Only Six Percent Of Sport Coverage In Ireland Goes To Women – That Needs To Change
STELLAR caught up with Her Sport to chat about gender inequality in women's sport.
Twice as many girls drop out of sport by the age of fourteen than boys.
Six percent of sports media coverage in Ireland goes to women in sport. Yes, you read that right – six percent.
These are just two of the shocking facts shared with STELLAR when we caught up with Her Sport, a community dedicated to empowering women and girls in sports; boosting their coverage in the media; running educational workshops, and so much more.
Set up by Niamh Tallon and Mohammed Mahomed, the organisation has been working hard to make a change in Ireland when it comes to the way we see and talk about women’s sports. As far as they’re concerned, positive changes are coming – but we have to band together.
Niamh sat down with us last week to tell us a little more about what Her Sport are trying to achieve, and how change can be made when it comes to Irish women in sport.
Hi Niamh! Can you share what you do at Her Sport?
What we’re trying to do at Her Sport is increase media coverage, so that there’s role models and examples for women and girls in sport. And that hopefully in turn will reduce the dropout rates! A lot of people talk about the importance and the power of having role models, so what we’re trying to do is increase that participation and the visibility; not just for role models but also for the athletes that deserve it. The more exposure and media coverage that the athletes get, the more opportunities that come their way.
I think it was 2018 or 2019 when 64 percent of international medals won in Ireland that year were actually women. When you ask people about the women and about these medals, lots of people wouldn’t know that they even happened at all!
How do you hope to affect change amongst women?
What we’re trying to do is education for the girls, in terms of what barriers they might face. It can be something simple like exams…just trying to encourage them not to drop out of sport because they have exams, like the boys wouldn’t. Even in terms of having a family, you hear sometimes [women] have a kid and they don’t go back to play sport, but the dads are still playing. So why can’t the mums keep playing too?
We’re really trying to reshape the narrative, make that societal and cultural change. The [aim] is to get in front of as many people as possible, having conversations with teen girls right up to women experiencing menopause or older.
A lot of it is where we’ve come from, “women’s place in society”, so it’s not going to change over night or over a couple of years even. It’s only fifty years ago that the marriage ban was lifted. Gradually it’s changing…but we have a bit to go!
Your iconic #DoItForHer video, which shows young Irish girls discussing gender inequality in sports, went globally viral and resonated with a lot of people. What motivated that video?
I think people don’t realise how much is happening at a grassroot level. If they’re already noticing the disparity at that age, they’re going to carry it with them. If there’s always more credit, more admiration and more recognition for male athletes, they’re going to think, “What’s the point in going out to play a game? Nobody watches me, nobody cares if I’m involved.”
There’s also challenges with access to pitches; support with kits; coaches. There’s a problem with coaching in women’s sport. It’s not taking away from the coaches who are giving up their time to coach female teams; they’re trying their best. But the coaching that’s being offered to girls, it’s this default where the more talented coaches get put with the boys from a younger age. There’s less interest in the girls. How can we expect the girls to develop when they’re not getting the same coaching? It’s something we hope to see evolve over the next few years.
Do you think things have been improving in recent years?
I think a lot of people believe that in the last two to three years we’ve seen significant change, that we’ve seen more coverage. And you know, we can’t take away from the achievements that women like Katie Taylor, Kellie Harrington, and Rachel Blackmore have had, as an example of a couple of athletes. There are these amazing things happening, so they are beginning to gain more coverage from a media perspective.
But that isn’t travelling down enough to the grassroot level. People are seeing the results of the international athletes and they’re like, “Oh, women’s sport is in a great place”. But these athletes have achieved despite the roadblocks and the obstacles that they’ve had to face, and they’ve still managed to get to the top. If we manage to remove some of those challenges and barriers girls are facing, how many more unbelievable results can we have?
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How can we, as a society, show support for Irish women in sport?
When it comes to the ‘fandom’, it’s not as culturally ingrained in women as it is in men. It’s not something you see here, many groups of women or girls talking about it the same way you hear men doing. We have to make things interesting and exciting for everybody. You show up to a pub and there’s no women’s sport there, so you can’t really get excited about it, you can’t watch it with your friends.
There’s a lot of opportunity for teams and brands to build on that. This is starting to shift, so hopefully we’ll see more of a women’s fan base. How many men aren’t athletes but will sit down and watch the match? People will get involved if they’re given the opportunity. Not everyone has to be an active athlete…there is a disjointedness with women who play sport. When they’ve stopped playing, it’s like they break up with it. The transition over to becoming a fan, it’s not really there. But you can be involved in loads of different ways.
I’d love to band people together. If you really believe women deserve equal opportunity, then go to the games! You don’t have to be a super fan, but make a day of it, go for drinks, watch the match. Just be there, until it doesn’t need help anymore.
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What else can be done to promote our talented sportswomen?
One thing that’s missing, and that we’re trying to put a huge effort into, is profiling and showcasing the athletes and their personalities. There’s a lot of great stories, it’s not always “Oh I started running when I was four years old!”. There’s so much more.
You know, Chloe Mustaki made her debut for the senior women’s football team there in the last 12 months. She used to captain the team at underage level. Chloe actually used to captain Katie McCabe! Then she was diagnosed with cancer, when she was 20. She took a couple of years off, and came back and suffered a few injuries. But she’s been committed to playing football ever since then. She’s been grinding for years, and to get that senior cap after having worked so hard…that’s just such an incredible story.
There’s some class stories…like Eimear Considine is back playing rugby three months after having her baby!
You meet so many characters, hilarious players with plenty of personality. People will relate to different things. Ruesha Littlejohn is really funny, she’s building interest in herself on her YouTube channel. She’s giving exposure to herself, but also to all the other players, so people are getting to know the Irish team more. Getting to know these personalities…that’s what people enjoy about sport.
You can check out all the ways Niamh and Mohammed are inspiring and empowering women in sport here.