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Women in Sport

Media coverage and representation

In Australia, and internationally, men are more likely to feature in the media (both playing and commentating). This can provide a biased view of sport participation as a male oriented activity.

Since media coverage can have a direct effect on a sport's ability to attract commercial sponsorship, the lack of coverage can have significant impact on the sustainability of female athletes, sports, and competitions. The 2017 Intergenerational Review of Australian Sport highlighted that in Australia approximately 8% of sponsorship is directed to women’s sport and 7% of broadcast coverage – so the correlation appears quite strong.

The UK report ‘Women’s Sport: Say ‘Yes’ to Success’ also highlighted that despite increased interest in women’s sport and broadcasting (more than half of sports fans reported wanting to see more women’s sport on TV), women’s sport attracted 0.4% of reported sponsorship money (September 2011-December 2013). Men’s sport attracted 85.5% of the total with the remainder identified as going to mixed sports.

A 2019 survey by Imagen of sports TV and digital professionals indicated that 94% of them were planning to invest more in women's sport content, motivated by commercial interest and new opportunities for digital distribution. Most of this interest appears to be focused on social media and direct to consumer (e.g. streaming services) rather than traditional broadcast or print media.

Proportion of coverage remains around 10%

Research and evidence over the past thirty years has shown that during major sporting events media coverage of women’s sports increases, yet outside such events coverage remains at less than 10%. During the Olympic Games the coverage given to women in certain sports may increase substantially and women are more likely to be discussed in contexts beyond simple results (such as training and preparation, and as part of the sporting industry). However, the balance remains weighted toward men in sport.

Detailed and current analysis of media coverage is often difficult to find. A 2014 report by Repucom, on behalf of the Australian Sports Commission, compared data from 2013/14 to previous data from 2008/09. It found that:
  • Women's sport maintained a similar proportion of dedicated TV sport coverage (7%) to the previous research, but that TV news and print coverage declined (9% to 6%).
  • The ABC broadcast the highest proportion of female sports content (20%). However, 70% of female coverage was broadcast on pay TV – substantially limiting the potential audience.
  • The range of female sports was comparatively narrow and focused on tennis, surfing, cycling, golf, and netball.
  • Social media coverage for women's sport was significantly higher than other channels, accounting for 26% of social media sport coverage (volume of posts) in July 2013, and over 36% of coverage during the 2012 London Olympic Games.

In both coverage of the Olympic Games and year-round television news reporting the proportion of men speaking about sport (male or female) is also greater than the proportion of female spokespeople. Analysis of the top 15 most influential news sites in Australia in October 2018 showed that only 12% of sports stories were authored by female journalists; 95% of direct sources and 89% of indirect sources in the included stories were male. While it was a fairly small sample size it indicates a perception that men are more likely to have something interesting to say about sport.

The disparity in media coverage by gender is not unique to Australia. A 2018 study by the European Union looking at media coverage in five countries found that in four of the five countries, less than 10% of all sports coverage was about women. It was at its lowest in Malta and Greece, where it failed to achieve more than 2% of the total coverage. In Sweden and the UK, the picture was marginally better, but still variable and only achieved between 3%- 6% (Sweden) and 4%-10% (UK). Romania had the highest and most consistent coverage, peaking at 14%, but this was heavily driven by tennis champion, Simona Halep, and helped by her celebrity status in the country.

The gender imbalance also exists within the professional sports media. At the 2016 Rio Olympic Summer Games and 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, approximately 80% of accredited journalists and photographers were male. The International Sports Press Survey 2011 also concluded that 90% of sports media articles were written by male journalists and more than 85% of the articles focused on sportsmen.

Tone of media coverage

The focus and tone of media attention towards female athletes and sports is often quite different to that of male sport. There is a more pronounced focus on physical appearance, femininity, and/or sexuality rather than athletic abilities; more frequent use of infantilising language; and images accompanying stories are more likely to be ‘passive’ rather than ‘active’ (i.e male athletes are more often depicted with ‘action shots’ from competition).

Research from Cambridge University Press highlighted the different style of language and images that mdia and fans used to discuss men and women in sport at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Words associated with male athletes in the media were: mastermind, battle, fastest, strong, dominate, real, great, win, male, beat, big, man. Words associated with female athletes were: unmarried, married, ladies, older, participate, women, pregnant, aged, compete, strive, girls.

New Zealand based research also highlighted that female athletes were 20% more likely to be spoken for by their coach, nine times more likely to be pictured with a male spouse or partner, 67% less likely to be the lead story, and 39% more likely to be referred to as girls, especially by male journalists.

Social media

With the advent and overwhelming popularity of social media—including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—there are increasing pressures on sportspeople to engage directly with fans. While this can have positive effects in raising the profile of athletes, teams, and competitions, it is another area where the difference between the treatment of male and female athletes are plainly seen.

Research in 2019 by Plan International analysed a selection of social media commentary on Facebook posts shared by major sports news broadcasters in Australia over a 12 month period. They found that sportswomen received three times as many negative comments as men (27% versus 9%) and that over a quarter of all comments towards sportswomen were negative, sexist, sexualised, or belittled women's sports. Although gender stereotypes (such as that men shouldn't display weakness or emotion) were apparent in 15% of negative comments towards male athletes, none were sexualised. For female athletes 14% of all negative comments were sexualised.

