Congratulations Red Roses!

Congratulations to the Red Roses (aka the women’s England rugby team) who won the Grand Slam yesterday! They played in front of over 13,000 supporters, which was a record number of supporters for them at Twickenham. They won 80-0 against Scotland. They pretty much annihilated the competition in every game they played during the Six Nations. They are amazing and true winners!

These are all fantastic achievements and can not be taken away from them. However, when I was listening to the local radio news last night, there was no mention of any of this. The sports newsreader talked about the [men’s] Wales rugby team winning the Grand Slam. They talked about the England-Scotland [men’s] rugby game which ended in the last minute draw. They talked about the [men’s] FA Cup quarter final game which saw Wolves triumphing over Man United. There was no mention of the women’s rugby result at all.

I googled the results for ‘England Six Nations Rugby’ and the men’s teams results were listed. I had to type Women’s England Six Nations Rugby to find the women’s teams results. I accept that for the women’s team the competition started as the Home International Championship in 1996 with 4 teams, but by 2000 there were 6 teams, and by 2007 the 6 teams were aligned to the 6 teams for the men’s Six Nations Rugby. Men’s rugby has been around a lot longer - from 1932 for Home Nations, 1940 for Five Nations and from 2000 for Six Nations. The men’s Wales team having won the Grand Slam 11 times, compared to the men’s England team winning 13 times. Since 1996, the women’s England rugby team has won 14 Grand Slams.

I had read about the lack of media coverage of women’s sports compared to men’s but yesterday it really hit home to me this disparity. We say we want more women to be involved in sports yet we are not giving equal weighting to these amazing sporting achievements. We are sending the message that men’s sporting accomplishments are more important, more worthwhile, more newsworthy than women’s. The two matches were the same length of time; the two matches followed the same rules; the two matches were played on the same size pitch; the two matches used the same goals. Yet, the media coverage suggests the women’s game was lesser than the men’s.

And it isn’t just rugby this happens in. Women’s sports receive significantly less sponsorship then men’s sports which means they get less media coverage. How do we break this cycle? I think we need some brave companies to stop paying lip service to equality and addressing the gender pay gap, and put their money where their mouth is! If they sponsor a male sporting event, they could put the same amount into the equivalent female sporting event (or halve their male sponsorship to give to female sponsorship). I know this will feel risky but if companies are truly wanting to support gender equality within their business, this should be a value that comes through in everything they do.

I don’t pretend to know all the facts inside out on this, but I felt passionately enough after [not] hearing [about the women’s rugby results on] the news last night that I felt I needed to share my thoughts and highlight this. I have done some desk research today and some of the statistics are alarming. Society needs to do better in talking and highlighting achievements; the media need to do better in having equal coverage of sporting events; companies need to live their equality values in every action they take as a business; we need to do better in demanding better and I’m starting today. Who will join me?