Gender Differences in Sport

As the sports historian Thierry Terret explains, "the establishment of modern-day sport at the end of the 18th century was a man's business, a  construct by men for men", and though the situation has since evolved, this trend still exists today: the federations' boards of directors are headed mainly by men, sportsmen's salaries are higher than those of their female counterparts, men's sport receives much more media coverage  than women's, women were still excluded from certain sports competitions until recently, etc. 

Thierry Terret also observes that the dominant sporting culture evokes a realm traditionally associated with notions deemed to be masculine:  surpassing oneself, forms of violence (physical injury), strength, resistance to pain, tactical intelligence, technic/technical mastery. This particular take on the sport, coupled with our constructions of gender, contribute from a very young age to instilling the idea that sport is "a man's thing"

Despite the odds not being in their favour, the same proportion of women undertake sporting activities as men. However, the latest INSEE (French national institute for statistical and economic studies) statistics published in 2017 reveal significant differences in men's and women's practice of  sport: 

  • Men practise sport in a more institutionalised way (e.g. by being a member of a club) while women practise sport in a more isolated way (e.g.  jogging at weekends, without being a member of a club); 
  • Men are much more inclined to participate in sports competitions (52% of men compared to 17% of women); and 
  • The gap in the practice of sport is wider amongst young people aged between 16 and 24: in 2015, 50% of women in this age group practised at least one physical or sporting activity during the year, compared to 63% of men. 

The INSEE report also reveals that the lack of media coverage of women's sports is a significant factor explaining why many young women do not practise any physical or sporting activity at all. The INSEE also explains that gender stereotypes continue to contribute to the gender gap in  sports and other areas of life. 

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