Access to resources
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  • Content is queen: digital lessons from women's sport, SportsPro Podcast, (23 October 2019). To mark the launch of 'Content is Queen: Digital Lessons from Women's Sport' - a new whitepaper from SportsPro and Imagen - editor at large Eoin Connolly is joined by an expert panel to discuss how new media and best practice are helping to grow audiences across a range of female disciplines. Alexandra Willis, the head of communications, content and digital at the AELTC, International Netball Federation chief executive Clare Briegal and Imagen's Kerry Freeman discuss the importance of a comprehensive approach to content distribution, what goes into a careful and data-led strategy, and what excites them about the future in women's sport.
  • Developing Sport for Women and Girls, Emma Sherry, Katie Rowe, Routledge, (2020). Provides critical analysis of contemporary sport development, from high performance pathways to engaging diverse communities to the use of sport to empower women and girls. Each chapter explores various contexts of sport development and sport for development theory with a specific focus on women and girls. Specific chapter on Developing Sport for Women and Girls: Media Influence.
  • The case for change, Sport New Zealand, (2018). Provides an overview of research illustrating the 'case for change' for women and girls in sport. Focus areas are: Leadership, Participation, and Value and Visibility.
  • Golf Australia's Vision 2025: The future of women and girls in golf, Golf Australia, (February 2019). On 13 February 2019, Golf Australia launched a new strategy aiming at addressing a fundamental imbalance in Australian golf where women currently make up just 20% of all members. The four main pillars of Vision 2025 are: culture and leadership; grassroots; high performance coaching; and marketing and postitioning.
  • No boundaries for women and girls in sport and physical activity, Australian Women in Sport Advisory Group, (2019). Our vision is that there are no boundaries for women and girls in sport and physical activity. Our goal is to achieve this by 2025. But what does it look like and how will we know when we have made it? Here we set out what we are striving for, actions to take and measures of success. Key members of the sport sector, governments and industry are onboard.
  • Women and Girls in sport and active recreation: Government strategy, Sport New Zealand, (October 2018). This strategy aims to create an equitable and inclusive sport and recreation culture for Aotearoa New Zealand, and a system that empowers and supports all women and girls – as active participants, athletes and leaders. One key area of focus is 'Value and Visibility' acknowledging that "Opportunities for females in sport and active recreation are not always fair and equal. Females and their achievements are less visible, and they are frequently stereotyped in the media. Increasing the visibility of females as athletes, participants, coaches and leaders, not only provides role models for the future but demonstrates that society values their contribution.
  • Aesthetics or athletics? Cambridge University Press, (1 August 2016). As athletes around the world descend on Rio for the 2016 Olympics Games, the pinnacle of the global sporting calendar, a new study of English language reveals wide discrepancies in how the media and fans alike talk about men and women in sport.
  • An epic tale of storytelling, authenticity and value of women's sport, Samara Kitchener, House of Kitch Communications, (October 2017). Provides an overview, including some key case studies/examples from presentations, of the NSW Office of Sport 'Unleashing the Value of Women's Sport' forum, held in Sydney. Six key themes emerged through the day that illuminate why women’s sport is so hot right now.
  • By the numbers, Siren: a women in sport collective, (14 April 2020). In Siren #02 we revealed that for Sunday, January 26 only 11.86% of sports coverage was dedicated to women’s sport. If we removed stories about Ash Barty, who of course deserved all the coverage she received during the Australian Open, the number dropped down to 6.19%. We continued to publish these numbers in each newsletter since. Only twice in two months did we reach more than 25%. Past and future editions of 'by the numbers' are available in the Research section of the Siren website.
  • Facts and figures on gender (in)equalities and differences, Fact Sheet #1 of the Toolkit: How to make an impact on gender equality in sport All you need to know, European Union and the Council of Europe, (September 2019). This factsheet is composed of five sections presenting facts and figures relating to gender inequalities and differences in participation (from grass-roots to elite sport), coaching, leadership and the media and to the prevalence of gender-based violence in sports.
  • Girl Power: Measuring the rise of Women's Sport in Australia, Monique Perry and Kayla Ramiscal, Nielsen Sport, (6 March 2019). Today, the ‘value’ of a sport is primarily based on TV viewership and attendance. For women’s sport, it is widely assumed that ‘the attendance and viewing is just not there.’ While these traditional yardsticks are an important trading currency, our research shows that women’s sport has broader engagement, influence and value.
  • Graphic designer shows what sports pages look like with men removed, Written by Brandie Weikle. Interview produced by Menaka Raman-Wilms, CBC Radio, (15 September 2020). Katherine Burgess cut men from the New York Times sports section front to show how little remains.
  • Has the media changed the game for women’s sports coverage? Women's Sport Trust, (4 September 2019). Detailed analysis that looked at the volume and prominence around women’s sport coverage on leading websites in the UK. The study, during this peak summer period, found: 45.7% of the top ten stories on the BBC Sport home page each day featured women’s sport; On three days during the period, over half of all the stories (normally 60-75 stories) on the BBC Sport home page featured women’s sport; 54.5% of the ‘most watched’ video clips on the BBC Sport website contained women’s sport, despite the BBC website also having rights to other major men’s events in this period, including the ICC Cricket World Cup. Telegraph Sport’s website led on stories about women’s sport for 45% of the days; and Almost a third of the leading stories, defined as the top 12 stories on the Telegraph sport section and the main sports stories on the Guardian Sport home page, each day during the Women’s World Cup and Wimbledon featured women’s sport – 30.2% stories at The Guardian and 28.3% at The Telegraph.
