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Sports and women: working for equality.


Talking about any activity that includes the word WOMEN today is in vogue. It cannot be ignored that we are in a moment where equality, parity, feminism... are topics that always lead to debate, and that is precisely the intention of this article.

In this article, we will shed light on the belief that, in general, men participate in sports more than women.

Looking at statistics, for example, from federative licenses, only 23 percent belong to women, compared to 77 percent of men. Regarding "free" sports practice, surveys indicate that 47% of women sporadically engage in sports.

But if we go back to the origin, do girls also practice less sports? Up to the age of 12, activity levels are similar, but with the onset of puberty, around 13% of girls drop out of sports, compared to 6% of boys. The striking data comes with adulthood – at the age of 18, ONLY 3 out of 10 girls participate in sports.

What could be the reason for this? The causes are multiple, and we surely cannot analyse them all. We hope to change this trend, but just by looking around us, we can find a clear reason – THERE ARE NO FEMALE PROFESSIONALS IN THE WORLD OF ELITE SPORTS. And by this, I do not mean that there are no women in women's sports making a living out of it, but how many? I think of a predominantly male sport where, in recent times, women are appearing timidly – FOOTBALL. Consider Alexia Putella, the highest-paid player in Spanish women's football, earning 150,000 euros a year compared to Dembélé's 17 million. And this is just a small example. Imagine a volleyball team or even a gymnast.

If we set aside athletes and think about coaches, we can see that the majority of coaches for male teams are men, but also many coaches for female athletes and teams are men. Statistics show that, in 2021, 84% of elite female football, basketball, and handball team coaches were men, and THERE IS NOT A SINGLE FEMALE TECHNICIAN in male teams.

Now, let's see what happens with club presidents and executives. In football in 2011, there were only 8 women between the second and third divisions. Isabel García and Asunción Lorienteson are the only two female federation presidents in Spain...

We could continue with many more examples, but they all lead to the same point. Currently, most women do not see sports as a professional development area. Therefore, when they reach a critical age, they decide to dedicate their time to studies and direct their leisure towards other areas.

After this youth gap, we encounter another gender gap in adulthood. Although this is changing, we have much work to do. In the early stages of motherhood, women generally dedicate more time to parenting. A clear example is that of all the reduced working hours for family reasons, 95.6% correspond to women. Women who must leave their jobs to take care of their young children will also not have time to dedicate to sports.

But all this is changing. Sports is not only a professional path where women should have the same rights as men, but it is also a facilitator, an ally, a driver towards health, and, moreover, it is an element of socialization.

For all these reasons, women must work in this area to achieve equality. First, through education. In 2015, the graduates in physical activity were 3,018 men compared to 819 women. The occupation in the sports field, according to INE data from 2020, was 125,600 men compared to 75,000 women.

The path to equality runs in all areas, and sports, as another aspect of life, is not excluded. We must start by directing our education from early childhood for all children, not only towards performance but also towards sports as a healthy habit that everyone should include in their lives. With girls, as future women, we must work on building adherence, providing tools that allow them to find their place not only in the sports industry, which is very profitable, and in which there is surely an untapped market. We must, also from this foundation, give priority to physical exercise within family routines, building more support programs. An example is found in the municipal activities of Logroño Deporte, which offers the "work-life balance program," where parents have a sports option at the same time their children are playing sports, or "Family Fridays," where all family members can participate in the same activity. Although it would be ideal for leisure time to be distributed equally, this is a good option to avoid falling into utopias.

We will conclude this article as we started it, posing some questions that we hope will have easy answers in a few years. Can women's sports reach the professional level of men's sports? Can our country aspire to give the sports the educational importance it deserves, making people who play sports more valuable to their universities and thus offering them better academic opportunities? Will society realize the preventive value of sports, facilitating and incentivizing its practice? And last but not least, will we achieve equality between genders not only in practice but also in leadership and remuneration between men and women?

Thank you for reading, and here is the link to my courses on Vibliotec: