I was always told I could be whatever I wanted to be…but did I ever believe it when I couldn’t see it?
With the World Cup 2023 over and Spain triumphing overall, it made me think as to why this World Cup felt so different.
Why did it feel so monumental, it’s not the first World Cup, there have been many.
I think why it felt so monumental was because amongst my friends, work colleagues and some media broadcasters there was no talk of gender but just of football, skills, entertainment, and the excitement around ‘the World Cup’ not ‘the Women’s World Cup’.
For the French team and the World Cup, Orange released a clever promotional video. It was such an intelligent, insightful, and powerful video! It started with male players making incredible plays, the crowd and commentators going wild, and you found yourself thinking, ‘am I watching the right video?’ Surely, they aren’t showing male players for the women’s promotional video! But part way through it comes back and does a crafty cut of the male players showing that visual effects were used and that the amazing shots were actually made by the women’s team! The video completely disrupts gender stereotypes.
The Orange French advertisement for the World Cup was instrumental in the message that women’s sport is just as entertaining as their male counterparts and received acclaim across the globe. This is reflected in the coverage and number of spectators watching the World Cup.
The Matilda’s v England match broke records in the host country, making it the most watched TV programme since audience measuring systems started in 2001. And the England v Spain final had an audience of over 15 million on BBC one, BBC iplayer and BBC sport online, which is said to be a record for a women’s football match.
However, despite Sam Kerr, Mary Earps, Alessia Russio and Olga Carmona being sporting household names across the world, according to CNN women football players at the 2023 World Word Cup will on average earn just 25% for every dollar earned by men at their World Cup last year.
And that wasn’t the only stark difference. Nike did not produce goalkeeper Mary Earps jersey as they did not think it would sell. Have you ever heard such a thing for the men’s goalkeeper? Earps’ shirt on the Manchester United website sold out last season so there is no doubt she has the popularity, so why did Nike take such a stance.
Even though it felt like this World Cup was moving women’s sports forward in leaps and bounds, the no show of Prince William has been of much speculation and scrutiny. The Prince is the president of the Football Association in England and has attended many games. The suggestion has been made that he would have flown to Australia if it had been the men’s final. But I guess we will never know if that is true or not, but all we can say is that the Spanish Queen Letizia attended.
England has reached a historic first, making their first World Cup final and Prince William and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak were a no show! It unfortunately speaks volumes and it felt like it detracted from the team’s achievements.
The World Cup 2023 made me reflect and so I started to look into Women who have been the front runners in historically male dominated industries.
Anne Boden started a challenger bank, Starling which has gone on to be a successful and award-winning bank. Anne was the first female in Britain to start a bank. Anne told the BBC in an interview in 2020, “The experience of being treated differently because I am female only inspires me to work harder and prove them wrong, which is in part why I founded Starling.” The banking and financial services industry has been historically male dominated.
Then, this year was dominated by the Barbie Movie directed by Greta Gerwig. The first solo female director to have a film in the billion-dollar club.
Even women’s presence in trade industries, that have historically been dominated by men, have started to increase in numbers from 15,000 in 2009 to 33,000 tradeswomen in 2019 in the UK.
And so, I reflect, I reflect on the World Cup and all the amazing women pushing for representation in their industries, and I think about how amazing women front runners are and how they are going to inspire the next generation of women. Imagine growing up and actually seeing you can be anything or be in any industry that you want rather than just being told you could!
Yes, we still have a way to go or more we could be doing but Ladies, dream big, be big! We can be whatever we want to be!