  • Here’s proof we absolutely do want to watch women’s sport, Angela Priestley, Women's Agenda, (10 October 2018). Provides an overview of some recent record-breaking game attendance and viewing audience statistics that demonstrate an increased interest in women's sport in Australia.
  • International Sports Press Survey 2011: Results and Outlook, Prof. Dr. Thomas Horky and Dr. Jörg-Uwe Nieland, Presented at Play the Game, Aarhus, (October 2013). Sport is one of the most important topics covered by media around the world. However, only very few cross-national comparative research studies exist in this field.
  • IOC Young Reporters: Spreading the word for gender equality, International Olympic Committee, (7 May 2020). Approximately 80 per cent of accredited journalists and photographers at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 were male, underlining the gender imbalance that currently exists in the sports media. At each YOG, an equal number of budding male and female sports reporters from around the world have come together to receive training and mentoring from seasoned Olympic media professionals, with class- and field-based tuition giving participants all the tools required to work in today’s modern newsrooms. And the unique experience has proven to be incredibly valuable for the graduates of the programme, with many going on to pursue promising careers in sports journalism.
  • Kids across Australia need more female sport role models, Commonwealth Bank, (21 January 2018). While interest in women’s sport in Australia is soaring, two thirds of Australians (68 per cent) believe our kids should have more exposure to female sporting role models, new CommBank research reveals.
  • New study uncovers the top performing sponsorships in Australian sport, Josh Loh, Marketing Mag, (28 November 2018). True North Research has revealed a preview of its upcoming study comparing the impact of sport sponsorships and how brands should evaluate them. Of the 62 national and league teams evaluated those that delivered the most positive reactions for sponsors – taking into account sentiment, consideration, and usage – were all women's teams, primarily from the netball league. The most recognised sponsors of sporting teams were still for men's teams.
  • Research reveals over half of Australians follow women's sport, Mike Hytner, The Guardian, (16 February 2019). Interest has risen by almost 50% thanks to an increase in TV coverage and more positive portrayals in the media
  • The rise of women's sports: identifying and maximizing the opportunity, Neilsen Sports, (2018). This research project highlights untapped potential and new commercial opportunities for rights holders, brands and media.
  • Stop saying no one watches women’s sport, Sarah Leberman and Rachel Froggatt, op-ed, Women in Sport Aotearoa/, (15 August 2019). Interest in women's sport in New Zealand and around the globe has grown so fast in recent years that this idea is seriously out-of-date. We need to start busting the myth and challenging those still spouting it.
  • These women are changing the sound of sport — and they offer lessons that stretch far beyond the commentary box, Amanda Smith and Sophie Kesteven, ABC Radio National, (31 October 2020). These three ground-breaking commentators have found their voice in what has traditionally been a man's world — and their experiences offer lessons that can help us in all fields of life.
  • TV viewership of the AFL Women’s competition increases while others decline, Roy Morgan, (23 June 2020). The latest data from Roy Morgan shows over 7.4 million Australians aged 14+ (36%) watch AFL matches on TV including AFL pre-season games, AFL Home and Away games, AFL Finals, the AFL Women’s competition or the show-piece AFL Grand Final.
  • Unleashing the Value of Women’s Sport Fact sheet, NSW Office of Sport, (2017). Growing sport for girls makes good business sense. It also helps address the gender imbalance in sport participation and contributes to improving health, social and equality issues.
  • W-League grows TV viewership as Australia and NZ awarded hosting rights for 2023 Women’s World Cup, Roy Morgan, (21 July 2020). New research from Roy Morgan shows the W-League’s TV viewership is growing even as other Soccer competitions experienced viewership declines. A record high 879,000 Australians watch the W-League on TV, up 265,000 (+43%) on a year ago.
  • Women’s sport coverage set to ‘skyrocket’, Tim Dams, Broadcast Now, (10 October 2019). Survey says 94% of sports TV and digital professionals are planning to invest more in women’s sport. The survey of more than 300 senior sports industry executives found that this development is predominately being motivated by commercial interest (29%) and new opportunities for digital distribution (25%).
  • Women’s sport: less talk more action, Professor Toni Bruce, University of Auckland, (9 March 2018). Article talks about broader issues relating to gender equity and sport in New Zealand but also highlights research showing that New Zealand news media still generally ignores women’s sport, dishing out on average a paltry 10 percent to female athletes. Even though the media pay a lot of attention to New Zealand female Olympians, if we look at coverage of all Olympic athletes, sportsmen still end up with twice the overall coverage, mostly because the media doesn’t pay attention to sportswomen from other countries. Recent NZOC research found that female Olympians were 20 percent more likely to be spoken for by their coach, nine times more likely to be pictured with a male spouse or partner, 67 percent less likely to be the lead story, and 39 percent more likely to be referred to as girls, especially by male journalists.
  • 2019 Women for Media Report: You can't be what you can't see, Jenna Price with Anne Maree Payne, Women's Leadership Institute Australia, (2019). The research provides a snapshot of Australia’s 15 most influential news sites on four consecutive Thursdays in October 2018. Key findings relating to sports stories include: 6 per cent of stories (18 stories) were sport-related. Female journalists authored only 12 per cent of the sports stories featured in our data set. 95 per cent of the direct sources and 89 per cent of the indirect sources for these stories were male. Two women photographers account for the relatively high proportion of female photo credits: a series of “crowd shots” taken by a female journalist who authored one sports-related story, and photos of AFL players taken by one female sports photographer from The Herald Sun. The one sports-related photograph of a female subject was of the family member of an Invictus games competitor, not of an actual sportswoman.
