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IWG World Conference on Women and Sport Theme 3: Tell their story
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Abundant representation of women in sport is vital in encouraging future generations of athletes.

The media plays a huge role in how women are perceived, whether athletes, reporters or supporters. As this conference title suggests, telling women’s stories is the first step to changing the media landscape. Unfortunately, women’s team coverage continues to fall short compared to men's. Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, spoke on the topic in February: “Only 4% of sports media content is dedicated to women’s sport. Only 12% of sports news is presented by women.”  

One 2016 study noted that male athletes are referenced in the media two to three times more than women. The same study revealed tendencies for media outlets to describe athletes differently depending on their gender. For example, while a male athlete ‘dominates’ a female athlete 'strives'.

Similarly, a 2017 study published in the Gender & Society journal reviewed 25 years of women’s televised sport coverage in the US. While instances of overtly sexist remarks have declined, the authors noticed lower quality and production value compared to men’s sport:

This ‘gender-bland sexism’ […] enables sports news and highlight shows to convey sexist beliefs by discussing men’s sports with more excitement, engagement, and reverence, while women’s sports are rendered insignificant and inferior through lacklustre commentary.

The authors note that such bland reporting contributes to a misperception of women’s sport as dull, which discourages attention, thus completing the vicious cycle.

The IWG World Conference on Women and Sport will explore how to advocate for women's sport coverage, whether through journalism, research or sport federations. Social media is also a vital tool in breaking the cycle. Through online platforms, users can call out sexist reporting or discrepancies in coverage. Players and fans alike have the power to use their words to tell their stories, and ultimately level the playing field.

You can explore some of these stories on social media using: #WomensSport, #PlayLikeAGirl, #letgirlsplay, #ThisGirlCan, and #WomenInSports among many others. Send us your sport stories and which hashtags to follow at [email protected].

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