Monaco held a conference called Sportel, based on sports and television this week. One the hot topics was the presence of sportswomen on TV.
Anita de Frantz, who works with the IOC, said “there’s a difference in the way the media treat female sports. For example when they speak about a sportswoman, they often use the first name but the men are called by their surname.” She’s got a point although it’s clearly not a universal rule of sports broacasting. “It’s a way to avoid taking women seriously, to infantilise them. Tennis commentators talk of Serena and Venus, when they more often talk about Federer or Nadal“.
Cycling fans might be forgiven for thinking chance would be a fine thing, to hear “Jeannie”, “Emma” or “Judith” mentioned on the airwaves just once would be an advance, yet alone Longo, Pooley or Arndt. The conference also highlighted just how few women occupy other roles, such as sports journalists or in the governing bodies. This applies to cycling, for example the UCI’s Management Committee has 20 members, all male and the typical press room is far from 50/50. More like 100/0.
Things are slowly equalising in cycling, women’s cycling is growing in popularity and finally the 2012 Olympics will see a parity of medals between men and women, although at the expense of some of the track events. There’s a long way to go but conferences like this at least allow the numbers to be aired so we can measure the progress.