IWD21 Article by ciara fleming

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY

The WSA and Partners are celebrating International Women’s Day by giving away a prize hamper to competition winners.

‘A challenged world is an alert world… And from challenge comes change’ : celebrating International Women’s Day 2021

Across the world, the eighth day of March represents a moment to pause and to reflect, to celebrate the achievements, both big and small of women throughout all sectors of society. In some countries, International Women’s Day is a time for protest, and an opportunity to amplify calls for action towards the acceleration of gender parity. Yet in others, it is seen simply as a moment to celebrate womanhood.

With its origins dating back to 28th February 1909, in New York City, International Women’s Day, or just Women’s Day as it was known at the time, was held after an organised protest aiming to bring equal pay, shorter working hours, and better working conditions for female workers.  In the years that followed, the women’s rights movement spearheaded by the Socialist Party of America, gained traction worldwide, and in 1913,  8th March was nominated for International Women’s Day. However, the date still remained an unofficial day of observance, as a further half century would pass before the United Nations acknowledged 8th March as International Women’s Day in 1975.  

Since becoming involved in the occasion, the United Nations has been a steadfast supporter for International Women’s Day, being responsible for the idea to attribute an annual theme to the event. The very first theme, introduced in 1996, was centered around the concept of ‘Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future.’  From that day onwards, the United Nations has determined themes based on the social, cultural, and political climate around the globe.

This year the theme for International Women’s Day derives from the notion that one cannot hope to bring about change, without challenging existing societal practices. Suitably entitled #ChooseToChallenge, International Women’s Day 2021 has been purposely engineered to reignite the campaign to improve social consciousness of gender inequality.  

An encouraging call to action, #ChooseToChallenge highlights the often excused concept of personal choice; every day, every individual worldwide is responsible for their own thoughts, words, and actions. Thus, from 8th March 2021, every individual should choose to use that agency to call out gender bias and inequality, and to make the world more inclusive for all. 

Aside from the main theme, International Women’s Day organisers also identify sector specific issues to address throughout society. So, while International Women’s Day is a focal point for the women’s rights movement, there are daily, weekly, and monthly objectives to meet, to ensure that progress towards gender parity is an ever-present effort.

As outlined by International Women’s Day organisers, the mission for Women and Sport is threefold; to celebrate women athletes, to applaud when equality is achieved in pay and sponsorship, to increase visibility.  

In celebration of the Women in Sport missions, for International Women’s Day 2021, the Women’s Sports Alliance would like to highlight its favourite moments of progress in the areas of pay, sponsorship and visibility, from across women’s sport in recent years. 

One of the highest profile sponsorship deals in current times, the financing of brands such as Adidas, Coca Cola, and Visa, for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019, gave the tournament the global profile it deserved, as well as providing more individual funding and support to the players themselves.  Thanks to the sporting success of the tournament, interest of multinational companies in women’s football continues to grow. In 2018, the UEFA Women’s Champions League agreed a long-term partnership with Visa. While in the UK, England Women’s National team have been backed by the likes of Head and Shoulders and Budweiser, and cosmetic company Boots reached a deal to sponsor all women’s national teams across the United Kingdom and Ireland.  

Looking further afield, in the United States, social media brand Tik Tok announced a historic sleeve patch sponsorship deal with NWSL team Portland Thorns and MLS side Portland Timbers. The deal, signed earlier this year, is an equal partnership between the women’s and men’s branches of the Portland soccer franchise, marking the very first of its kind in US soccer history. 

In Rugby, in October last year, the RFU announced an extension to its partnership with telecommunications giant O2, with the pledge to offer equal funding to the men’s and women’s games. In the same month, German company Allianz confirmed its new titled partnership with the Women’s premier 15s league, as well as its backing for the Allianz Inner Warrior Programme, an initiative to grow women’s rugby across England.

In terms of moving towards gender equality in pay, international cricket and football federations have been among the first governing bodies to act.  For the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup and ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup, the prize money on offer has seen a significant increase. In comparison to the 2018 edition, the 2020 T20 World Cup prize pot is now five times bigger, with the winners set to earn $1 million. Likewise, the Women’s Cricket World Cup winnings have increased from $2 million to $3.5 million.  

In football, Australia’s women’s national team, the ‘Matildas’, reached a ground-breaking deal in 2019, that saw them win equal shares of team revenue to their male counterparts the ‘Socceroos’, on a four year contract. A year later, the Football Association of England and the Brazilian Football Federation confirmed that they too, pay equal match fees to their women’s and men’s sides. 

Given all of the aforementioned progress across women’s sports, arguably the area in which the industry has made the most significant developments is in increasing visibility of women’s teams, coaches, players, and organisations. Across the sports industry, women’s leagues and competitions are being afforded more screen time, and thus are becoming increasingly accessible, not only to core fans, but to mainstream casual viewers. 

For instance, earlier this month, England Netball announced a multi-year broadcast partnership with Sky Sports, which secured viewing access for every fixture in the Vitality Netball Superleague, and the England Roses national team for the 2021 season and beyond. 

Similarly, after years of sparse live coverage of women’s football, in September last year, the English Football Association agreed several global television rights deals for the Women’s Super League. As of the current 2021/22 season, NBC Sports and DAZN show every WSL fixture live across the United States, Germany, and Italy. In the UK, BBC and BT Sport have also increased their coverage of the WSL across their platforms.  

Given the restrictions on attendances enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic, broadcast deals such as these enable women’s sports to keep showcasing the talent of high quality women athletes, in the hope of attracting new fans and encouraging the next generation to get involved in sport.

The success of women in the sporting industry continues to surpass expectations, even in spite of certain inequalities that persist. However, this International Women’s Day, and every day, we at the Women’s Sports Alliance choose to champion the success of the elite, drive performance levels of the high performing, and inspire the next generation of talent. We encourage our readers, athletes, coaches, and contributors, to take motivation from the triumphs of women across the sports industry, and call on you to #ChooseYourChallenge , do your part, and help to create further opportunities for women’s sport.