Gender representation in Danish Sport

While Denmark stands at second in the EU rankings for gender equality and 14th in the world, does this get replicated in the world of sport? 

The Valby Idrætpark female football team training in their field in Copenhagen last Friday. // CREDIT: Maia Galmés Feuer

By Olivia Williams and Maia Galmés Feuer

Denmark is known for being the happiest country in the world and for being the second most equal country after Sweden, but when talking about sports, their indexed position changes as the country  does not make the top three countries in any of the EU rankings related to gender equality in sports.

Denmark is always part of the main European and worldwide sport competitions, such as the Olympic Games, the World Cup, and different types of Euro-tournaments.  

In fact, after a delayed 2020, 2021 has been an active year for sport, as many countries have opened their borders and allowed championships to resume their activity, such as the Olympics and Paralympics, the UEFA European Championships, and the Rugby World Championship.

Denmark also had a successful year in sports. Men’s football team coming “third place” (shared with Spain) in the UEFA European Championships, 11 Olympic medals and the capital, Copenhagen, hosting the EuroGames back in August. 

“There is a difference on how the genders approach sport”, describes Fredrik Zeilberger, a young Copenhagen local who’s been doing different sports since he was young. He adds that in the climbing scenario, “women can be very good, as they are lighter and it is not about having big muscles, but strong ones; it goes both ways, as men can be naturally stronger but that is not necessarily better”.

Female football coach Jakob Christensen stated that they “have done great this year for all teams, male and female, both our footballs teams reached the finals or semifinals”.

But the topic of women in sports remains controversial throughout the world, with female athletes being significantly less represented compared to males, as well as being subjected to stereotypical, comical, and sexist comments.  

Players from Copenhagen Women’s Football team commented, saying 

 “The comments male teams often get like “you’re such a girl” or “you play like a girl”, that can be kind of insulting”. The Coach Jakob Christensen added on how spectators can shout insulting comments or abuse when the women’s team are playing.  

Football coach Jakob Christensen

“Women’s teams in all sports only seem to get recognition when they do well and even then, it is it still doesn’t reach the coverage male teams get”.

Member of the female football team

The team also make a comment on the facilities that women’s teams receive. Commenting that make team will often get more and higher quality equipment, get their physio appointments prioritized and get advertised more to attract bigger crowds.  

 According to Christina Hedelundsørensen, the captain of the female football team at Valby Idrætspark, “boys and men’s teams are favored, they get the better play times, better judges and referees and in many clubs the male teams get physiotherapy however we have to arrange and pay for our own”.

Currently, Denmark has a Gender Equality Policy and Programme in place to combat multiple sectors in which women face discrimination, including the sport federation. While the programme is in place, women feel they still face the same amount of scrutiny and discrimination and want more action taken.  

“While I think Denmark is one of the top countries, in places like the USA things are a lot worse, there is still progress to be made here in Denmark” 

Coach Jakob Christensen
This infographic aims to show where Denmark is in regards to gender equality. // CREDIT: Olivia Williams and Maia Galmés Feuer

At a global scale and according to the World Health Organization, 85% of adolescent girls do not meet the current recommendations of physical activity. This could be understood in the context of a country with a low index of freedom, as it is not safe to go out and train at certain times of the day, for example, but this does not apply to Denmark, as on the report of the Freedom House index, is the 11th most free country in the world, with a 97 out of 100 score based on their different analytical nuances.   

Target Audience:

This story is written for an audience abroad and within Denmark, and it could be published on any sports or cultural magazines.