Paige Jones, 18, is a competitive ski jumper who competes through FIS, the international ski association for both men and women. Paige has been ski jumping for nine years, balancing school and athletics seamlessly. At the age of 15, she worked her way up the national ranks to jump on the junior national, competed in the youth Olympics when she was 17, and will be competing in the world championships of ski jumping this upcoming month.
During a conversation with Paige, she discussed how she has witnessed gender inequality as an international ski jumper. Paige highlighted a gender pay gap between winners of men’s events and winners of women’s events, as well as unequal representation of women’s events across the ski jump circuit. Although this has been an everlasting issue, as women’s ski jumping was added to the Olympics as an official event only seven years ago in 2014, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the inequality gap of representation within the ski jump industry.
“For the men, every competition that was canceled [due to the COVID-19 pandemic] found a replacement. The women haven’t been as lucky,” explains Paige. “FIS doesn’t require venues to hold both men’s and women’s competitions, so when given the choice many [venues] choose to just host the men because women ‘aren’t as marketable’.”
Over the years, FIS has slowly begun to add more women’s events to their rosters and schedules, and their program as a whole has seen exponential growth because of it, both in viewers and athletes. But the discrepancies are still apparent to athletes, especially financially.
“While it’s hard to say how this inequality has affected my personal performance, it’s easy to see how it’s affecting the development of women’s ski jumping world wide,” states Paige. “I know that for some of my older teammates – many of whom are now done ski jumping – have struggled financially while trying to compete. Less competitions and less money means that women athletes often need to find outside sources of funds in order to continue jumping.”
As we concluded our interview, Paige specified, “as female skiers, we are constantly having to prove that we belong on the ski jump.”
Having to prove one’s self is something many of us can relate to, be it in athletics or the business realm. A seat at the table is not enough. Equal representation in athletics, especially at an international level, is long overdue for female athletes.