Trinity clubs welcome new campaign seeking to boost women’s sport

The 20×20 Initiative aims to give female athletes greater opportunities by increasing media coverage, attendances, and involvement in sport

Many of Trinity’s sports clubs have given vocal support to the 20×20 Initiative, which seeks to promote gender equality in sport by increasing exposure, attendance, and participation in women’s sports by 20% at the end of 2020.

a fantastic campaign that highlights the prevalent yet basic issue of gender equality

Aspiring Olympian, Aoife Hopkins, described it as “a fantastic campaign that highlights the prevalent yet basic issue of gender equality”. Hopkins is currently training for the 2019 Sailing World Championships and has taken a year out of studying to pursue the endeavour. She hopes that the campaign will inspire more girls to take up sport.

“I was lucky enough to train with Annalise Murphy, who is hard-working, dedicated, and an amazing role model. Other girls need to have that inspiration. However, that’s impossible when women’s sport isn’t promoted, televised, or reported on. I think if the 20×20 Initiative has the desired impact, Ireland could see such positive changes.”

The campaign, championed by The Federation of Irish Sports, was launched on October 15 and saw many prominent Irish female athletes attend to show support for the movement. Retired England international and current Manchester United Women’s first manager, Casey Stoney, spoke at the launch, commenting upon her own encounter with sexism.

“As a young girl, I was told that football was just for boys and yet, I went on to play 130 times for England including at World Cups, European Championships, and even representing GB at the London 2012 Olympics.”

Stoney’s comments reflect the negative perceptions that may exist around traditionally masculine sports that disincline many women from participating in them. Captain of the women’s section of Dublin University Boxing Club, Caroline Murray, believes the campaign is necessary as misconceptions surrounding female sport are limiting opportunities for women. She told Trinity News of her own experience: “The ladies’ soccer team I played for failed to get its own pitch whilst the boys’ team had three. We were forced to book one of their pitches, but problems arose when training sessions clashed. Every year the issue was brought to the board, yet despite the fact that pitches were available, they never addressed it.”

The 20×20 Initiative has been launched in an attempt to create a cultural shift in society’s perception of girls and women in sport. Murray is optimistic that it could bring about more equal opportunities for women. “It’s 2018 now and very few sports lack female participants. Within our own boxing club, we have a lot of girls signing up year on year. I really hope that the 20×20 Initiative succeeds in its aim of further increasing participation – it would be great to see a world in which female sport is more predominant than it is now.”  

Vice Captain of the men’s section of Dublin University Boxing Club, Kilian Carolan, shares the optimistic view that perceptions of women’s sport in Ireland are changing. He told Trinity News: “Ten years ago boxing was definitely considered to be a male-driven sport but the success of amateur boxers such as Katie Taylor has challenged that perception and inspired many women to consider boxing as the right sport for them. Last year was the first time that women were able to compete at junior level in Trinity Boxing Club which is fantastic as it shows that women’s sport is advancing on campus. Hopefully, the 20×20 Initiative can continue to generate further momentum so that absolute gender equality can be achieved.”

Undoubtedly, the campaign follows a remarkably successful year in women’s sport

Undoubtedly, the campaign follows a remarkably successful year in women’s sport. The Irish hockey team created history when they won silver in the World Cup. Sunita Puspure dominated the field when she won a gold medal in the Rowing World Championships while the Ladies Football Final saw a record attendance of 50,141 people. Nonetheless, female sport continues to be underrepresented in the media.  

Research done on behalf of Along Came a Spider, the agency behind the new 20×20 campaign, found that 3% of sport’s print coverage and 4% of online coverage is dedicated to women’s sport.

men and women will never be truly equal until there is equal coverage, salaries, sponsorship, and opportunities

“The national media also need to start covering women’s competitions”, says Hopkins. “These would be steps towards equality, but men and women will never be truly equal until there is equal coverage, salaries, sponsorship, and opportunities. I hope the 20×20 Initiative will address these issues.”

Trinity Surf Club member María García likewise believes that the 20×20 Initiative could be the solution to existing inequality: “Too often in the past, projects have been too narrow in focus and have failed to examine big issues such as media coverage and society’s perception of female athletes. This campaign is perfect as it is not only addressing the issue of participation but also that of perception.”

CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport, Mary O’Connor, said: “It is true that women’s sport in Ireland receives less recognition and acclaim and, as a consequence, is undervalued broadly in Irish society. The aim of the 20×20 movement is to give increased profiling to girls and women involved in sport at all levels. We want this campaign to stimulate behavioural change to ensure that subsequent generations have female role models to emulate as athletes, coaches, and referees. We aim, through the 20×20 campaign, to showcase the importance and positive influence sport and physical activity has on girls by increasing media coverage and increasing attendances at competitions and events.”

The 20×20 Initiative has the potential to do great things for women’s sport and Trinity’s sports clubs agree that now is the time to create a measurable cultural shift in our perception of women’s sport so that it will be seen as something strong, valuable, and worth celebrating. Miss Stoney highlighted the potential of the campaign to be successful if universally promoted: “I believe if supported by all involved in sport, it really could be a landmark moment for sport in this country.”