Women’s World Cup: study reveals women’s football viewed as inferior to men’s game due to gender stereotypes

England Lionesses to face Colombia in Women’s World Cup quarter-finals following Euros success
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Women’s football is viewed as inferior to men’s game, according to the latest study from SWSCFootball.

This latest report has shown that the women’s game is still perceived to be inferior simply due to the influence of gender stereotypes and it was found that when genders are blurred, people perceive the quality of male and female footballers to be more similar than when the genders are shown.

This latest study, which was reported in the Sport Management Review journal, comes as England Lionesses prepare to take on Colombia in the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals in Australia this weekend. Sarina Wiegman’s squad have won the Euros 2022 Championships, the Finalissima and now look to extend their trophy cabinet yet again.

Despite their phenomenal success in the past 12 months, the SWSCFootball study detailed how the quality of female footballers was only perceived to be less than their male counterparts when people were made aware of the genders.

How was the study performed?

The study used researchers at the University of Zurich and it was instigated in order to explore why, despite the recent rise in women’s football and record-breaking fan interest, the game is still lagging behind the same sport played by the men.

It was also said that in sport, as well as other male-dominated professions, female athletes are very closely scrutinised and even criticised for their skill, talent and toughness.

The study used an experiment which showed viewers highlights of both male and female footballers, whilst another group viewed the same videos without being able to tell players’ genders. This technique is similar to the advert used for the French national team ahead of the World Cup.

In the French advert, viewers were initially thought to be watching their favourite male players, such as Kylian Mbappe and Anthoine Griezmann, before the CGI was removed and the true genders of the players were revealed.

Researchers used a total of 613 participants all of whom were shown a series of ten videos of male and female football players scoring goals. Highlights included goals from the captain of Croatia’s men’s national team, Luka Modric, as well as the US women’s national team and San Diego Wave FC captain, Alex Morgan.

In one group, the genders of the players were blurred, making it impossible to determine whether the participants were watching men or women while in the control group, the videos were unmodified. Both groups were then made to rate each player’s performance on a five-point scale.

What were the results?

The experiment results subsequently showed that the male players were rated significantly higher only in the group viewing the unmodified videos thus leading the authors of the study to suggest our perception is “filtered through gender stereotypes.”

In the group in which genders were blurred, participants’ ratings did not drastically differ between the male and female players.

The study lead author Dr Carlos Gomez-Gonzalez, a researcher at the Department of Business Administration at UZH, said the findings show we may perceive quality through the filter of existing gender stereotypes. Speaking to the Sport Management Review, Gomez-Gonzalez said: “Many people assume that men’s sports are simply better than women’s sports because men tend to be taller, stronger and faster.

“However the existence of stereotypes should alert us to another possibility: what if perceived quality is filtered through gender stereotypes? Our results refute the assumption that low demand for women’s professional soccer is based on the quality of the female players’ performances.”

It was also noted in the study that in spite of England’s success at last year’s European Championships and the ongoing excitement surrounding the current World Cup, women’s football and other sports are yet to have reached their full economic potential.

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