  • About time! Women in sport and recreation in Australia, The Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee, (September 2006). On 29 March 2006, the Senate asked the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee to conduct an inquiry into women in sport and recreation in Australia, for report by the first sitting day of September 2006. On 15 August 2006 the Senate granted the Committee an extension of time to report to 6 September 2006. Chapter 6 of the report covers "Women's Sport and the Media'.
  • An evaluation of participation levels and media representation of girls and women in sport and physical activity in Scotland, Dr Yvonne Laird, Jillian Manner, Audrey Buelo,, The Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy, University of Edinburgh for the Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Advisory Board , (2019). Physical activity levels and sport participation are consistently lower for women and girls in Scotland compared with men and boys. The authors of this report conducted a rapid evidence review and content analysis of online news media and social media (Instagram and Twitter). This included a search of five online news outlets on two separate dates (BBC News, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Sun, and the Mirror). They identified a total of 1095 articles on the sport homepages of the five media outlets, of which 11% (119 out of 1095) were related to women, 22% of the articles relating to women included content perceived to sexualise women and 65% were related to women's sport performance.
  • Buried treasures and missed opportunities in Victorian sports reporting: Big data analysis of gender portrayal in print media in Victoria, Australia from 2014-2019, Dr Jeni Klugman and Professor Iris Bohnet, VicHealth, (May 2020). This study is the first ever, large-scale analysis of the extent and nature of the portrayal of women and men in Victorian sports print media. It provides important evidence to both inform the debate and to highlight challenges and opportunities.Content analysis revealed comparable and unbiased portrayal of men and women in sports reporting. For example, references to appearance, the use of gendered language and other measurable gender biases are infrequent in sports articles about both men and women. 2. Opportunities to read articles about women in sport are scarce and do not match the levels of female participation in sports, or the demand for articles about female sports. The vast majority of newspaper sports articles centre on men. 3. Female journalists are more likely to write about women in sport, but only account for 12 per cent of sports articles. The share of women writing sports articles fell from 18 per cent to 12 per cent over the five-year study period.
  • The case for commercial investment in women’s sport, Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, (2011). This is the second major report from the WSFF examining the levels of commercial investment afforded to women’s sport in the UK. The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final became the most tweeted about event on the planet; but women’s sport accounted for only 0.5% of all sports sponsorship in the UK. Great audiences and public demand for women’s events and a home Olympics and Paralympics should provide a great opportunity. However, between January 2010 and August 2011, this report shows that women’s sport received just 0.5% of all UK sports sponsorship. During the same period, men’s sport received 61.1%. The figures do not tell the true story of what women’s sport is really worth. The best women’s events enjoy large television audiences that compare favourably with men’s; in fact 70% of viewers for women’s events are male sports fans. According to the WSFF survey, sports fans see women’s sport as exciting, skilful and just as internationally successful as men’s, and 61% of respondents want to see more high quality women’s sport on television.
  • Chasing Equity: The Triumphs, Challenges, and Opportunities in Sports for Girls and Women, Women's Sports Foundation, (January 2020). In this report, we examine the state of girls’ and women’s sport in the United States. One area of focus is media coverage and the report highlights that there has been a decline in coverage of women's sports in America from 1989-2014. They also report other similar trends to other research including the differences in the way in which female athletes are represented or discussed versus their male compatriots. A study of 75 newspapers and websites gave every organisation an 'F' for gender hiring practices. On average over 70% of editors, assistant editors, columnists, reporters, and copy editors/designers were male (predominantly white). Without balanced media coverage and representation the report suggests that women's sport, and female participation, will continue to lag behind men's.
  • The Circus Comes to Town, Dennehy J, Gender Hub, (2013). This report provides a look at media coverage during the 2012 London Olympic Games. For two weeks every four years the Olympics provides audiences around the world with a kaleidoscope of sport, showcasing many ‘minor’ sports alongside mainstream sports. This report presents the results of research conducted during the 2012 London Olympic Games on the way media represented the Games and examines two key issues. First, the interdependent relationship of mainstream media and certain sports; and second, the ‘gendering’ of sport and media. The report does not challenge the interdependent relationship between media and major international men’s sports (i.e. football, cricket, motor sports, golf and basketball, etc.) and its merchandising and attendance; this would require a major shift in our cultural preferences. Since this is unlikely, the prospect of equal media coverage of men’s and women’s sport and better access to sponsorship deals by women’s sport is at best 'aspirational' and at worst 'naive'. To find solutions this report suggests that new debates need to be explored, new realities need to be realised, and there needs to be fixed points which can be periodically measured to demonstrate change.
  • Content is Queen: digital lessons from women's sport, Imagen, (2019). Incorporating the views of over 300 sports professionals, we’ve teamed up with SportsPro to explore the relationship between content distribution, new digital channels, and the rise of women's sports.
