Despite meaningful political and social movements towards female empowerment, it’s still a man’s world out there. A large amount of attention, in terms of gender equality, is focused on the gender disparity in industries and how we can find a better representation for women in the professional world. But there are also severe disparities in the sports world. The majority of the most popular team sports distinguish between male and female leagues, and for reasons physiological or social, public perception is that women simply don’t perform as well as men in many of these athletic events. But there are plenty of signs that women are equally as capable of athletes as men, and that’s most obvious in the world of endurance sports.
While the findings are still preliminary and will likely need more support, studies indicate that women operating on a competitive level perform as well or better than men in open water swimming. This is particularly true in the field of marathon swimming. That’s not to say that the world of competitive sharing is necessary a perfect and sterling example of gender parity. Men still outnumber women in the field nearly two to one, but when they do compete, female athletes hold their own. Compare that to the world of running, where the average man’s time for a marathon is 30 minutes shorter than that for women. There are similarly distinctive disparities in triathlon competitions. While women are slowly catching up to men regarding performance, they still have a ways to go.
But while there are noticeable physiological differences to men and women that can have an effect on performance, the competitiveness between men and women in endurance swimming suggests that these differences may not be as great as many people believe. If women manage to perform on the same level despite their lower visibility in the sport, one must question why there are such distinct gaps in other endurance sports. It’s quite possible that the difference is one of engagement. If sports favor and encourage men far more actively than women, that suggests that they’re provided with more encouragement, resources, and training over the course of their lives. These new numbers about endurance swimming suggest that we should be engaged with women in sports as actively as we do in other professional fields. Encouragement, backing, and exposure can go a long way towards closing the gender gap.