I’ve watched the women’s world cup and it was brilliant. It was striking that the United Nations and FIFA joined forces to raise the profile of women in sports to also raise issues on gender equity and development.

Personally, I found the Women’s World Cup was a thrilling spectacle of skill, passion and drama. The final with the Lionesses against the brilliant Spanish women’s team was incredible and watching it I thought how far the game has come. But also – realised how far we need to go. The women’s world cup has exposed the stark inequalities that still plague the beautiful game. From pay gaps to prize money, from the recent media coverage of the awful behaviour of Spain’s footballing management, from facilities to fan support – women’s football faces a constant battle for recognition and respect. It’s the same thing in many many industries and organisations.

Male influence

Women’s football, like most industries, is still largely governed and led by men, and often they lack the understanding and commitment to address the specific needs and challenges of women’s football. According to a report by FIFA, only 14% of the executive committee members of national football associations are women, and only 8% of the national team coaches are women.

Some of the challenges of gender equality in the workplace are that women are still underrepresented in leadership positions and in certain industries, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Women face a persistent gender pay gap that measures the difference in average earnings between male and female employees. And as we’ve seen with the handling of the “kiss” women experience more aggressive behaviour and microaggressions, as well as having their judgement questioned more often.

To start challenging this, businesses should continue to address gender inequality and increase investment into reducing this with urgency. In many technology firms – we see an increase in the gender pay gap. Specifically for women’s football we should see both a powerful tool for empowering girls and women, but also a lucrative market with huge potential. According to a report by Deloitte, the global women’s football industry could generate more than $1 billion in annual revenues by 2023, with more than 300 million fans worldwide. By supporting women’s football, businesses can contribute to social change and economic growth, while also enhancing brand image and reputation.

Likewise, by reducing gender inequality business can grow value, innovation and productivity – and so improve bottom line. Gender equality boosts economic growth by increasing productivity, income, and consumption. Gender equality also creates more opportunities for women and men to participate in the labour market, access financial services, and own assets. According to the World Bank, closing the gender gap in economic participation could increase global GDP by $160 trillion.

Next steps

We all still need to advocate for gender equality and diversity in governance and leadership across all industries. And by advocating for gender equality and diversity in football so as to ensure that women’s football has a voice and a seat at the table, while also fostering a more inclusive and innovative culture. Because the next world cup should be focused on women’s achievements and not on men’s reactions and behaviours. The women deserve the focus.

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Blog by Dr Naeema Pasha

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