Visibility is one of the key areas where Women’s sport needs to be nurtured and supported. We need to collectively work to tell the story of Women in Sport with the same interest and coverage as we have always given to men’s sporting endeavours.
While attendance at major fixtures is still geared more towards male sport this is part of a complex puzzle that people will not go until they know and they will not know until they are told.
Looking at the equation from the perspective that if they are not going, they are not as interested will condemn us to always falling into a spiral of lesser interest and lesser examples of great storytelling.
In March of 2020, we undertook an exercise to monitor the amount of coverage devoted to Women’s sport as part of the overall weight of coverage.
In February 2022 we have gone deeper, across more titles and more days to present a picture of how things have changed.
To be an optimist you can look at the figures and see that the overall coverage has risen from 7.5 per cent two years ago to 9.82 per cent in the month just past.
Is this quick enough of a change? Well, the number has actually dipped back from when we did a similar exercise in 2021, albeit by only the narrowest of margins.
This is an inexact survey. The sporting calendar changes and we are hopeful that when we revisit it once more in April that the presence of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations will skew the number further in favour of equality as opposed to February when the main focus was on the Guinness Men’s tournament.
But we need this to be a more equal number every month, and every day of every month. The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias.
Media coverage of sport can and must play a major part in that.
Nobody considers themselves to be biased, to be a misogynist or to actively work against the right of women to play and be celebrated for playing sport.
But if we do not push and shove towards giving parity of esteem, and towards seeking out the stories of sporting and human interest that are all around us, then we are not doing enough to break that bias.
Picking one day is non-reflective but as a snapshot, it is still of some value.
The Irish Times has increased its level of coverage from 5.6% in March 2020 to 11.7 per cent in February 2022, but in today’s paper, on a day when it should have been self-evident that Women’s sport would be talked about as part of the overall #BreakTheBias slant there are 25 stories on sport across its pages and not a single one of them is about Women’s sport. The only reference is to a tweet sent by Leona Maguire as part of the weekly Different Strokes Column in Golf. There are 27 pictures accompanying the sporting stories, Leona Maguires small pen picture is the only one of a woman. The list of ‘Tour Rankings and Money Winners’ is published but only for the Men’s Tour in Europe and the US.
The Irish Independent publishes a full page of football results on a Monday morning with scores and league tables from across Europe.
The Weekend Scoreboard lists the details of twelve leagues including the Premier and First Divisions of the SSE Airtricity League but with no sign that the Women’s National League exists, nor the Women’s Super League in England.
These are the kinds of isolated biases that need to be considered, that editors need to be aware of and accountable for.
Today we are all focused on Women in Sport, but it needs to be so every day until we have righted the imbalance that has always been present and which sees that coverage statistic stuck below ten per cent.
Is breaking that really enough of an aspiration for the slightly over 50 per cent of the population that are women.
The Irish sports media is as good as anywhere in the world. We value the contribution that sport makes to our communities, our sense of ourselves and our daily lives.
But are we doing enough to celebrate the talent and endeavour of Women as much as men? The numbers suggest that is still a resounding no.
It has become a depressing part of the day to see how slowly change is coming but maybe, just maybe, the daily work that we have done, together with volunteer helpers, can have an impact of sorts. It is not enough to say the right things, we have to do them as well until the extraordinary sight of women’s sport in our sports pages and on our online channels becomes ordinary.