After publishing the IBU Gender Equality Strategy 2021 – 2026 in March 2021, the IBU is working on the implementation of the action plan outlined in the strategy. One of the three focus areas outlined in the strategy is Portrayal - with the goal to avoid prejudice and stereotypes of women and men in all biathlon areas. Particularly in Portrayal, raising awareness of what constitutes as conscious and unconscious bias and ensuring an equal media presence.
Biathlon is a sport with very high standards when it comes to Gender Equality at the competition level. The IBU ensures equal quota places for men and women at major events and an equal amount of medal events for women and men throughout the World Cup and at major events like the World Championships and Olympic Games. The IBU provides equal price money to both genders. Mixed Relays and Single Mixed Relays formats have become a core part of biathlon.
Taking a closer look at the media and live market shares in biathlon – for example in 2020, the highest live market share across all broadcasting countries was reached in Norway for the Women’s Relay with 85.30%. However, when we look at sport in general, there are still some fundamental differences in how sportswomen and women’s sport are portrayed in comparison to that of men. Sports coverage plays an important role in shaping gender norms and stereotypes and promoting new positive, diverse role models.
For this reasons, the IBU supports ist Athletes Ambassadors for Gender Equality in focusing on the Portrayal topic throughout this upcoming winter. Giving its athletes a voice and a chance to influence the future of biathlon, the IBU is working together with six IBU Gender Equality Athlete Ambassadors since Spring 2021 who now developed a survey to be issued among their fellow athletes in December 2022 to create a better understanding of the status quo when it comes to Portrayal in biathlon.
IBU Gender Equality Ambassador, Kelsey Dickinson said:
Addressing the portrayal of women in sport is critical for improving gender equity. When harmful stereotypes are strongly rooted in sport culture meaningful change at a policy level will never be fully realized. Athletes should be able to compete free from unfair expectations associated with their gender. Women identifying athletes deserve to be celebrated for their athletic prowess, rather than criticized for how they don't fit into an unrealistic 'box' of looking, acting, and being a certain way.
IBU Gender Equality Ambassador, Jessica Jislova said:
As Gender Equality Ambassadors our goal is to make biathlon safe and accessible for everyone. We want everyone in the biathlonfamily to have a voice and to be heard. The survey is an important part of it.
Gender inequality continues to be a significant challenge in sport looking at the worldwide statistic for the representation of women’s sport in media which is only 4% (UNESCO 2018). Furthermore only 7% of the global $30 billion spent on sponsorships is directed at sportswomen and the female sports industry (Statista 2019) so it´s no surprise that among the world’s top 100 highest-paid athletes, there are only two females (Forbes 2020). Nevertheless, a well-publicised survey by Nielsen in 2018 showed that 84% of general sports fans are interested in women’s sport, which is increasingly perceived as competitive and skilled as well as more inspiring, more progressive and less money-driven than men’s sport. By looking at women’s sport without bias and putting the right amount of investment in it, the media can play a big part in the growth of women’s sport (EBU).
To address this important issue, the IOC has already published Portrayal Guidelines for gender-equal, fair and inclusive representation which includes
Key terms to know why portrayal in sport is important
Practical suggestions and examples of how to overcome bias across the various aspects of portrayal
Checklists to facilitate implementation across all forms of media and communication