July 22, 2024

The problem with women's sports | Haley Rosen | TEDxBoston

Published May 28, 2023, 12:20 p.m. by Monica Louis

In her TEDx talk, Haley Rosen explores the problem with women's sports. She argues that the current system is not working for women and that there needs to be a change. She discusses the pay gap between men and women in sports, the lack of media coverage of women's sports, and the lack of opportunities for women to play sports. She makes a compelling case for why the current system is not working for women and why we need to make a change.

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for a whole generation of female

athletes the year 1999 will always be


this is the year the u.s women's

national team won the world cup in a

sold out rose bowl defeating china in

penalty kicks

even if you don't know or remember the

game i'm talking about i guarantee you

know this photo

this photo of brainy chance chastain is

considered one of the most iconic photos

in sports history and it's an image that

came to represent what many considered

to be a turning point in women's sports

here was all the proof you needed that

women could be strong dominant athletes

competing on the biggest stages

and as brandy and mia hamm became

household names it really did feel like

we had entered a new era in women's


but it's been 23 years since that world


and i find myself asking

how much progress has actually been made

in some ways a lot

the nw sells in its 10th season and

viewership of last year's championship

was up over 200 percent

wnba viewership was also up over 50

percent last season and over a billion

people watched the last world cup

things are trending in the right


but in some really important ways

not much has changed

coverage is stuck at four percent

female athletes still make a fraction of

what their male counterparts do

and despite the new viewers women's

sports are still not mainstream

they still fundamentally sit on the


it feels like women's sports are on the

cusp of breaking through

but it felt like that in 1999 and now

it's 2022.

so what will it take for the future of

women's sports to finally arrive

in my opinion three things need to


two of them are obvious one of them is


the first

we need more investment most of you

already know this we not only need more

capital but we need investors that see

the big picture and are willing to play

the long game

for instance it took the mls over 20

years for just some of its clubs to turn

a profit and yet it's never struggled

finding new team owners


in women's sports we've had two women's


start and fold in the u.s after just

three seasons

on the men's side we regularly inject

hundreds of millions of dollars give

them decades to grow and show

profitability and then revive them if

they fail

on the women's side we give them a

fraction of the money a fraction of the

time and then lament the fact that they

aren't profitable just a few seasons in

we also need more media coverage which

again most of you already know

when the big three basketball league

started fox sports 1 agreed to broadcast

all the games they didn't have to do

anything to prove they had an audience

meanwhile took the nw cell four seasons

to secure a regular broadcast slot with

a and e and even then most of the games

were not on tv

and putting women's sports on tv that's

just the bare minimum we need the same

consistent and comprehensive coverage

that you see on the men's side for the

women's and that's what we're trying to

do at the company that i started called

just women's sports and you can probably

guess by the name but we're a media

company thank you guys

thank you guys

but as you guys seem to know we're a

media company dedicated to covering just

women's sports and what i can tell you

as someone that has spent time inside of

the space those two things are obvious

and well discussed we need more

investment and we need more media

coverage but in my opinion the biggest

issue in women's sports is one we rarely

talk about


we have a major marketing problem the

issue is this

we do not treat women sports like sports

we treat them like a charity

this mindset is so pervasive that it can

be hard to even notice but how many of

you have heard someone say that we need

to support women's sports

have you ever heard someone say that we

need to support the mba or nfl

of course not it sounds absurd or how

many times have you seen a commercial

that talks about how important female

athletes are because they inspire the

next generation

on the men's side it's a given that kids

are going to be inspired when steph

curry hits an impossible three-pointer

no one stops and goes wow that was so

good for all the young boys out there

but on the women's side we do that we

act like female athletes only play their

sports to inspire little girls

and how come we hear so much about

female athletes achievements off the

court and so little about their

achievements on it obviously i think

it's great that these athletes do so

much outside of their sport but if we

only talk about them as mothers and

never as competitors how can we expect

anyone to care about their stat line

rather than celebrating the goals they

score we talk about the kids they


rather than debating their performances

on the court we talk about everything

they're doing off of it

over and over again we tell people to

watch women's sports but then we do

everything we can to point their

attention somewhere else

the implicit assumption is that the

product itself is not good enough to

want to watch on its own

and look

we know that female athletes are role

models and we know that there's a ton of

social benefits to having more girls

play sports it improves their confidence

and self-esteem teaches teamwork and

leadership and i've been really lucky to

feel a lot of that firsthand before

starting just women's sports i played

soccer played soccer at stanford and

professionally in the us and abroad and

i can say with confidence that my

experience experience as an athlete did


for me as a ceo than anything else in my

life and i would not be standing on this

stage without my years and years of

kicking a ball around

but i also know that i didn't start

playing soccer because someone told me

it might be good for my career one day

and i certainly did not pour my heart

and soul into it because it was good for

my self-esteem

i started playing sports because i

thought it was fun

because i wanted to be like brandy

chastain and mia ham

i wanted to be in that rose bowl

competing to win a world cup and i kept

playing because i fell in love with it

when we talk about women's sports like a

charity we should not be surprised when

it gets treated like one

when we tell people to support women's

sports of course when a dad with a

daughter knows who megan rapino is they

expect a pat on the back

and when we focus so much on off-field

achievements it's no wonder that female

athletes are more likely to get time on

good morning america than on

sportscenter we have to solve this

marketing problem addressing this is the

most important thing we can do if we

want more investment more media coverage

if we want women's sports to grow and to

actually go mainstream

for 20 years and more we have been

trying to guilt people into watching

women's sports but everyone in the space

has to understand that sports run on

hype not guilt

hype not guilt

to get where we want to go we got to

talk about women's sports like the 200

billion dollar industry is projected to

become in the next decade we have to

remember that sports or entertainment

and lean into everything we love about

them the rivalries and clutch

performances the life-changing wins and

heartbreaking losses women's sports

should feel exciting dramatic fun

and when we do this when we focus on the

sports it works

fc barcelona just set the record for the

most attended women's soccer match of

all time with over 90 000 attendees and

then turn around and broke that record a

few weeks later

angel city sold out their home opener

the us open women's final outdrew the

men there are examples of this working

we just have to do it consistently

when i see this photo of brandy i

certainly do not see someone that needs

my support

i see an athlete who has just stepped up

on the biggest stage i see pure and

unadulterated joy and a pretty iconic


i see a badass that just won the world


the good news is the on-field product of

women's sports is great it was great in

1999 and it's still great today we just

have to get better at selling it

to get where we want to go the path

forward is so incredibly simple

we just have to treat women sports like


thank you



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