I read a news story a few months ago about a mum who was looking for female firefighters to talk to her 4-year-old daughter because her daughter had come home from school and said she wanted to be a boy so she could be a firefighter. She’d never seen a woman firefighter before. I know I’d find it heartbreaking if, in a few years’ time, my daughter came home and said something similar.
That story isn’t surprising really.
Did you know that a 2015 study found that only 24% of people heard, seen or read about in newspaper, television and radio news are women?
I’ve read that stat over and over again and it doesn’t get any better.
That’s why the Women’s World Cup this summer was such a breath of fresh air. It’s not only because its popularity among audiences was so much greater than in previous years, which meant the news coverage was so much greater, but also because there were so many great role models for children to look up to.
The US’ Megan Rapinoe is one of the best. She’s using her platform as a professional sportswoman to be vocal about what she believes in, and that in itself is not that common. She’s one of a number of players in the women’s team demanding equal pay with the men’s team – about time too. She and her partner, professional basketball player Sue Bird, are working hard to normalise gay relationships in professional sport. She ‘s also very clear that her success should be attributed as much as to the team as to her, and that I really respect.
Oh yeah, and did I mentioned she won the Golden Boot for top goal scorer and the Golden Ball for best player in the competition?
She’s not the only one though. England’s top goal scorer Ellen White has overcome serious injury in her career to return to the top level. Watching the passion and determination that she and the rest of the Lionesses played with was amazing, despite the fact that they got knocked out in the semi finals.
It’s not just football that has been providing the world with some kick ass women in recent weeks. Wimbledon first timer Coco Gauff is up there too. Watching her post-match interviews and the poise and grace she had both on and off court, it was hard to believe she’s only 15 years old. The moment that totally cemented my affection for her though was when she said the first thing she’d be buying with her winnings is a hoodie! Teenager first, world class tennis player second? What a great example of hard work and determination, as well as how it’s possible to achieve great things and still be humble and polite.
And while we’re talking about sporting role models, Serena Williams definitely needs a mention. She may have lost the Women’s Singles Final but she won with her post-match press conference. In case you didn’t see it, she was asked about those saying she should “stop fighting for equality” and give more of her attention to tennis. Her response:
“The day I stop fighting for equality … will be the day I’m in my grave,”
Our sons and daughters need role models, both male and female, and I thank these women for what they’re doing for my daughter. They’re trailblazing so her expectations and her potential for success will hopefully not be limited by her gender. And they’re people she can really look up to both for their achievements and for what they stand for.
We need more women like them in all fields, and more importantly we need to see more of them in the mainstream media.