Women's interest in sport continues to grow

#society #sport #women

The number of women who currently play sport or who closely follow sporting events is steadily increasing. This increase is a result of changes that took place in schools in the 1970s.

Women running.#RRSSThe gap between men and women in sport has narrowed significantly over the last years.

261. Does this number mean anything to you? If the answer is no, read on. In 2018 it is common to see thousands of women competing in the world's great marathons, from New York to Berlin and Madrid. But this was not always the case. On 19 April 1967, Kathrine Switzer made history by circumventing the ban that prevented women from competing in a marathon. She also did this in the oldest marathon in the world — the Boston Marathon — and she did not just run it, she finished it with a time of 4 hours and 20 minutes despite the organisers' boycott. Kathrine herself remembers the event in an interview with the BBC: "He grabbed me by the shoulders," she recalls, referring to Jock Stemple (co-director of the race), "spun me back and started trying to rip off my bib numbers." Her bib number was 261 and ever since then it has been a symbol of equality.


The presence of women taking part in sport has only grown since then and the gap between men and women in their interest in sport has narrowed considerably over the last 50 years. This is one of the conclusions that can be taken from the latest Women and Sport report from Repucom (Nielsen, 2016). Sportswomen such as Yelena Isinbayeva, Serena Williams and Laure Manadou have taken the baton from pioneers such as Kathrine Switzer, Nadia Comaneci and Larissa Latynina and, nowadays, almost 50% of women worldwide are interested in sport.

Percentage of women interested in sport (Report 'Women and Sport', Nielsen, 2016).#RRSSPercentage of women interested in sport (Report 'Women and Sport', Nielsen, 2016).

The mass media, first television and then the Internet, have brought sport closer to society, especially to women, as attendance at sporting events was long closed to them. But what sports do women watch on television? Their tastes differ depending on where they are from. In the United States American football reigns supreme, in the United Kingdom it's tennis, in China, badminton, in Japan ice skating, and in Mexico, football. In general, sports such as tennis, athletics or figure skating generate more interest among women than men. Motor sports, by contrast, are the least popular.

Percentage of men and women who watch sport on television (Report 'Women and Sport', Nielsen, 2016).#RRSSPercentage of men and women who watch sport on television (Report 'Women and Sport', Nielsen, 2016).


Every story has its once upon a time, and this one starts in schools, because that is where the passion for sport is born. According to the Women and Sport report, women who participate in sporting activities at school have a 76% chance or remaining interested in sport for the rest of their lives. In the 1970s and 1980s girls' participation in these activities increased, and it has been these women who have turned the tables since then. And the trend will continue, because they are the ones now encouraging their daughters to play sports. Here, too, the differences between countries are considerable. In China only 14% of women between the ages of 16 and 29 did not play sports at school, a figure that contrasts with that of Japan, where up to 84% kept away from sport.

The influence of sport in schools is fundamental Report Women and Sport, 2016.#RRSSThe influence of sport in schools is fundamental (Report 'Women and Sport', 2016).

What drives women to play sports? The most common answers relate to health and emotional benefits: stress relief, losing weight, feeling good about oneself, connecting with like-minded people or getting out of the house. And the most practised sports are jogging and cycling. The main difference from men's reasons is that men add another variable to those listed above: competitiveness. In relation to the barriers women experience, words such as fear of failure, embarrassment, expense or injuries crop up. They also mention leaving their comfort zone as a handicap, but this is not a barrier, it is a motivation.

All you have to do is change your mindset, because sport has long since ceased to be a man's game.