What are the gender issues that WE LEAGUE players face?

WE LEAGUE has been hosting WE ACTION MEETINGs since December of last year, as part of its mission for “gender equality and to realize a shining society with a variety of dreams and ways of life”. The second meeting was held on January 18, where the WE LEAGUE players, partner companies and media officials exchanged opinions under the theme of "gender issues experienced by the players.”

The second WE ACTION MEETING was held online and was attended by a total of 44 people which included – 19 players from 11 club teams, 16 WE LEAGUE partner companies, 6 media officials and 3 WE LEAGUE personnel.

Prior to this meeting, the players discussed within their club teams and created a list of gender issues that feels familiar to them. As a result, a total of 93 gender-related issues were raised. WE LEAGUE then selected 20 and introduced them to the group.

The issues raised by the players ranged from childbearing or career-related issues to sexual diversity as well as gender inequality in sports. The players made presentations to make sure that their own voices were heard by the partner companies and WE LEAGUE.

Ms. Arisa Matsubara, midfielder for the Nojima Stella Kanagawa Sagamihara, talked about salary and benefits of football athletes and its issue of male prioritization. Although she became a professional player herself, she realized the disparity when she found out that the average annual salary of J1 club players is over 30 million yen.

She also pointed out the issues surrounding prize money of the FIFA World Cup, mentioning that it was 43 billion yen for the men's team, while it was only 3.2 billion yen for the women's team. As the participants heard this, many used the reaction function to show their astonishment.

After these introductions, the participants voted online. The issue of gender disparity, as explained by Ms. Matsubara, received more than 40% of the votes, followed by the issue of women's sporting events not being televised enough, with over 30% of the votes.

Other issues such as naming – where the men's team are called the top team, while the women's teams are called the ladies' team, or the issue of the lack of places for girls to continue playing football as well as female athletes being treated like idols, also received around 20% of the votes.

Ms. Sayaka Mitani, forward of the AC Nagano Parceiro Ladies, also felt strongly about the gender disparity saying that "Even in the top league – which is the highest league for both women and men, the money is totally different. The way the media treats us as well as other aspects are different. Even people who are not familiar with football are surprised.”

On the other hand, Ms. Minori Kishi, defender of the Chifure AS Elfen Saitama, voted for the naming issue saying, " Chifure doesn't have a men's team, so I never felt familiar with this issue.”

In the group discussion that followed, the participants exchanged opinions on topics other than the top voted issues, such as gender segregation in physical education, the expectations of women being able to cook and too much expectations for being married.

Ms. Shiho Tomari, forward of the AC Nagano Parseiro Ladies said, "It was good to be able to discuss issues from different angles. Many issues were raised, but I felt it was necessary to go beyond sympathizing and actually think about why they are problematic.”

Additionally, the partner companies commented that “the most important thing is to continue these kinds of exchanges and to keep speaking out on gender issues,” and that “it was very valuable to hear the opinions of an individual, rather than a football player’s opinion through the media. The players felt closer, as the gender issues that they feel are actually just like the issues that the ordinary people also feel in our companies and societies.”

The third and final WE ACTION MEETING of the season is scheduled for Tuesday, February 22nd. A list of issues to be addressed by WE LEAGUE will be compiled based on the gender issues raised in the two previous meetings. We are planning to explore different ideas for solutions.