Using the sports industry as a medium

I am using the sports industry as a medium to illustrate how the scales of inequality are weighted in favour of males. In particular, we are looking at the ways in which women are breaking through the barriers into areas that could not have been envisaged fifty years ago.

The sports industry is extremely diverse and is currently experiencing rapid growth and development. The industry” s profits run into billions each year. The business of sport has certainly not been immune or isolated from gender inequalities.

Traditionally, professional sports management has been the exclusive realm of males. Sport is often regarded as one of societies most traditional male institutions. However, one of the most important phrases of the ’90” s” has been ‘gender inequality”. This involves offering equal opportunities to both men and women to participate in sport.

The table below illustrates just how little coverage women” s sport receives in the media:

The Times Daily Express Guardian Daily Telegraph

Given the changing face of the international workforce, sports managers must now make ethical decisions regarding hiring in order to make the management of sport both more appealing and available to women. Although recent changes within sports leagues, such as professional women” s football has opened the doors to women – it is found that they rarely attain positions of power and wealth. It could still be argued that women have not been accepted into the industry, as the roles offered within it tend to be opposed to the typical ‘ideology of women”.

Socceris the most popular sport in the world with over 117 million players across 175 countries. There are now over 8 million women playing the game worldwide. It is no longer just a sport for men. Speed, agility and tenacity are among the most important factors for success in soccer. All of these are qualities that women have in abundance.

And not only are women becoming more prominent as soccer players, they are also breaking the closed ranks of refereeing. In September, huge progress was made in the field of female refereeing when, for the first time in the world, control of a senior mens’ match was placed entirely in the hands of women. Wendy Toms refereed a Nationwide Conference match with the assistance of Janie Framptom and Amy Raynor running the lines. Brendan Phillips, the manager of one of the teams involved commented after the match on how impressed he was with the quality of the officials. And it is perhaps worth pointing out at this point how rare it is for referees to be praised, especially by football managers!

Other successful women in soccer include:

Karen Brady – Birmingham City Managing Director

Gaby Yorath – Football presenter and player

On top of these advances made in soccer, a major step was recently taken in female boxing when, in America, a female fought against a male and won the fight. However, cynics might suggest that the fight was more of a publicity stunt than a fair contest. A newspaper report on this landmark contest can be found in Appendix I. Also in female boxing, Laila the 21-year-old daughter of the legendary Muhammad Ali recently entered the history books when she took part in a professional boxing bout. Again, a newspaper article on this event can be found in Appendix I.

Stereotyping identifies a gender role at a very early age and can be traced back to thefamily- in particular, mother child relations. Bandura illustrates that young children acquire sex role behaviours through imitation, identification andobservationof parents, teachers, media, personalityand peers. Sex differences are reinforced through the pattern ofchildhoodgames for example, if a girl was given ‘Action Men” to play with, although they may play with them for some time, they will have a natural tendency to favour toys that will encourage their traditional female roles. The continued existence of toys such as ‘A La Carte Kitchen”, ‘Barbie and Ken” and ‘Cindy” simply reinforce the stereotype typically associated with women in the past is still present in a huge way.

It has been suggested that society in general, and schools in particular, have led girls to lower their aspirations for no good reason. In primary school it is often found that the PhysicalEducationlessons involved either no provision whatsoever for ‘girl orientated” sports (for instance Netball), or the girls were encouraged (or forced) to get involved in ‘male orientated” sports such as football or rounders. There was little provision for girls who didn” t wish to participate in these sports, with the best alternative being a skipping rope. Women aren” t encouraged to compete as speed, power and excitement are all games associated predominately with males. They see themselves as being suited to work which is of a different nature and less prestigious than that of their male counterparts.

Part of the reason for the concentration on ‘male orientated” sports in schools, particularly primary schools, could be related to the fact that most sports teachers are male and so they have more interest in such sports and so are biased. In 1996 for example, the average number of women in athletic administrative structures was less than 1% per school . Ideals about suitable jobs for men and women have reflected prevailing notions of man and womanhood. Hence, familial ideology is one of the critical factors in exploring the deep seated and taken for granted nature of gender differentiation.

In the past two decades there has been an uprise of women in positions that were previously dominated by men, and although women are now engaged in virtually every occupational category, few of them manage to reach the top. So, there is obviously a need to promote women in society and to encourage female leaders and emphasise the qualities that they can bring to the workforce and workplace. They need to be encouraged to aim for the top.

However, the problem is that ” whilst women are increasingly gaining entry to jobs demanding high levels of expertise, they are only rarely translating these into jobs with high levels of authority and organisational power” .

High occupational achievement accompanied by a high salary has traditionally been reflected by the masculine role. The International Review of Employment conducted a study that revealed a huge discrepancy in the number of female directors in the UK.

The UK has trailed behind the USA both in the number of female directors and in adapting corporate cultures to the presence of women executives at the top level. There are 140 female executive directors and 138 non-executives working in a total of 2349 listed British companies. Of these, just 22 women made it to the top positions of Chief Executive or Managing Director. And it is also interesting to note that women managers ” earn on average only 65% of their male counterparts” earnings”. Refer to Appendix II for aninterviewconducted with a female Section Manager at Tesco Plc. The interview highlights some problems and issues that women managers face in today” s workplace.

So why does this glass ceiling exist?

One obvious answer lies indiscrimination, which is both covert and overt in the persistence of male dominated or paternalistic corporate cultures.

Together with this women have factors such as child bearing to adopt within their careers and macho workaholic cultures currently make it difficult for female executives to fit in time for their children and family.

Another reason for the glass ceiling may be because women are constantly fighting against the many stereotypes that exist concerning every aspect of life and female roles within it.

This list is by no means exhaustive but it illustrates some of the underlying issues.

Instead of trying to break the ‘glass ceiling” perhaps women need to find their own personal windows through which they can climb.

Because men and women are obviously different, it would be foolish to suggest that or to hope that men and women can be distributed in the labour force in exactly the same jobs, i. e. men are always going to be suited to some jobs better than women and vice versa. But, despite this, society can offer various solutions to the gender inequalities that exist. Advancing equal opportunities is never an easy task and history shows that simple solutions rarely work.

The present generation has addressed sexual inequalities in a number of ways, for example, increased education and increased support for interest in the female labour market.

Many believe that for major changes ingender rolesto take place it would be wise to look at the potential intervention in education at a younger age. By doing this, many of the stereotypes that children grow up believing and adhering too could be banished before they become inbred within the individual. However, schooling is only one part of this education and society as a whole and in particular home life has to play a part in this ‘new” education.

Although there are presently a number of changes in parenting and the workforce, as well as the sexual familial division of labour it is far from certain that such changes will, in the near future, be sufficient to alter present social roles or position in the hierarchy of gender so that young children will receive clear, delineated and understandable concepts of equalised gender roles.

Almost 25 years after the foundation of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) it would be nice to say as the millennium approaches that things have changed significantly changed for the better. However, reality would suggest that although changes have taken place the extent of these has neither been fast moving or dramatic. Julie Mellor, Chair of the EOC believes that ‘there is still a huge amount of work to be done – we get lulled into a feeling of more significant change than is actually reality”. There is no doubt that there are still many obstacles that face women when trying to further their careers.

It is now the job of organisations and society to build upon the foundations laid over the past 25 years by the EOC and Government legislation, such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. The balance is being redressed and it must be understood that such changes can” t and won” t take place overnight. Maybe one of the most important points when looking at the future and the ways forward can be summed in this quote by Judi Marshall:

” Equalityshould not be contingent on sameness but should recognize and welcome differences and accord them equal social worth.”