Women in sport

| February 12, 2024

The achievements of women in sports have a profound impact that extends far beyond the boundaries of the playing field. Female athletes contribute to economic growth, foster international and diplomatic relations, and influence global perspectives. By examining concrete examples, we can better understand the transformative power such women have on the international stage and propose ways to leverage their success for positive economic growth and global relations.

Australia in particular has an opportunity to embolden sport diplomacy across Oceania through the upcoming 2032 Olympics in Brisbane. The Australian government’s Sport Diplomacy Strategy 2030 highlights sport as one of Australia’s key soft power assets. It aims to strengthen partnerships and promote the national brand through various programs, including initiatives to encourage women and girls’ participation in sports. 

The number of women competing in the Olympic Games has steadily increased, reaching approximately 49 percent at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. This surge is a testament to the global recognition of the importance of gender equity in sports. Australia, particularly through the achievements of teams like the Matildas, has played a significant role in advancing women’s sports. The Matildas’ successes since the 2020 Olympics, and more recently in the Women’s FIFA World Cup 2023, mark a historic moment for women’s soccer in Australia. The team’s popularity has grown, attracting record attendance, making it one of the fastest growing sports in the country. 

The progress made in women’s sports is not only limited to Australia. A NATO strategic communication report highlights how international sports competitions serve as a source of reputation and economic growth for countries, emphasising the strategic communication approach to sport as a high soft power value.  

In economic terms, the outcomes are also increasingly important. Female athletes contribute to the national economy by attracting sponsorships and endorsements, which inject capital into their home countries. The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup offers a good example. It has attracted marked growth in tourists, and has helped to stimulate local economies, further garnering international attention.

According to a report published by Halkin Business Partners, the Women’s FIFA World Cup 2023 created a significant number of job opportunities, from stadium staff, security personnel, and volunteers, to event organisers. This was on top of the need for services such as catering, merchandise, and transportation which stimulated small and large businesses, leading to job growth and economic stability. 

Major events

Hosting major international sports events helps to promote an environment where women’s success in sports can thrive, while also contributing to regional economic prosperity. Improvements for sports venues necessitates substantial investment in infrastructure that not only enhances the host country’s reputation but also creates long-term economic benefits by generating jobs and driving growth.

For instance, the centrepiece venue for the 2032 Olympic Games, the Gabba, is to be demolished and replaced with a new AUD$1.8 billion venue that hopes to maintain Australian competitiveness for national and international sport and entertainment events as well as trigger urban renewal and a strong community legacy for generations to come. It will mean better accessibility, all-inclusive sport and spectator facilities, purpose-designed access to new transport infrastructure, and more roof coverage to protect fans from the elements. 

In other areas, the participation of women at international sports events provides a platform for diplomacy, fostering collaboration and positive international relations. Successful female athletes create shared points of pride for countries worldwide, bridging divides and enhancing diplomatic relations.

Women’s success in sports and their accomplishments serve as evidence of women’s potential beyond sports, promoting diversity and equality on the global stage. Icons like Serena Williams and Simone Biles inspire countless young girls to dream big and achieve their goals. Other successful female athletes are influential figures in the media landscape, and draw substantial coverage and viewership.   

In short, the achievements of women in sports transcend boundaries, impacting economies, tourism, infrastructure, gender equity, media, youth development, soft power, and diplomacy. These athletes embody the transformative potential of sports as a catalyst for positive change in international relations. By breaking boundaries, defying limits, and inspiring progress across borders, women in sports shape the global stage and contribute to the advancement of nations and international relations.  

Moving forward

Government and corporate support, coupled with fair policies and representation, are crucial for creating an environment conducive to economic development in women’s sports. Utilising social media and digital platforms to amplify the marketability of female athletes further enhances their economic impact.

Collectively, these measures can harness the economic potential of women in sports, driving growth, creating opportunities, and promoting financial sustainability in the sporting ecosystem. Corporate and government support, particularly through funding and infrastructure development is essential, as is utilising social media and digital platforms to amplify the voices of female athletes globally and supporting international competition.  

However, leveraging women’s success in sports for positive global relations and sustainable economic impact involves a more multifaceted approach. It requires investing in grassroots programs, advocating for equal sponsorship, encouraging cross-cultural exchange, and implementing inclusive policies that contribute to breaking down cultural and societal barriers and fostering diplomatic ties.

Engaging in diplomatic initiatives, educational programs, and campaigns can shape perceptions and promote respect for female athletes. Collectively, these strategies can harness the transformative power of women in sports to promote unity, equality, and positive relations on the international stage.