Breaking down barriers in sport for women

Young women in sport

Lauren Pluss looks at the work going on to help women in Scotland to participate in sport

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4th April 2019 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

There’s positive improvements in women’s participation in sport and exercise but there’s still a long way to go…

Before you sit down with your cuppa to read this, I invite you to pause for a moment and think about your relationship with sport and exercise. Is it driven by passion, by competitiveness, by desire to manage your weight, by guilt, by way of managing your mental health, by enjoyment or wish to have fun?

For too many, sport isn’t about the positive aspects of taking part. Maybe that explains why many people don’t have a healthy or positive relationship with sport and exercise, particularly women and girls.

Lauren Pluss

Lauren Pluss

What do we know?                                         

Girls in Scotland (2018) research by GirlGuiding found that girls that participate in sport or exercise once a week drops by 38% between the ages of 7 - 11 and 18 – 25. sportscotland research found that the gap in participation between boys and girls begins around 13 – 15 years of age. And, the Sport for Everyone survey (2017) found that lack of time, caring responsibilities, body confidence and lack of facilities were some of the top barriers to participation in sport and exercise for females.

So, what can be done to address this ‘drop off’ and improve women’s relationship with sport and exercise? That’s the question the team taking part in the Young Women Lead programme are asking. The programme, run by YWCA Scotland, gives participants the opportunity to enter Scottish Parliament in the form of a mock committee to investigate an issue that is important to those involved. Many of the group, myself included, have had an on-off relationship with sport and exercise and have faced a range of barriers to participation. From cost to ability, body confidence to time constraints – barriers come in all shapes and sizes.

The group is now conducting research that we hope will provide more of an insight into the barriers that cause the drop off in participation between primary and secondary school and will provide a range of good practice examples. The findings of the research will be published in a report and presented to Scottish Government in June this year. We’d love you to get involved by taking our survey (by 8th April) or helping us spread the word to your friends, children, neighbours, colleagues and more (!):

Survey for women aged 13 – 30 living in Scotland
Survey for teachers in Scotland

There’s lots to be positive about…

Our research so far has shown that there are some fantastic examples of organisations closing the gender gap and empowering women to take part, try something new and go outside of their comfort zone for a wee while. The Sporting Equality Fund, for example, has resulted in more than 2,800 girls and women taking part in sport and physical activity through organisations such as Venture Trust, Bike for Good and PEEK’s Like A Lassie.

Another positive step is the launch of the new Girls, Inspired campaign by The Telegraph this week. A campaign which aims to close the gender sports gap in schools and keep girls active. Building on the paper’s Women’s Sport section which launched earlier this year with the aim of increasing coverage of women’s sport (and it’s not behind the normal paywall).

So, it’s definitely not all doom and gloom. However, there is still a long way to go and we hope our research will be a positive step in the right direction. If you’re interested in finding out more, please get in touch through Twitter to discuss the research, share your motivations for exercise or share examples of best practice – it would be great to hear from you!

Lauren Pluss is senior digital and communications officer at YouthLink Scotland