  • Exploring sports gender equality in the media, Ipsos MORI for the International Tennis Federation, (April 2021). This research was conducted and delivered by Ipsos MORI, utilising their in-house social media monitoring tool, Synthesio, by collecting online mentions relating to the 100 top-ranked male and female athletes across each of tennis, golf and football. The research analysed Global English as well as content from France, Spain and China.The absolute volume of online conversations is consistently and much higher for male tennis players than for female tennis players. On a like-for-like basis, female athletes are less likely to have their on-court performance discussed than men and more likely to have their off-court lives discussed. The conversation and coverage of men’s tennis is more focused on the sport, with a strong combative narrative and a sense of history, elite competition and achievement. This may contribute to a situation where on-court performance plays a bigger role in defining male tennis players than it does female tennis players. Conversely, the conversation around women’s tennis is less intense and relatively more focused on life off court, from health and age to family, framing tennis as a one facet. Where do these differences come from? Looking at relative differences in content by channel reveals how the mainstream media is driving these differences. There is not enough reporting of women’s tennis and a need to improve SEO. We have a collective responsibility to promote the sport and report on it in a consistent and unbiased way. The opportunity is therefore to drive more engagement in the women’s game by rooting a narrative more firmly in on-court action.
  • Gender equality in sport: Getting closer every day, Ivana Katsarova; graphics: Samy Chahr, European Parliamentary Research Service Briefing, (March 2019). Briefing paper covers background and research relating to gender equality and sport. Specific focus areas include: Women's (long) road to the Olympics; Women in sports-related decision-making; Women as coaches; Gender pay inequalities; Gender-related stereotypes in media representation; Popularity and coverage of women's sports events in the EU; European parliament views on gender equality in sport.
  • An Illusory Image, a report on the media coverage and portrayal of women's sport in Australia 1996, Phillips M, Australian Sports Commission, (1997). A 1996 survey took a snapshot of media coverage of women’s sport from newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations during a two-week period, establishing a measurement of coverage and additional information about the portrayal of women’s sport in the media. The results showed that media coverage of women in sport is treated very differently from that of men.
  • Improving the media coverage of our sportswomen, Chantal Brunner, Megan Compain, Sarah Cowley Ross,, New Zealand Women's Sport Leadership Academy, (2018). The purpose of this report is to examine the visibility, or otherwise, of female athletes in the media; set out the case for change; and, recommend strategies to improve the visibility of sportswomen in traditional and digital media. Ten percent of the overall sports media coverage is not good enough. We recommend three actions to increase this - empower, collaborate, and champion.
  • Intergenerational Review of Australian Sport, Boston Consulting Group for the Australian Sports Commission, (2017). To achieve the aspiration of Australia being the most active sporting nation, known for its integrity, thriving sports organisations, continued exceptional international success, and a world-leading sports industry for Australian sport, all parties involved in the sector must work together to drive sustainable change on several fronts. Five major areas of activity have been identified, including a small number of “game changers” in each that together can fundamentally shift the direction of Australian sport and ensure the many benefits derived from sport are enhanced into the future.
  • Prime Time: the case for commercial investment in women's sport, The Commission on the Future of Women's Sport [UK], (2015). According to UK sports fans, women’s sport is exciting, skilful, internationally successful and growing faster than men’s. Some of the best of women’s sport is already attracting sizeable audiences and wide media interest, and there is clear demand from sports fans for more. Yet it attracts just a tiny percentage of sponsorship and broadcast expenditure: hundreds, if not thousands of times less than men’s sport. New, independent research and analysis provides strong evidence to suggest that women’s sport is being overlooked and under-valued. There is a compelling case for increased investment in a market that’s different to men’s sport; and yet one that offers unique commercial and social potential. By taking a new approach to a different market and working creatively in partnership, rights holders, sponsors, broadcasters and government stand to realise a significant return.
  • The Real Value of Women's Sport, Nielsen Sports produced in partnership with Women’s Sport Trust and England Hockey, (2 August 2018). Nielsen Sports research demonstrating the value and importance of women’s sport internationally including highlighting growth opportunities, brand demands and the drive for equality.
  • The Rise in Women's Sports, Nielsen, (2018). For rights holders, brands and the media, the rapid change in women's sports represents a chance to develop a new commercial proposition and engage fans in a different way. Across the eight markets, 84% of general sports fans have an interest in women’s sports (they stated they had an interest in both male and female sports, or just in women’s sports). Of those, 51% are male. This confirms that women are interested in watching women’s sports and that women’s sports represents a major opportunity to engage male fans. 66% of the population are interested in at least one women's sport.
  • Snapshot analysis: social media commentary of sportswomen and men, PLAN International, (April 2019). The snapshot analysis of social media commentary found that more than a quarter of all comments towards sportswomen were sexist, sexualised, belittled women’s sports or were otherwise negative in nature. The analysis looked at a selection of social media commentary on Facebook posts shared by major sports news broadcasters in Australia in the past 12 months, and found:
    • Sportswomen face three times as many negative comments as men, at 27% compared to 9%
