2022 is set to be the Commonwealth Games’ strongest year yet for female sport, and it’s never been a better time to put women in the spotlight.
This summer, the Women’s World Cup had us all hooked. In the UK, England’s semi-final game against the US achieved the highest viewing figures of the year, with 11.7m fans tuning in. We didn’t actually win, but it didn’t stop us from relishing the moment.
2019 is shaping up to be the most progressive year so far for women’s sport. Riding on the coattails of our football-obsessed summer, the Commonwealth Games has announced it will the first major multi-sports event to have more women’s medal events than men’s, when it heads to Birmingham in 2022.
Adding Twenty20 cricket, beach volleyball and Para-tennis to the programme, the games will host 135 women’s medal competitions, compared with 133 for men.
Admittedly, it does seem like a small margin, but when it comes to women’s sport, any increase in representation is a win. According to a 2018 report by Insure 4 Sport, almost 50% of people surveyed don’t watch women’s sport because of the lack of media coverage.
Plus, Funding 4 Sport cites ‘female invisibility’ and a lack of role models as a major barrier to women becoming involved in sport.
After years of underrepresentation, it’s not surprising that the numbers of women actually doing sport are disappointingly low. Maybe it’s a hangover from traumatic PE lessons, or just some good old-fashioned social conditioning, but whatever’s stopping us from getting involved, it’s high time we joined the conversation.
At the moment, only 31.9% of women take part in sport at least once a week, compared with 40.5% of men, according to a survey by Sport England. Meanwhile, a staggering report by Women in Sport shows that 27% women are inactive (meaning they do less than 30 minutes of physical activity each week).
Unless we start encouraging women and girls to get involved in sport with positive representation, we’ll never see these numbers rise. This week, it’s heartening to see the Commonwealth Games step up.
As we know, for positive change to continue, it’s equally important that women are given a seat at the decision-making table. In a survey by Women in Sport, 38% of women working in sport stated that they have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, in comparison to just 20% of men.
“We are passionate advocates of women’s sport and Para-sport so I am thrilled we are able to make this special announcement,” said Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) president Dame Louise Martin, speaking to the BBC.
We can’t wait for 2022. Finally, it’s time for our incredible female sports stars to have their time in the spotlight. Let’s prepare for a festival of inspiration and admiration, and when 2022 does finally roll around, let’s all remember to tune in.