The Long Road to Equality

Women in sport has felt like a battle that has no end. Every week seems to have a new story about women and whether their equal status should apply to sports. Bernie Ecclestone was just the latest man to question this, claiming female drivers would not be taken seriously. Whilst most sport unfairly favour men there are a handful of sports that will provide a woman in search of glory a fair shot at not only competing alongside men, but beating them! Sports like Tennis and Poker are taking the necessary steps to provide women a platform to show what they can do.

2016 has seen some unusual outbursts of anti-women sentiment already. Unfortunately, it has come from that one bastion of equality Tennis. Women and men earn the same prize money across all majors, but for some it seems to be unfairly distributed. Much loved superstar Novak Djokovic made comments that he thought the attendance and attention that the men’s game attracts means they deserve to earn more than women. These comments came off the back of a Tennis Administrator Raymond Moore who put (in very poor words) how women should “get down on their knees every night and thank Federer and Nadal” for their status. This comment was in poor taste, not only because of the choice of language, but from a person in that position to be talking about the women’s game in such a way, takes two steps back as the sport was taking a step forward. Luckily it is not a prevailing belief in Tennis at the moment but comments like this can snowball ideas.

Irish hero Katie Taylor is one of the biggest stars in the country and yet in 2013 a year after her triumph at the Olympics in London she was debating turning professional. It was not because she wanted to earn more or that she felt she needed different competition, but simply because she could not find any sponsorship. This is arguably the biggest Irish sportswoman, but she was struggling to find anyone willing to back her. While commendable, she also has not got the luxury of men to join a lucrative professional ranks with no guarantee of earning, and therefore values her status as an amateur.

The one place where women seem to be on a level playing field is poker. Women have the ability to beat the men and earn the same by the very nature of the game. Of course there comes with it still sexism, especially online, but in a recent interview Belgian Professional Charlotte Van Brabander said, “I personally don’t experience many problems with sexism, I believe it can only be an advantage being a woman, if you know how to use it well.” That’s right! With men and their prejudices, female poker players can actually use it to their advantage!

While there is a long road ahead, in Ireland progress is being made. The Ladies Gaelic Football League has recently received a big boost of confidence with a new sponsorship deal. Lidl have signed up to sponsor the league on a three-year deal worth £1.5m in the first year alone. Sponsorship is the start to a trust that is vital in growing any female sport. Women need the platform to show what they can do and investing in sports which will allow more exposure gives them a chance to show what they can do, and let the world see the gap between women and men in sport is closing.