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Mumbrella published - 'Wake up call to brands'

Women buy the magazines, the products, the stuff. So why does the media, sport, and so many related brands, still appear to be behind? Shivani Gopal, founder & CEO of The Remarkable Woman lobbies for serious impact and equitable change.

Published August 10, 2022 12:43 by SHIVANI GOPAL

When Sam Kerr became the first woman to appear on the global cover of FIFA 23’s Ultimate Edition worldwide, alongside French player Kylian Mbappé, the media reaction was immediate, wide and understandable. The underrepresentation of female athletes has been historic and widespread, Sports Illustrated notwithstanding, but the sexualisation of women on the cover of sports magazines is a whole other column. 

Kerr’s appearance is encouraging, as is the recent Australian cover of Women’s Health magazine, featuring pregnant celebrity trainer Tiffany Hall, that made history.  

Like Ash Barty, Kerr is a remarkable woman, doing remarkable things, breaking the barriers and bringing out the conversations. But she wears a heavy burden not of her making.

We urgently need more women like her to impact real, cultural change and to reflect the talent, ambition and capability of a powerful audience called women. 

Much has been made recently in the media about the Census figures, as it should be. There is crucial information in the survey that directs our societal policies, social services, health, education and business practices. 

But the one thing that we have always known, and still know, is that half of the community is made up of women –- half your readership, half your customers, half your audience, at the very least. In fact, in many areas, such as retail, fashion, health, education and the care sectors, women are dominant. 

Those women also include customers from diverse cultural backgrounds; women who increasingly want to see themselves represented more commonly. The importance of inclusiveness is crucial to images disseminated by the media. 

We buy the magazines, the products, the stuff. So why does the media, sport, and so many related brands, still appear to be behind?

While representation of positive role models on magazine covers is generally poor, their depiction by the advertising industry has, historically, been sexist and patronising. 

Yes, some brands are moving towards more positive female messaging, yet as research by ShEqual has previously found, ‘about a third of people concerned with potentially sexist content, such as dangerous female stereotypes, are being silenced’.

Returning to Kerr, the underrepresentation of women in sport, as well as in leadership roles, is directly influenced by what a male-dominated business and sporting world perceives as the bottom line.

It is about money and only money and the perceived notion that the population prefer men making decisions over women, and men’s sport over women’s sport – that female contribution is worth less. Sponsors and brands then perpetuate this in their media and brand spend.

After 33 years, women have returned to the Tour de France Femmes, but their prize purse is a pittance of that being offered for men – $370,000 compared to $3.4 million.  This is also true of other sports in which women have made recent gains.  This is the pink tax and the gender pay gap at its height.

Both the tax and the gap also occur profusely in women fronting sport presentation and commentating in the media a recent article calling out the need for more diversity behind the microphone highlighted in the The Sydney Morning Herald.

The 2022 Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum revealed that the income gap has been closed by 68.1 percent. At the current rate of progress, it will take 132 years to reach full parity. How did we do? Glad you asked. Australia sits at number 43 on the gender pay equity scale, far behind Rwanda, Namibia, Lithuania and The Philippines.

WEF managing director Saadia Zahidi said the hope was that this report will “serve as a call to action to leaders to embed gender parity as a central goal of their policies and practices… that the future of our economies, societies and communities depends on it”.

I am optimistic that it won’t take us 132 years to reach representation and pay equity for half the population, and for those playing professional sport. The next Census will tell us more, and whether we have made any real progress.

I continue to be encouraged by this generation of female elite athletes and that change is apace. But Sahidi’s call to action is real, especially for brands and sponsors to consider, and what is necessary for serious impact and equitable change is embedding parity at the start.




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