Between the Commonwealth Games and the Grand National here in the UK, this is a pretty sporty week. But while watching a tiny lycra-clad woman whizz a ribbon round her head so fast we couldn’t see it, it got us thinking: how come only women do rhythmic gymnastics? Which other sports are still separated by gender? How equal is sport these days?
Check out this list of ways incredible progress has been made towards gender equality in sport, alongside some stats that show there’s still a lot to do.
YAY According to Sport England’s Active People Survey, a huge 7.21 million women over the age of 16 now take part in sport at least once a week. This is an increase of around 340,000 just over the last two years.
BOO For men, 8.75 million take part in weekly sport — that’s a participation gap of 1.5 million! The survey also found that 3 in 10 women do less than 30 mins exercise a week.
YAY In several sports, men and women now compete side by side. Equestrian sports and horse racing are great examples, as is the Nacra 17 sailing class and many motor sports.
BOO Plenty of sports remain divided by gender, with some exclusively for men or women. Only men can take on the 50 km race walk or canoeing and high-level synchronised swimming and rhythmic gymnastics are only for women.
YAY Things are also looking up when it comes to prize money, with 87% of sports now paying equal prize funds compared to just 70% in 2014.
BOO That 13% that don’t offer equal money has some serious discrepancies: Men winning the US Open take home double the women’s prize; in the Cricket World Cup, it’s £3.1m up for grabs for the men compared to £475k for women. Football is the most unequal: the Premier League offers £38m, compared to… £0 for the Women’s Super League.
YAY At this year’s Commonwealth Games, Team India mixed up their opening ceremony outfits: rather than female athletes wearing sarees, the whole team wore similar navy blue blazers and trousers.
BOO But not all sports take such a… uniform approach (couldn’t resist). Take a look at volleyball. While the guys wear baggy tank tops and shorts, the women “must wear bikini bottoms that are… a close fit and be cut on an upward angle”. That’s right out of the official handbook.
Photo By Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil - http://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/rio-2016/foto/2016-08/americanas-ficam-com-bronze-no-volei-de-praia, CC BY 3.0 br, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50739374
YAY On the track, women used to be seriously limited: between 1932 and 1956 the maximum distance race for women was 200 metres! Today, women run exactly the same distances as men.
BOO Men and women still don’t have the same number of events in the Olympics. At Rio, there were 161 events for men, 136 for women, and nine mixed.