As International Women’s Day has only recently passed, I thought it would be appropriate to write about what it’s like being a female athlete in a male-dominated sport.
When I first began shooting I chose a discipline called DTL (down the line) where females and males compete against each other and it’s ranked on grades not sex or age. I thought that was fantastic because I could compete against people who were similarly skilled. And I really loved shooting because it didn’t discriminate – many times I’ve been out-shot by male competitors and in turn they’ve also been beaten by female shooters.
If I was to throw a stat at you I would say the participation rate in shooting would be 80% male and 20% female. Somewhat outnumbered by our male counterparts but never intimidated by them.
I find it interesting when I tell people that I am a shotgun shooter. Their automatic response is “that’s unusual” – firstly, because I’m female, and secondly, because I’m not an overly large statured person.
I remember thinking to myself many years ago that I wanted to be a role model for female shooters, encourage them into the sport and change the perception of what defines a female shooter. I hope I am on the correct path for that change.
It wasn’t until I started shooting the Olympic discipline of clay targets that female and males competed separately. This has never really bothered me because the quality of international female shooters is incredibly high, but I have often wondered why we were separated.
I believe this is one of the few sports where physical strength is not a huge advantage and women’s and men’s physiques don’t affect the way we shoot the target. Therefore, we’re on a level playing field.
To give you a little history lesson, from 1972-1992 Olympic Skeet shooting was a mixed event – men and women could compete against each other. At the ’92 Barcelona Olympics, a female Chinese Skeet shooter named Shan Zhang won the gold medal, beating all the men. Unfortunately, she couldn’t defend her title as the event was then changed to men only and since 2000, women and men have had separate events.
In a bid for equality in our sport, from this year, females will shoot the same number of targets as the men. Previously, men would shoot 125 targets over two days and females shot 75 targets over one day.
Although I doubt we will ever directly compete against each other, this is a nice step in the right direction.