'Change the Game' panel unpacks progress made in women's sports

·3 min read

A lack of coverage in women's sports has been a longstanding issue, one that has frustrated many female athletes despite the notion that more steps have been made.

In sports such as diving, rugby, volleyball and sailing where the focus of coverage can end up being based upon the sexualization of women, other things that have nothing to do with their sport, or the perception that men are simply better and more entertaining, there is plenty of room for growth in the representation of women's sports.

Pamphinette Buisa, a Canadian rugby player, who took part in the 'Change the Game' panel discussion hosted by CBC Sports' Andi Petrillo on Wednesday, made it known that not nearly enough has been done.

"Steps are nice when you are planning on doing things forward but as I see it right now, women have been playing sports from the beginning of time," Buisa said. "Having steps to show us isn't enough.

"It's a step forward but what are we actually doing to make it happen."

WATCH | CBC Sports' Andi Petrillo, panel discuss influence of media in women's sports:

Former Canadian volleyball player Jessie Niles, Canadian sailor Sarah Douglas and former Canadian diver Roseline Filion also took part in the panel.

Milestones and presentation

Milestones have continuously been set over the past year regarding women in sports, whether it be in female or male spaces. Sarah Thomas was named the first woman to referee in a Super Bowl, Natalie Sago and Jenna Schroeder were the first two women to officiate an NBA game together, and the list goes on.

While the stories are helpful, presentation matters and continues to be an issue for women — especially when considering the build-up to women's events.

"The media has a role to promote men and women," Filion said. "If your story is well presented and you're able to get your crowd's attention, by telling a story, by showcasing the results of the female athletes that's going to be performing, it doesn't matter if the event is at the beginning or the end.

"It's all [in] the way you plan and I don't know why it's [diving] oriented into a men's event at the end."

'If we can change the narrative..."

Investment from sponsors and media regarding coverage has also been a major issue. With the narrative surrounding women's sports considered risky due to female athletes not being seen as capable of achieving the same, if not better, viewership numbers as men, Niles feels investment can help incite societal changes.

"With my time on the national team, I always felt like 'oh, once we reach the next level' or 'once we qualify for the Olympics, then we'll be deserving of all this support and sponsorships," Niles said. "We kind of internalized some of these messages like 'Oh, we just got to win this.'

"If we change the narrative, it's not about the investment or numbers, but how can we invest in women to actually impact society in general using the stories of women to create broader change in the world."

With streaming becoming the latest alternative in providing a platform for viewership, the excuses for lesser coverage in women's sports seem to be running dry with female athletes.

"Even if we can't get the main spot on prime time television, having an opportunity to get online, have things broadcasted, whether it's live on Facebook or YouTube, I think that's really important," Douglas said. "That's something that we in sailing have gone towards because we don't get that prime time spot on television but we'll stream on YouTube to show the races."

With the hope that more steps will be made by breaking down false narratives about women in sports, so too is the desire for more women in executive positions.

It is seen as a possible light of hope for helping women receive the appropriate attention they deserve in the world of athletics.