The gender inequality that exists in the sports industry is most easily evidenced by the differences in pay and prize money given to male and female athletes. A BBC Sport study in 2014 revealed that within 30% of sports, with football being one of the biggest culprits, men are still being paid more than women – and these sports “refuse to move forward”.
However, the large gender pay gap is not the only reason to pay attention to this issue, which is why the British Embassy Beijing teamed up with UN Women in China to dedicate the final event of the Be Y♀urself Campaign to discuss gender equality in sport.
The Be Y♀urself Campaign is a China-wide campaign lead by the British Embassy Beijing focussed on empowering women in society and the economy. The British Embassy and Consulates across China dedicated the month of March to the campaign, encouraging discussion on gender equality in a host of different sectors, including health, science, business, law, the media, film and sport.
Over the course of the campaign, the British Embassy organised over 20 events all over China, including film festivals, documentary screenings, training sessions, and panel discussions, engaging over 1,500 people at their events. Whilst on social media platforms, over 4 million people got involved in the campaign, following the discussions, posting and retweeting using the hashtag #BeYourself.
The final event for the Be Y♀urself Campaign was held on the 31 March 2016 and attended by over 100 people, including Deng Yaping, the world-famous Olympic table tennis champion, He Wenna, world champion trampoline gymnast and Olympic gold medallist as well as numerous key women and men from media, business and civil society circles.
The British Embassy began the event by screening the first Be Y♀urself Short Film that has been created in collaboration with an up and coming, young, female director in China, Tang Tian. The film showcased women and men with a compelling story to tell about their experiences and work in the field of gender equality. The film can be viewed on Youku and QQ Video as well as on the British Embassy’s Weibo account.
The success of the event was secured by the high-profile and captivating panellists taking part in the interactive panel discussion at the event. The panellists included Vicky Song, the first Chinese woman to circumnavigate the globe; Ye Qiaobo, one of the most successful Chinese speed-skaters having won 14 world championships and three Olympic medals; Michele Aboro, British female boxer who holds the title of undefeated world champion; and Zhang Chengdong, National football team player currently playing for Beijing Guoan and a long-time supporter of the UN Women’s #HeforShe Campaign.
Xue Li, the General Secretary of the Centre for Sport and Culture Development at the State Sports Administration, also in attendance, made a speech in support of the event, alongside British Ambassador to China, Ms Barbara Woodward, and Julia Broussard, Head of UN Women China.
They all highlighted the importance of addressing every aspect of the issue of gender equality in sport. Not only the gender pay gap, but also encouraging female participation, the bias in media attention given to male athletes, as well as the benefits to the health and well-being of those who participate in sport, as well as the wider benefits to the economy and society.
Ambassador Woodward stated:
Sport has played an important role throughout history. But in many sports, women have only been able to watch from the sidelines until relatively recently. Female participation rates in sport are still lower than men’s. This is a situation where everyone needs to get involved and make a change.
Julia Broussard emphasized the role that sport plays in empowering women and girls:
Women in sport defy the misperception that they are weak or incapable. Every time they clear a hurdle or kick a goal, demonstrating not only physical strength, but also leadership and strategic thinking, they take a step toward gender equality.