Gender equality gap in sports reporting shrinking: Report

New Delhi, Aug 24 (PTI) P V Sindhu and Sakshi Malik became the first Indian women athletes to "clinch" victories at the recently concluded Rio Olympics, while medals were "claimed" by men according to an analysis which indicates a narrowing of the gender equality gap in the reporting of sport.

Researchers at Cambridge University Press have found that men's sports received 20 per cent more air time than women's during the Rio Games  a "considerable stride" towards striking a balance in the reporting of sport for each gender.

Using the Cambridge English Corpus (CEC) and the the Sport Corpus - massive databases of written and spoken English - the  research analyzes millions of words associated with men and women in Olympics 2016 to show an increased usage of the gender-neutral term 'sportsperson.'

"The gender-neutral term 'sportsperson' was used with a considerably higher frequency during the Olympics in comparison to the language of sports more generally," the study said.

Analysing the reporting by Indian media, it showed how men were said to have "claimed" their medals while women like P V Sindhu and Sakshi Malik had "clinched" their victories.

"The manner in which these victories were reported in the media highlights a notable difference as men were more likely to 'claim' medals, suggesting a bold sense of entitlement. On the other hand, women were most likely to 'clinch' their titles, suggesting a fight for glory," the report said.

While in the CEC the term 'sportsman' appears over 20 times more frequently than 'sportswoman' or the gender neutral 'sportsperson', in the Olympic Corpus, 'sportsperson' is referred to only 30 per cent difference less than 'sportsman'.

"We analysed a huge breadth of sources, putting us in a unique position to comment on the most significant words from Rio 2016 whether this be the change in colour of the diving pool or seemingly sexist approach that still permeates this global spectacle," Sarah Grieves, Language Researcher at Cambridge University Press said.

Grieves said that it was reassuring to see how the Olympics as a movement can help to encourage more equality in sport, but also admitted the continued association of women more with aesthetics and men with sporting ability.

The study noted how athletes themselves have been making strides towards generating fairer sports as was the case with British tennis player Andy Murray correcting an interviewer's "inaccurate" reporting of his gold medals surpassing those of Serena and Venus Williams.

The study highlighted an association between the words 'female' and 'first' suggesting that Rio 2016 was an Olympics of firsts for many female athletes, including Taekwondo fighter Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin who made history by becoming the first Iranian woman to ever win an Olympic medal. 

US Skeet shooter Kim Rhode also became the first female athlete to win an individual medal in six straight summer Olympic Games.