Women in Sports: Main Challenges


Sporting activities are social events in which participating individuals are often exposed to various kinds of discrimination. Women, in particular, are often subjected to gender inequality and sexism. Sporting activities are often associated with specific social standards designed to establish and fortify feminine and masculine traits. The predominance of men in sporting events has led to the prevalence of the notion that the field is masculine, given that it is characterized by force and aggression. Women who engage in sporting activities are, therefore, subjected to sexism. In fact, some sporting activities have been designated as solely feminine based on the fact that they focus on elegance and esthetics in addition to fitting the stereotypical definition of acceptable female behavior (Nogueira et al., 2018). The prevalence of gender inequality in sports has facilitated the limited recognition of women and their contributions to the industry.

Women’s Participation in Sports

The Olympic Games are widely considered the epitome of global sporting activities. For many women, getting a chance to represent their nations is often considered a great achievement. While the gender gap is narrowing, plenty still needs to be done to include women and recognize their contributions as active participants in sporting activities. Pierre de Coubertin, who is widely considered to be the founder of modern Olympics, believed that allowing women to participate in the games was unnatural (Koca, 2018). His view set the foundation for the exclusion of women from a number of sporting activities. It is vital to note that some countries do not allow women to engage in sporting activities. Other nations allow female participation with stringent requirements that are often intended to discriminate against women (Ince-Yenilmez, 2020). As a result, women avoid engaging in sporting activities leading to limited diversity.

It is essential to note that even in situations where women participate in games, these events are often viewed as slow or boring. Media coverage for sporting events often demonstrates a bias towards male events. For instance, in the 2008 Pekin Olympic Games, female athletes were included in only 27% of overall press coverage (Nogueira et al., 2018). Even though the 1999 Women’s World Cup had over a billion television viewers across the globe, the American Soccer team, which won numerous events, received little media attention. Despite their success, they are seldom recognized or respected for their athletic prowess. It is vital to note that sports media companies like ESPN dedicated 2% of their total media coverage to women’s sporting activities in 2014. It is evident that the limited coverage supports the stereotypical views against female athletes. In 2002 when Lisa Leslie became the first woman to dunk in a professional basketball game while playing for the Los Angeles Sparks (Azumara, 2020). It is vital to note that Leslie shattered the sexist stereotype that women have limited athletic abilities compared to men.

While Leslie’s actions were commendable, she received little recognition for her actions, and the notion that women’s basketball is less entertaining compared to the men’s league is still prevalent. Sexism is prevalent in the sporting industry, which often discriminates against women. For instance, women are often underpaid compared to their male counterparts playing at the same level. Women in professional basketball earn approximately 20% of the minimum salary a male player is paid (Azumara, 2020). Female tennis players are paid half of what their male counterparts earn despite playing at the same level (Hyre et al., 2017). In order to adapt to the hostilities occasioned by a male-dominated field, women have had to assume masculine attributes while trying to maintain their female identities (Hyre et al., 2017). However, despite their efforts to meet the demands of the sporting world, they are seldom considered equal to their male colleagues.

The International Olympic Committee’s decision to exclude women’s ski-jumping from the Vancouver Olympics led to a protracted court battle. In 2008, the Vancouver National Organizing Committee was sued by Anette Sagen and fifteen other ski-jumpers for discriminating against women and contravening the Canadian Charter (Seippel et al., 2018). However, despite their concerted efforts, the women’s ski jumping event was excluded from the 2010 Vancouver games (Seippel et al., 2018). The case demonstrated the difficulties associated with raising legitimate gender-related issues in the global sports arena.


The world’s nations recognize the need to prioritize gender equality in all social circles, including sporting activities. In 2015, the planet 50-50 initiative was launched by the United Nations Women’s Organization in Beijing (Singh & Naidoo, 2017). The program appeals to the world’s governments to make commitments intended to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women. Other global bodies have taken critical steps aimed at addressing discrimination challenges in sports. For instance, the Council of Europe outlined tools designed to address gender disparities in their report titled “Balance in Sports” (Koca, 2018 p. 17). The report provides mechanisms that should be deployed to address inequality. For instance, the council proposed gender mainstreaming and ensuring gender equality in the allocation of resources designated for sporting activities. In addition, it proposed positive discrimination and the collection of data for research. Finally, the establishment and institutionalization of the concept of fair play were proposed. The aforementioned measures are intended to encourage women to take up active roles in sporting activities.

The International Olympic Committee has made several recommendations designed to reduce the prevalence of discrimination against women in sporting activities. With regard to Olympic games participation, the committee will ensure that all the athlete quotas adhere to full gender equality rules (International Olympic Committee, 2018). In addition, it will ensure that an equal number of athletes participate in each sporting activity. It is essential to note that with regard to the portrayal of different genders in the media, the committee advocates for equal representation. It will achieve balance by formulating guidelines designed to convey equality in all its communication (International Olympic Committee, 2018). In addition, the committee intends to ensure that all its strategic partners adhere to the stipulated guidelines with regard to media representation.


Women in sports face a variety of challenges, key of which is gender inequality. They are forced to contend with issues such as unequal pay, the denial of opportunities to participate, and limited media coverage and recognition. These issues have significantly hampered women’s career growth and development in the sporting industry. It is critical to address these issues by requiring that governments commit to eliminating gender disparities in sporting activities. In addition, changes in media coverage policies, resource allocation in sports, and gender mainstreaming must be prioritized. It is also critical to institutionalize the concept of fair play to ensure that women have equal opportunities in sports.


Azumara, L. (2020). Sexism in sports. CLA Journal, 8, 76–93.

Hyre, T., Chen, S., & Larson, M. (2017). Perceptions concerning obstacles, stereotypes, and discrimination faced by female sports reporters and other female sports professionals. Athens Journal of Sports, 4(3), 213–230.

Ince-Yenilmez, M. (2020). The impact of media and cultural beliefs on women participation in sports in Turkey: The challenges facing turkish women in professional sports. Sosyoekonomi, 29(48), 91–106.

International Olympic Committee. (2018). IOC gender equality review project

Koca, C. (2018). Gender equality in sports: Mapping and monitoring study. In Enhancement of Participatory Democracy in Turkey: Gender Equality Monitoring Project.

Nogueira, A., Molinero, O., Del Valle, A. S., Lucidi, F., & Márquez, S. (2018). Identification of gender discrimination in sports: Training of agents of change. Revista de Psicologia Del Deporte, 27(3), 43–49.

Seippel, O., Dalen, H. B., Sandvik, M. R., & Solstad, G. M. (2018). From political sports to sports politics: On political mobilization of sports issues. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 10(4), 794–802.

Singh, T. L., & Naidoo, L. D. (2017). Assessing gender inequality in South Africa: A case study of women in sports management. Journal of Research in Business, Economics and Management, 8(2), 1407–1428.

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