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Volume 6 No. 262
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New Zealand Sports Media Not Giving Women Fair Share Of Coverage

The gender pay gap in New Zealand is "closing slightly" and the country could yet have a female PM but through financial restraints, tradition and the status quo of Kiwi sports media, "women in sport are not given their due dividends," according to Olivia Caldwell of STUFF. Auckland University professor and former sports journalist Toni Bruce has been conducting research on women's sport coverage in media since '84 and said that there has been "next to no improvement on the small amount given to women" which, "at best," has hovered around the 10% mark for the past 30 years. Bruce said, "There is plenty of evidence that we see participation in sport as important and valuable for girls and women. But their absence in sports media sends the message: 'Go ahead and play, but don't expect us to pay attention.' This means that what sportswomen do is not seen as culturally important." He said that there are "rare occasions" when women's sport hits the front page, but only when it is "seen to be of national significance" such as the Commonwealth Games or Olympic Games when men and women take part at the same venues. Women who win medals in these events "often become household names." Bruce added, "We can also see this pattern emerging in relation to women's rugby. The Black Ferns' games and winning of the 2017 Rugby World Cup got a lot of media attention. But this doesn't filter down to the provincial level, where the women's teams in the Farah Palmer Cup competition are almost completely invisible." When female sport does grab media attention, it is "often for reasons other than their sporting ability" and more to do with their feminity or "looks." However, NZ media coverage of women's sport is "much more politically correct" compared with other int'l media where research shows "strong evidence of sexualising female athletes" (coverage focusing more on the sportswoman's femininity than her athletic performance). In New Zealand, there are "few female sports reporters both in print and broadcasting, as men continue to dominate the industry." Bruce said that it would do sports media a "world of good" to have a bigger representation of women, "as well as diversity in other areas to reflect the diversity of New Zealanders." However, int'l research shows that "although women journalists do tend to cover more women's sport than men, the difference it makes to overall coverage is quite small." This is because, like their male colleagues, women "also like to cover pinnacle sports and events -- often well-televised and read male sports" (STUFF, 9/24).