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FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – The perfect kick off to achieve gender equality in sports

2023 FIFA Womens world cup for equality

On Thursday, July 20, 2023, the  FIFA Women’s World Cup, 2023 will commence with Australia and Ireland taking the field at a sold-out Stadium Australia in Sydney, in front of an unprecedented 80,000 spectators. Many more across Australia will be tuning in to support the Matildas, one of the nation’s most beloved sports teams, from the comfort of their homes.

The Shift in Attitude

In Australia, there has been a monumental shift in attitudes towards women’s sports, resulting in soaring ratings, increased participation rates, and higher salaries for female athletes. Sports, as a uniquely potent force, have been instrumental in driving positive change, with the Matildas leading the charge. The growth of women’s sports sends a powerful message to young girls, affirming that they possess equal opportunities as boys and are capable of showcasing their leadership abilities.

However, it wasn’t always this way. During the early days of organized women’s soccer in Australia, games received minimal media coverage, and only a handful of curious onlookers attended the matches. Additionally, the players lacked institutional and financial support, having to cover all their expenses, including travel costs.

Gradually, efforts to address these issues began in the early 2000s. The undertaking involved a collaborative approach, engaging state and federal governments, sports associations and organizations, academic conferences and journals, as well as grassroots movements initiated by the athletes themselves. Their combined endeavors bore fruit, resulting in increased funding for women’s athletic programs, grants, and improved infrastructure.

The Challenges and Results

The results soon became evident, with the Matildas securing their first World Cup match victory in 2007 and subsequently advancing to the next round. Over time, they solidified their position as one of the world’s premier teams, attracting a growing fan base. Progress, however, encountered setbacks along the way. In 2015, the Matildas went on strike, demanding better conditions, and ultimately succeeded in obtaining a significant pay raise, improved working conditions, and substantial investment in women’s soccer. Collective bargaining agreements were renegotiated, ensuring equal distribution of commercial revenue between the men’s Socceroos and the Matildas, while aligning the women’s working conditions with those of their male counterparts.

The strike highlighted the persisting gender gap, prompting 16 major Australian sports organizations to sign the Pathway to Pay Equity pledge. Football Australia committed to achieving a 50-50 gender parity at the grassroots level within the next decade, with the goal of recruiting 600,000 girls and women to participate in structured club teams. The Australian Sports Commission further invested significant resources in promoting and supporting female coaches, including childcare assistance and flexible work arrangements, aiming to double their numbers by the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.

The Road ahead

Despite these strides, women still comprise only a quarter of soccer players and board members in Australia. Nevertheless, soccer stands as the largest and fastest-growing women’s sport, boasting over 250,000 participants, and reforms have been enacted to ensure 40% representation for each gender on boards. As Australia approaches the Brisbane Olympics, nearly 40% of sportspeople are women, and gender parity among children and teenagers is on the horizon. The Matildas have evolved into a treasured gem within Australia’s vibrant sports culture, although there is still progress to be made.

Recently, the Australian Embassy in Israel met with inspiring young women from ZAZA – Women’s Sports Community, who drew attention to a Knesset report on the state of women’s sports in Israel. The report revealed that Israel faced a situation similar to Australia’s not long ago, with women comprising only 21% of Israeli athletes. Though seemingly disheartening, the experience of Australia demonstrates that significant strides can be accomplished in a relatively short period. The Embassy remains optimistic about Israel’s potential, believing in its talent and the eventual realization of its goals.

To promote the growth of women’s sports and support their visibility, it is essential to showcase their achievements. Visibility paves the way for young girls to see their potential reflected in successful female athletes. This notion is central to the upcoming Women’s World Cup, presenting a perfect opportunity to influence perceptions. Consequently, the Australian Embassy has partnered with ZAZA to organize a public screening of the opening match at Mezizim Beach in Tel Aviv. Australians and Israelis alike are invited to come together on Thursday to enjoy an afternoon at the beach and witness the world’s finest athletes exhibit “The Beautiful Game.”

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