide the impetus for much-needed restructuring of women’s cycling.

Gender inequality in cycling is underpinned by a lack of television and media coverage. A recent study found that women’s sports make up only 5% of all sports coverage, and only receive 0.5% of all commercial sponsorship.  A vicious circle is created, whereby the lack of coverage leads to a chronic lack of sponsors and investment, which in turn makes it harder for female athletes to reach their full potential. This reduces the overall quality of women’s sport and discourages participation.
The marginalisation of women’s sport is evident in Cambridge. Look at the coverage and excitement generated by the men’s boat race compared to the women’s. Similarly, while hundreds attend Twickenham for the Varsity rugby match each year, most would be unaware of when most female Varsity matches are held, let alone the results.

London 2012 proved that women’s sport can occupy a level in public consciousness comparable to the men’s. Female rowers, boxers and heptathletes were celebrated on a par with male athletes. Hopefully, in the future, the celebration of women will be the norm rather than the exception.

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