I’m no avid sports fan, but it might well be the Matildas that change that.
These amazing women have gotten further in an international competition than any other Australian soccer team ever has – including the blokes. They face the World Cup quarter finals this weekend and could reach even greater heights.
Through their incredible success, they have generated a long-overdue national conversation on gender equality in sport.
It’s a shame it’s taken a breakthrough win to shine a light on the discrimination sportswomen face every day.
Even in this day and age, female athletes still receive a fraction of the pay, coverage and sponsorship of their male counterparts.
As has been discussed in the mainstream media, the Matildas are paid about one quarter of the national average Australian worker’s salary and many juggle their full-time training with other work.
Even more starkly, the Matildas are paid $500 for each international game they play, while the Socceroos are paid $6000 for international games.
So the blokes are getting paid 12 times as much!
This week, I received multi-partisan support when I put a motion to the Senate highlighting this gross pay inequality and the need for urgent action to address it across sports.
It’s obviously not just in soccer that these double standards exist.
Remember when Basketball Australia flew their men’s team business class, while the Opals were relegated to premium economy?
And have a look at the top 50 earners in Australian sports – only two are women, Stephanie Gilmore at 39 and Karrie Webb at 50.
How has this inequality been allowed to fester into a situation where today our sportswomen are being paid in the tens of thousands while the men earn millions?
Sadly, I believe stereotypes and sexism are at the heart of it.
Sexist jokes about watching women’s sport still rear their ugly heads. And stereotypes about women’s athletic ability kick in at a young age, as explored in this ‘Run like a girl‘ advertisement that went viral last year
Outdated attitudes condoning inequality feed into the paltry amount of media coverage women’s sport receives, although some research does show there’s demand from both female and male audiences for more coverage of women’s sport.
A recent study by the Australian Sports Commission found women feature in only 7% of sports programming in Australia.
And the most alarming thing is that this is actually a decrease from the 11% of programming women’s sport received a decade ago.
Just like the overall gender pay gap in Australia, we’re sliding backwards on equality indicators in sports.
Women deserve equality in all fields and we need to arrest these deeply concerning trends.
Although it shouldn’t have to, the sensational success of the Matildas is helping to do just this.
All power to these amazing athletes! Fingers and toes cross for a quarter final win on the weekend!