It’s long been a grumble of top sportswomen that they’re simply not getting the opportunities, recognition or salaries to match their male counterparts. While premier league footballers take home a six-figure pay packet each month, ladies with comparable skills on the field have to work two jobs just to fund their passion.
However, the world of freesports is setting out to bring women’s sport up to par. With whopping contest prize purses, girls-only events that get women carving up the surf, skimming down the slopes and shredding up the skate park, and fantastic clothing and apparel lines for the ladies, now seems like a pretty good time to be an adrenaline junkie at the top of your game.
Nike recently brought the issue of women in sport further to the fore with a new exhibition in London. The ‘Changing the Game of Women’s Sport’ art show, curated by Nike, celebrated and elevated the profile of some of the country’s finest sportswomen, showing their strength, passion and individuality. The exhibition coincided with recent debate regarding the current state of women’s sport in the UK, where there are currently no women playing team sports professionally and less than 5% of all sports media coverage is dedicated to women’s sport.
“There are lots of women in every sport but they’re not recognised as much as the men," says Nike dance athlete Clara Bajado. “Women are not paid the same for doing the same job – in any other industry this would be unacceptable but it seems to be accepted in sport and I’d like to see that attitude change. It’s also really hard for women to get exposure, especially when sports such as women’s football get aired at 3am while men’s football is prime time TV."
Research released by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation earlier this month shows more than 80% of women are not doing enough physical activity to benefit their health and 16-24 year old women are half as active as their male counterparts. Through their recent exhibition, Nike aimed to inspire through athletes’ stories and motivate women to get involved in sport to experience the strength and confidence they can gain from doing so.
“Part of the problem is that sport is male dominated; everything is geared towards men and that doesn’t encourage women to take part," says Nike athlete Jane Wake. “My mission is to help redefine sport so that it’s for everyone. Women shouldn’t feel intimidated, they should find something that interests them, then go along and try it out. Simply taking part is the most important step, whether it’s a netball team, an aerobics class or a run for charity. Just get out there and do it."
Profiled athletes in the exhibition included marathon runner and record-breaker Paula Radcliffe; UK Junior 100m record holder Asha Philip; Snowboard Champs (and Cooler bloggers) Rebecca Cullum and Zoe Gillings; Snowboard Slalom champ Claire Frost; Arsenal Ladies team players Emma Byrne and Lianne Sanderson; and the full Nike dance athlete squad.
Nike athlete Sonja Moses teaches 20 dance and aerobics each week, including sessions for women in young offenders institutions. “I want to encourage as many women as possible to get into sport," she says. “It’s not only great for fitness, it’s also great for confidence and self-esteem. It can be a really good release; a real means of escape."
“In order to make sport appealing to young girls and communicate the strength, both physical and mental, sport brings to your life, we felt we needed to champion some the UK and Ireland’s top sportswomen as positive role models," said Lindsey Sexton-Chadwick, Nike Women’s Marketing Manager. “The exhibition is the first chapter in a series of activities we have planned to encourage young girls to become and stay more active."
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