Danielle Brown MBE is a Paralympic double gold medallist turned motivational speaker and KUDOS ambassador. In this exclusive guest blog for KUDOS, Danielle writes about women’s sport, the gender divide, her experiences at the elite end of women’s sport and the challenges women’s sport face.
In sport there is a huge divide when it comes to gender. Far more boys take part – latest statistics show that there are 1.55 million more men playing sport than women. When it comes to the elite side of things, male sports tend to get far more media coverage which attracts the money. These athletes get the big sponsorship deals and endorsements that allows them to keep training. And when women do attract the attention of the media, quite often the focus is on what they look like rather than the incredible performances they put in.
However, in my sporting career I never experienced gender discrimination at all and there are some very good reasons for this.
There are fewer female role models to inspire young girls
Firstly, the UK Sport funding system rewards performance. Gender is completely irrelevant if you have won a gold medal. Of course, the support given to athletes in the pursuit of that gold medal might differ but I built my own support team, carefully selecting the people around me who I believed would help me achieve my goals.
Secondly, in terms of media and sponsorship I was on the Paralympic archery team. This completely falls under the radar when you compare it to the larger sports that attract a lot of spectators. However, when I was selected to represent England at the Commonwealth Games the media requests started to stream in. I was making history. I was the first disabled athlete to represent England in an able-bodied discipline and the media wanted to know how I’d done it. This was the first time I got national coverage and after winning the gold medal out there with my team, the media continued to follow me. With the media came the sponsorship opportunities, which allowed me to put my career on hold and move to the national training centre to train full time.
And finally, I don’t think the media spent too much time commenting on my appearance (to be honest I didn’t spend much time reading what they wrote). I got questions about the pink bucket hat that I wore at every tournament I attended, but they were more interested in finding out whether it was a lucky superstition.
And as an athlete, gender was irrelevant. When I was on that line I wasn’t focusing on the fact that I’m female or the fact that I was disabled. I was an athlete, trying to execute a perfect shot every time I pulled my bow back. Despite this I wasn’t oblivious to everything going on around me. I knew that female participation rates were down, that there were far few female role models to inspire other young girls and there were derogatory attitudes towards women’s sports out there.
Things are changing for the better
I choose to look at the positives. I do believe things are changing for the better. We have come a long way, and even though there is still much work to be done I think that each individual has the power to affect change. I believe each person is a role model for the next generation, with the ability, knowledge and experience to help them succeed.
Let me share one of the ways I am doing this. I am the co-founder of an inclusive sport company called 4 All, which creates opportunities for everybody to take part in sport regardless of ability or background. Gender and disability are two areas that I’m very passionate about and we actively seek opportunities to break down barriers. The majority of sports coaches are male, but we have made it a concerted effort to employ both male and female coaches. We believe this is one of the reasons our participation figures show an even split between male and females.
Social media gives us the chance to bypass mainstream media and share success stories
Let’s work together to make sport a safe and friendly environment. Let’s celebrate the success stories and create more female role models. If the traditional media streams don’t want to take part then let’s use social media as a tool to raise awareness. Let’s encourage both boys and girls to take part in sport and promote values like tolerance, respect, teamwork and cooperation. Let’s put ourselves forwards and volunteer, showing young girls and women that anything is possible if you work hard and refuse to give up.
Attitudes towards women’s sports will change. It won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen purely through raising awareness of the challenges. Attitudes will change when we all make a concerted effort to get behind the movement and promote women in sport at all levels. That’s why I think it’s important to align myself with people and organisations who share similar values to me and I am proud to be associated with Kudos Sports, who take a very proactive approach to covering women’s sports.
KUDOS PASSIONATELY SUPPORTS WOMEN’S SPORT
KUDOS is proud to support women and girls from all backgrounds and of all ages to take part in sport.
KUDOS SPORTS – A LEADING SUPPLIER OF CUSTOM SPORTS KIT
KUDOS supplies custom kit to a range of women focused sports clubs across the country – including Carnmoney Ladies Football Club, netball clubs and hockey clubs. We supply made to order teamwear that is built for performance and worn with pride.