    • Social media abuse of sportswomen is overwhelmingly sexist – 23% of all negative comments towards sportswomen were sexist in nature, referring to traditional gender stereotypes, while 20% belittled women’s sports, their athletic abilities and skills.
    • Sexualised comments are only aimed at sportswomen – 14% of all negative comments towards sportswomen were sexualised, compared to 0% for male athletes.
    • Whilst the majority of negative comments towards men focused on cheating or drugs, some sportsmen were also subjected to sexist abuse towards men: 15% of negative comments towards men referred to traditional gender stereotypes, which deem that they must not display weakness or emotion.
  • Towards a Level Playing Field: sport and gender in Australian media January 2008 to July 2009, Lumby C, Caple H and Greenwood K, University of New South Wales Journalism and Media Research Centre and Media Monitors, joint research for the Australian Sports Commission, (published 2010, last updated January 2014). The promotion of women in sport has been identified by the Australian Government as a key focus area for the future development of sport in Australia. This report presents a number of key findings concerning the gender bias in sports media coverage.
  • Where are all the Women? Shining a light on the visibility of women’s sport in the media, European Union, (October 2018). The objective of the project was to identify how well the media represents women’s sport across the five countries and from this evidence base, challenge the current situation with journalists, broadcasters, and the sector as a whole, to understand how best to drive change. The coverage of women’s sport has a long way to go to achieve its fair share of media attention. This is true in terms of the low proportion compared to men’s sport, the limited variety of women’s sports covered, and lack of a consistent presence. There are examples of time periods when women’s sport is barely visible, sports channels where no women’s sport is in evidence, and countries where it fails to achieve more than 2% of the reporting time.
  • WINS: Women in Sport, Dinsdale S, White K, de Vries A and Mendelsohn J, Accenture, co-sponsored by Cricket Australia and Australian Rugby Union, (2017). The current gap in the development and value of women’s sport is often cited as a “chicken and egg” problem; media exposure and sponsorship drive popularity and value, yet obtaining media coverage and sponsorship demands popularity. This report helps to illuminate some of the key issues and actions in breaking this conundrum. The views expressed in this report are based upon interviews with prominent individuals in women’s sport across several codes, as well as available research.
  • Women and Sport: insights into the growing rise and importance of female fans and female athletes. Repucom, (2014). The rapid rise in the importance, influence, and value of female fans has been one of the most distinctive shifts in the sports marketing landscape in the last 50 years. This has been driven by some major societal and cultural changes around the world, and the increasing participation of women in sport. Fans are at the centre of the sports marketing equation and one of the primary reasons why sponsors invest in sport; female fans are considered of particularly high value to some sponsors given their influence over purchasing decisions. Using data derived from a large number of interviews around the world, this report looks at several commercial and societal implications of the growing female fan population, as well as factors influencing women's participation in sport. Key findings regarding fan interest in sport and participation in sport by women.
    • The gap between men’s and women’s interest in sport has narrowed over the last 50 years. Among women under 50 years-of-age, 48% were interested or very interested in sport, compared to 69% of men under 50. In addition, 36% of women over 50 years-of-age were interested or very interested in sport.
    • Overall, in six key television markets (USA, India, Brazil, France, Germany and Australia), 69% of men and 43% of women were interested in watching sport on TV.
    • Motorsports had the largest gender gap in interest and TV viewing, Tennis and some Olympic sports (figure skating and gymnastics) were more popular among women than men.
    • Comparing the media habits of persons under the age of 30, it appears that internet and mobile-device behaviour among men and women is converging (less than 4% difference by gender), but a gap exists between men and women in their Pay TV viewing of sports (9% difference). This difference probably reflects the types of sports men and women are interested in watching and the way they can be accessed.
    • Women who participated in sports at school were three times more likely to be interested in sports throughout their life. About 52% of the Australian women surveyed said they did not participate in sports at school.
    • The main drivers for women’s participation in sports were: general health; stress relief; weight loss; being around friends; social connections; personal reward (feeling good); and, getting out of the house.
    • The main barriers for women’s participation in sports were: feeling outside one’s comfort zone; injury; cost; fear of failure; embarrassment (body image); not meeting self-expectations, and; logistics (child care, transport, facility location).
  • Women in sport broadcasting analysis, final report, Paterson J and Matzelle R, Australian Sports Commission (with expertise by REPUCOM), (April 2014). This research helps to establish the proportion of media exposure dedicated to women’s sport in Australia in both traditional and new media platforms. It analyses emerging trends since the publication, Toward a Level Playing Field: sport and gender in Australian media, was released in 2010. A secondary analysis provides insight into the relationship between sports broadcast exposure and the popularity of sports. A number of key insights are presented and recommendations are made.
  • Women’s Sport: say yes to success, Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, (2014). This is the third major report from the WSFF examining the levels of commercial investment afforded to women’s sport in the UK. As well as updating these figures, we also include for the first time, the results of a media audit providing a detailed breakdown of the coverage different media types give to women’s sport. Commercial investment in sport and the media coverage it receives are inextricably linked; brands are looking for profile and media outlets need exciting competitions and events in packed sporting arenas to make for spectacular viewing and reporting. To improve one the other must also be addressed, hence this new combined analysis. This report reveals that despite some positive developments in a handful of sports, women’s sport in the UK still accounts for only 0.4% of the commercial investment going into all sports and for only 7% of total sports coverage in the media.
