This week we celebrated International Women’s Day. On the 8th of March every year around the globe, we honour the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, and remember the continuous fight for gender equality in all fields. Students here will learn more about International Women’s Day in class, while my friend and I had the pleasure of putting together a presentation for our peers. The theme: women in sport.
Women athletes had only been allowed to compete in the Olympic Games from 1900, where 22 of the 997 athletes were female. Stereotypes and traditional views of what women should be like and have historically been forced to be like greatly limited their acceptance into the sport field.
"There’s a big gap between what the value of women in sport is, spectators, and the industry," said Mrs Jess Byrne, our Director of Sport. As a female athlete and educator, she gave very inspiring insights into this subject. "Just like everything else in life, sport should be equal, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be.
"When you look at a TV listing, it might say 'Premier League Football’; it doesn’t say 'Premier League Men’s Football', it says 'Premier League Women’s Football'. They never distinguish unless it’s women’s… it shouldn’t just say women’s sport specifically, because it doesn’t say men’s sport."
So how can we support equality in women’s sport?
Mrs Byrne believes that participation is key. "The more female people… and younger girls who participate in sport, the bigger women sport gets, which raises the level, raises the standard, and then people will obviously play more and watch it. We can all watch it as well, so if it’s on, turn it on, get the viewing figures up, read about it.
"We can also push for it and ask for it," advocating for equal wages, exposure, screen time, and sponsorship. In 2019, the US women's soccer team filed a suit against US Soccer under the Equal Pay Act for receiving significantly less pay than the men’s team. This coincides with the theme for International Women’s Day 2021 of 'Choose to Challenge' - from challenge comes change.
Education is crucial in raising the students who will continue to strive for a world of equality. Here at DCSZ, great efforts are put into advocating for equitability in sport. Students from Year 3 upwards have the chance to experience the same sports - especially netball and rugby, which had been primarily engaged by one gender. Gender is split where students would be more assured in participating, for example in swimming so that they do not feel self-conscious, and ensuring that they are confident in wearing the PE kit.
Sporting inclusion further creates positive female role models, which is widely demonstrated within our school community. Our female Sport Prefect, Luna C, is a prime example in modelling enthusiasm and engagement, "allowing our community to see all the exciting possibilities we could have if we had more participation". She aims to increase "the number of student athletes who present commitment, perseverance and passion".
The PE Department also actively promotes participation in sport and staying fit and healthy, including running netball programmes for both students and staff. Mrs Byrne is currently taking part in a challenge where she runs and cycles around 30km every day, from last October to the end of June, supporting a mental health charity. "Doing this hopefully shows other females that our bodies are amazing, and being female really makes no difference to what we are capable of!"