The Gender Divide in Sports


Why is there still a divide between men and women athletes in competitive sports? Whether this is the difference in pay that they receive, changing the duration of the event for one gender but not the other, or allowing one gender to compete at the Olympics but not the other, sports need to be bias free.

10 meter Air Pistol is an Olympic sport that not many know of. In this sport, there is a paper target placed 10 meters away that has marked circles or “rings”, each with a specific score associated with it. The smaller and closer to the center of the target the ring is, the higher the score. The rings’ scores range from 1 to 10 and in each series, there are 10 shots, meaning you can receive up to a score of 100 per series. Additionally, participants use an air pistol and load it with small pellets and your arm is perpendicular to the target when you take the shot. If your pellet touches the edge or is in one of the circles on the target, you get the point associated with that ring. Some targets are electronic, which automatically score the point. This sport is all about precision. As a result, shooting more shots tends to help athletes have a more precise idea about their average score per series or per shot.

Up until 2018, 10 meter Air Pistol male athletes had to take 60 shots in 75 minutes while female athletes only had to take 40 shots in 50 minutes. From personal experience, taking more shots often correlates with a higher average because there are more opportunities to gain points. More shots also means that one shot will not make or break your score. So why did men and women take a different number of shots? After this, the rule was changed and men and women both took 60 shots and 75 minutes, demonstrating a positive change. While this is one way that sports are adjusting their rules to be equal, other sports have yet to do so. At the Junior Olympics, men and women are both allowed to compete in 25 meter Sport Pistol, even though only women are allowed to perform at the Olympics. However, Rapid Fire (another discipline of shooting) presents a different case. Only men are allowed to compete in Rapid fire at the national and international level for both juniors and adults. This means that even though women and men can both compete at the Junior Olympics for Sport Pistol, only men are granted the opportunity to compete at the Junior Olympics and Olympics in Rapid Fire. 

It is no surprise that there is still a prominent gender pay gap today, even in sports. Tennis is one of the very few sports that has made a conscious effort to shorten the gap. We can see exactly what equal looks like here: “The woman who wins the 2019 U.S. Open tennis tournament this weekend will take home a record $3.85 million in prize money — exactly the same amount that will be awarded to the men’s winner,” (Michelle Kaufman). While the differences in pay are narrowing down in this sport, equal pay in one sport is not enough. U.S. Captain Rapinoe clearly says it: “We show up for a game, if we win the game, if we lose the game, if we tie the game, we want to be paid equally, period.”