  • Sexualized and Athletic: Viewers’ Attitudes toward Sexualized Performance Images of Female Athletes, Elizabeth Daniels, Amanda Hood, Nicole LaVoi,, Sex Roles, Volume 84, pp.112-124, (2021). Using an experimental methodology, the present study investigated college students’ attitudes toward media images of female athletes. We are particularly focused on how viewers perceive media images of female athletes that have both an appearance and athleticism focus, such as those found in ESPN’s The Body Issue. U.S. college students (n = 563) viewed one of four types of images of the same athletes including: (a) sexualized athletes, (b) sexualized performance athletes (in which both athleticism and sexualization are present), (c) sport performance athletes (in which athletes are depicted playing their sport), or (d) non-sexualized athletes. They then rated the athletes’ competence, esteem, and sexual appeal. Overall, sexualized performance athletes were rated more positively than sexualized athletes, but less positively than sport performance athletes. These results have implications for advocacy efforts calling for more media coverage in which women are depicted as athletes rather than as sexual objects.
  • Jocks versus jockettes: An analysis of the visual portrayal of male and female cover models on sports magazines, Ben Wasike. Journalism, Volume 21(10), pp.1432-1449, (October 2020). There are known gender-based disparities in sports news coverage. However, few have examined how these disparities manifest in sports news visuals such as sports magazine covers. Therefore, this study examined pertinent dynamics among all covers published to date for both Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine. The study examined sexualization, camera angle, and nonverbal communication cues and their interplay with gender. Women appearing on the covers were likelier than men to be portrayed in a sexualized manner, in terms of skin exposure and suggestive poses. Men were likelier to be portrayed in active poses, and the cover lines emphasized gender over athletic achievement for women. The results also indicate that women were more likely to be portrayed smiling, as well as being portrayed in more positive camera angle shots. The author discusses the ramifications of gendered portrayal regarding sports magazines.
  • Elite Women Athletes and Feminist Narrative in Sport, Colleen English, Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, Volume 14(4), pp.537-550, (2020). This essay focuses on the marginalization of women athletes, in particular elite women athletes, in the narrative of sport. The most common athletic narratives serve to exclude women and remind female athletes of their secondary status. First, I establish the role of narrative and storytelling in sport. Secondly, I argue that gendered narratives pose a problem for women athletes—including both narratives intended to empower female athletes and narratives intended to compare male and female athletes.
  • Sporting Women and Social Media: Sexualization, Misogyny, and Gender-Based Violence in Online Spaces, Emma Kavanagh, Chelsea Litchfield, Jaquelyn Osborne, International Journal of Sport Communication, Volume 12(4), pp.552-572, (2019). This study investigated gender-based violence targeting high-profile women in virtual environments through the case of women’s tennis. 2 popular social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter) were analyzed to examine social commentary and fan interaction surrounding the top-5-seeded female tennis players during the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Athletes were exposed to violent interactions in a number of ways. Four themes were identified through data analysis: threats of physical violence, sexualization that focused on the female physical appearance, sexualization that expressed desire and/or proposed physical or sexual contact, and sexualization that was vile, explicit, and threateningly violent in a sexual or misogynistic manner. Findings demonstrate how social media provides a space for unregulated gender-based cyberhate targeting high-profile women in their workplace in a way that traditional sport media does not.
  • Female athletes, women's sport, and the sport media commercial complex: Have we really “come a long way, baby”? Fink J, Sport Management Review, Volume 18(3), pp.331-342, (2015). The 2012 London Olympic Games were heralded as the ‘Year of the Woman’ as every delegation sent a female athlete to compete. However, female athletes and women's sport still receive disparate treatment by the sport media commercial complex, compared to male athletes and men's sport. This review documents the qualitative and quantitative differences and discusses the negative impact this differential coverage has on consumer perceptions of women's sport and female athletes.
  • “It’s Dude Time!” A quarter century of excluding women’s sports in televised news and highlight shows, Cooky C, Messner M and Musto M, Communication and Sport, Volume 3(3), pp.261-287, (2015). This study, a 5-year update to a 25-year longitudinal study, indicates that the quantity of coverage of women’s sports in televised sports news and highlights shows remains dismally low. The study reveals some qualitative changes over time, including a decline in the once-common tendency to present women as sexualised objects of humour replaced by a tendency to view women athletes in their roles as mothers. The analysis highlights a stark contrast between the exciting, amplified delivery of stories about men’s sports, and the often dull, matter-of-fact delivery of women’s sports stories. This article also provides three broadcast policy recommendations that would move TV sports news and highlights shows toward greater gender equity and fairness. First, present a roughly equitable quantity of coverage of women’s sports. Second, present women’s sports stories in ways roughly equivalent in quality with the typical presentation of men’s sports. This refers to both the technical quality (deploying ample game footage, graphics, music, and interviews to accompany a story) and to the quality of the sports reporter’s verbal presentation. Third, broadcasters should hire and retain on-camera sports commentators who are capable and willing to present women’s sport in the same light as men’s sport.
