Sportswomen are struggling to get corporate sponsorship unless they are blonde, blue-eyed and feminine, according to players and administrators.
The idea that women are being judged on their appearance is not new, but when it comes to women in sport it can be the difference between making it big or having to work casual shifts on the side.
Australian cricketer and soccer player Ellyse Perry says, “When you look at the sponsorship of athletes in sport the majority goes to male athletes because they’re more visible and public – the public is a lot more exposed to them.”
As women fight for television exposure (after the ABC budget cuts) and for bigger audience numbers to attend their games, they are also fighting to seek corporate funding based on their sporting skill rather than whether they fit a particular aesthetic ideal.
“When you look at female athletes and look at the level of sponsorship, you see that there’s a lot less because [women] they aren’t as visible and people aren’t as aware of them so I think looks do come in to it a bit more,” Ms Perry says.
Men don’t need to be good-looking to get corporate sponsorship – they are judged on their sporting skills. But for women, it’s very different.
“It’s not just about their athletic ability, it’s about how marketable they are from an aesthetic point of view. This doesn’t happen as much in male sport because they’re in the public eye a lot more,” she says.
Secretary of Australian Womensport and Recreation Association, Janice Crosswhite says that women are at a distinct disadvantage, especially if they don’t look a particular way.
“There is more pressure on women athletes to look attractive and past history shows that many top female athletes did not get the individual sponsorship opportunities they deserved because they were not blond haired, blue-eyed, slim enough or deemed “feminine enough” in female type sports.”