The statistics are damning. While 70% of boys participate in regular exercise, reports suggest that the figure for girls could be as low as 31%, with only 12% of 14-year-old girls taking the recommended amount of activity.
The knock-on effect on long-term health, self-esteem, education, and success in the workplace suggest that something has to be done to ensure there are more opportunities for females of all ages in Scotland to embark on a more active lifestyle.
That was why the Scottish Women in Sport charity was launched at the end of 2013, with the aim of educating young girls on positive life choices, breaking down media stereotypes, creating a strong voice to lobby and raise awareness, highlight positive role models, influence decision makers and encourage increased commercial investment into all sports that include women.
Comprised of representatives from sporting governing bodies, the media, MSPs, youth charities, business, equality groups and the health sector, Scottish Women in Sport has the backing of the Scottish Government as well as many high profile athletes and coaches, with Olympic gold medal rower Katherine Grainger and tennis coach Judy Murray attending the launch.
The Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport Shona Robison said: “For a nation of sport lovers, Scotland needs to be doing more to raise awareness and highlight the benefits of sport for women and girls. I therefore welcome the charity which aims to raise the profile of women’s sport.
“The challenge to those of us working in the field of sport and physical activity is to get more girls and women more active, more often. If we are to become a healthier nation, we have to see more women and girls getting involved in sport.”
Pinpointing and addressing the reasons why that has not been happening is key, with a conference planned for early this year. Operating under the banner ‘Participate - Educate – Celebrate’, they are seeking as much input as possible from those operating in all areas of sport as they seek to find the best way forward.
“The aim is to raise the awareness and increase the profile of all women in sport in Scotland and make it more accessible and welcoming,” said founder Maureen McGonigle,. “That in effect means athletes, coaches, officials, media, administrators, medical staff etc. We want to let girls know that there alternatives out there in regards getting involved in sport. They need to know there is something out there to suit everyone and they don’t just need to be an elite athlete.”
McGonigle, who is also planning an awards dinner to celebrate the achievements of women in sport. has spent more than 25 years working in sport, initially for Scottish Amateur Wrestling and then, for over 20 years, as Executive Administrator with Scottish Women’s Football. Until recently she was the only woman on the Scottish Football Association Council and the Scottish FA Non-Professional Game Board.
But while statistics show the benefit for health, education and social awareness through sport, she was worried by the continued lack of investment into women’s sport and the paucity of media coverage in comparison to male sports.
A report from the Commission on the Future of Women’s Sport showed that women’s sports accounted for only 0.5% of total market sponsorship compared to 61.1% for men’s sports. The remainder going to mixed sports. Add to that the discovery that only 5% of sports media coverage features women, with just one article about women in sport for every 53 written about men.
Despite the massive success of female athletes at the London Olympics, there are few signs that things have improved. “The increased awareness of women in sport, the growth of girls and women in sport, particularly in Scotland, is still not reflected in commercial investment or the mainstream media,” said McGonigle. “As a small country, we need to work together to promote a more inclusive approach to this issue and, hopefully, having a strong collective voice through SWIS will help. We look forward to working with the Scottish media and all Scottish Governing Bodies to achieve success.”
Through their website www.scottishwomeninsport.wordpress.com and their twitter account @scottishwomensport, they are working hard to get their message out to the wider public, with prominent sporting personnel from athletics, curling, motorsport, swimming, golf, rowing and swimming all offering their support. The presence of positive role models is something the group is keen to promote, with the cooperation of the various sporting bodies and the media being key.
Having experienced discrimination in sport and been the victim of lazy assumptions, resentment and stereotyping, Federation Cup coach Judy Murray attended the launch. She accepted that there has been tiny steps taken in recent years in certain areas of sport but said that more had to be done to recognise the different demands of girls and she is adamant having more female coaches and in decision-making positions is the way forward.
“I don’t think things are changing
quickly enough, if indeed they are changing, she said at the launch. “There is
a need for more female representation on the boards of governing bodies because
we can look after our own better because we understand the needs of our own
better. We won’t change things overnight but if we step up and work together
then we’ve got more of a chance.”
The SWiS Conference, supported by RBS is on Wednesdsay 28th May at RBS Gogarburn – programme details as follows:-
9.30 - 10am Registration - Tea & Coffee
10.05 Introduction – Alison Walker – Conference Presenter
10.15 The Circus is coming to Town –
Jane Denehhy, The Gender Hub
11.35 Twitter - Expert Analysis on Women in Sport, Alex Trickett,
Head of Sport, Twitter UK.
12.15 Review of morning
Lunch - chance to network
1.30 Demystifying Live Streaming –
Jack McGill, Managing Director QuipUTV -
a successful multi-channel brand for WIS
Danielle Sellwood – Co-founder – Sportsister
2.40 Tea and coffee
3.00 Meet the Editor
Iain King – The Scottish Sun
3.15 Panel discussion with todays presenters
3.45 Summary - Baroness Sue Campbell
4.00 Thank You and Goodbye
The above programme is subject to change.
This guest post was written by Maureen McGonigle from Scottish Women in Sport.
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