  • “I’ve never really thought about it”: the process of news construction and perception of underrepresentation of women’s sport media coverage by editors-in-chief in mainstream Polish media, Natalia Organista and Zuzanna Mazur, Sport in Society, (22 June 2020). In recent decades, a lot of work has been dedicated to gender bias in sports media coverage. However, there have been far fewer studies on gatekeeping processes in sports media. Using 11 in-depth interviews, this study analyses the information selection process to see if and how section processes influence sports media coverage on women’s sport in the Polish media. The study showed that for the participants the superiority of men’s sport was a given and editors did not feel obliged to promote women’s sport, despite being involved in the promotion of other disciplines or coverage in the media. Furthermore, the way of producing information in the Polish sports media depends on the personal beliefs of editors-in-chief. The ideology of the superiority of male sports adopted by the participants makes coverage on women’s sports biased, despite the journalists’ conviction about the objectivity of media coverage.
  • Shame, pain and fame: sportswomen losing in Australia’s mainstream media reporting, Adele Pavlidis ,Laura Rodriguez Castro and Millicent Kennelly, Sport in Society, (24 June 2020). This article adds to a growing body of literature that engages with failure as a way of knowing and understanding the social. Through a focus on images of sportswomen’s loss or failure in three Australian newspapers during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games we analyzed affective-discourses and patterns in images and accompanying headlines, captions and stories to explore the place of loss in the narrative of mainstream sport reporting. Through this focus on loss we hoped to find points of disruption that might generate new conceptions of women in sport. What we found was that stories of loss in mainstream newspaper coverage reproduced transphobic, racist, nationalistic, ageist and sexist discourses. We conclude by calling for research that explores how athletes self-present their losses in digital platforms subjectively rather than being reported ‘on’.
  • Twitter, Team GB and the Australian Olympic Team: representations of gender in social media spaces, Chelsea Litchfield and Emma Kavanagh, Sport in Society, Volume 22(7), pp.1148-1164, (2018). Unlike traditional forms of sports media, online sports media offers the potential for diverse representations of athletes. The current study examined gender in social media coverage of the 2016 Olympic Games using a third wave feminist lens. The analysis focused on the Twitter pages of ‘Team GB’ and the ‘Australian Olympic team’ and the sports stories and images posted during the Rio Olympic Games. Despite a number of traditional differences in the ways that male and females were represented being present, such as the presence of ‘active’ images of male athletes accompanying sports stories and the presence of infantalization in the language used to represent female performers, this analysis demonstrated significant strides forward in terms of the quantity of coverage received by women in online spaces. It further highlights virtual platforms as dynamic spaces for the representation of women athletes.
  • Women’s sports coverage: online images of the 2008 Olympic Games, Jones D, Australian Journalism Review, Volume 32(2), pp. 89-102, (2010). Overall, female athletes received far fewer photographs than male athletes and coverage was heavily tilted towards three types of sports – swimming, athletics, and basketball; limiting the opportunity for portrayals of successful female athletes in other Olympic sports.
  • Changing the visual landscape of women's sport, Women's Sport Trust, Insight to Action series, (October 2016). Our panel and audience made compelling arguments for how the sports, media and branding sectors can make changes in the representation of women’s sport. Suggestions include: 1. Focus on ability, not appearance; 2. Beware of 'cliches'; 3. Sex doesn't sell sport; 4. Present the full diversity and breadth of women and sports; 5. Respond to demand; 6. Everyone needs to take responsibility; and, 7. Women photographers matter.
  • Gender Equality in Sports Media, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), (accessed 25 January 2021). Sports coverage is hugely powerful in shaping norms and stereotypes about gender. Media has the ability to challenge these norms, promoting a balanced coverage of men's and women's sports and a fair portrayal of sportspeople – irrespective of gender. Includes resources such as: Her Moments Matter video clips, Her Headline - a Chrome extension to highlight sexist language in sports media, and Gender-sensitive indicators for Media framework.
  • Women in sport and recreation communication and marketing strategies, Change Our Game developed in conjunction with Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and Victorian State Government, (2019). The Change Our Game Women in Sport and Recreation Communication and Marketing Guidelines have been developed in conjunction with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) to assist community sport and recreation organisations looking to develop inclusive communication and marketing practices. These guidelines focus on four key areas: Smart strategies for marketing to women; Smart strategies for selecting imagery; Smart strategies for using social media; Smart strategies to using inclusive language and terminology.
  • Portrayal: removing gender bias and achieving gender balance, International Federation Gender Equality Webinar Series - Session 5, International Olympic Committee, (23 September 2020). Opening session highlighted best practices when portraying an individual, team or organisation across communications output, media operations and broadcasting. Portrayal covers the language, images, prominence and positioning used in messaging and reporting, and participants learnt about the critical points, when action should be taken to create fair and equal depictions. Barbara Slater, BBC Sport Director and a member of the IOC Women in Sport Commission, addressed the topic together with Katrina Adams, Vice-President of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Chair of the ITF Gender Equality in Tennis Committee. They discussed the initiatives that have contributed to more gender-equal portrayal and coverage in sport, as well as what should be done in the future.

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