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Susan Devoy: Respect is just as important as prize money for sportswomen

 

Susan Devoy: Respect is just as important as prize money for sportswomen

OPINION: Many years ago I was competing in the final of the Welsh Open in Cardiff and during the match I could hear some distinct Kiwi voices cheering me on. Afterwards I realised Grizz Wylie and Steve McDowell had come along in support as they were in Cardiff working on a movie.

We got chatting and while my male contemporary was playing Jahangir Khan they asked me how much prizemoney I had won. I told them it was a thousand quid for the women and five thousand quid for the men.

They were shocked. It was hardly a fair go.

What I didn’t tell them was that getting equal prizemoney was only half the challenge: being treated with the same respect as male athletes was the other half. Susan Devoy: Respect is just as important as prize money for sportswomen

So often women athletes are left to find our own transport and accommodation while male athletes are well looked after. We were definitely treated like the poor cousin.

With women’s voices getting louder about this inequity, things began to change.

Here in New Zealand with the acknowledgement of my international success came change and I think we became the first country to offer women equal prizemoney as men.

I’ve heard all the arguments about the difference in ability between men and women: no I could never beat Jahangir but by the same thinking, in boxing you’d never put a bantam-weight into the ring with a heavyweight either.

It’s good to see that squash has changed and women are often equally recognised, the momentous shift has been the support of the male professional body in accepting that the two sexes complement each other.

With regards women’s tennis, I’ve never understood why women only play the best of three and men the best of five. Certainly if there’s an argument for equality then it must be on a level playing field so the entire system needs to be considered as a whole. Having said that, there is no mana in the way the women’s cricket team is being treated in India during the World T20.

An enduring memory throughout my sporting career was to arrive at an airport somewhere after hours of flying and to head off on my own with my luggage to look for a shuttle or a taxi. At the same time my male counterparts were whisked off in limousines. This is still the reality for many women athletes.

We have many great female athletes in New Zealand and on the international stage, each one has a unique and different story to tell.

The reality is that media coverage, sponsorship and attitude towards women in sports has come a long way, but it must go a lot further.

Dame Susan Devoy, who is the Race Relations Commissioner, was a professional squash player who won the British Open eight times and the World Open four times.[…]

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