Women in Sport: The finish line is in sight, but the strides are not big enough

Photo: Rob Adair

By Daniel Morrow

Sexism and gender inequality is still a massive problem in sport, as well as in our society. On the same night as the Scottish independence referendum, the elitist Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews finally allowed women to become members of their club – 85% voted in favour of this notion, but questions must be asked about the 15% that were quite happy to allow a ludicrous and outrageously sexist rule to stand. The vote happened a mere three weeks ago, and it only highlights that the male hegemony still exists.

Stirling University held their first Women in Sport conference earlier this month. It created a place in which women can discuss these issues with each other as well as devising plans about how sport can go forward to rid it of its male dominance and how sport should be inclusive to anyone eradicating the inequalities that happen on an all too regular basis. The speakers taking part at the conference were all women, and there was an emphasis on the audience to interact with one another, as well as with their friends after the event finished. All the speakers see this as a good way of moving forward, that women talk with one another as a way of inspiring each other to go forward in pursuing their goals in sport and continue doing what they passionately love doing.

‘If you can’t see it, then you can’t be it,’ is what Shona Robinson MSP stated in her speech, and you would have trouble disagreeing with that – 7% of media coverage of sport is of women, with a miniscule 0.4% of money spent on sport broadcasting is spent on the women’s game.

It’s often said that women’s football is of a ‘poor quality’ which is why it doesn’t get the exposure it needs, but without the funding from broadcasters, the women’s game lags behind its male counterparts. In the 2013-14 season, each team in the English Premier League received £55m in television money and it’s arguably considered the ‘best league in the World’ and that funding has played a huge role in getting it to where it is today.

Without the exposure, women miss out on seeing their role models compete on a regular basis. They lose witnessing the game as a way of inspiring them to take part at some level from amateur to professional.
Glasgow 2014 has shown people that there are indeed female role models in sport in Scotland – women won 22 out of the 53 gold medals won by Team Scotland. Eilidh Child, a silver medallist at Glasgow 2014 and one of the speakers at the event, has already become an inspirational figure, but she and many others need more of a platform to broadcast their successes.

Photo: Rob Adair

The country was very engaged in the whole event, and that engagement needs to be sustained if women are to move forward in sport, so increased coverage of successful Scottish sportswomen is very welcome. Glasgow 2014 and its legacy were often-discussed topics throughout the event as a way for women to break the barriers that a male dominated society imposes.

It was befitting that the event took place at Stirling University, who have made extremely positive moves in promoting equality in sport. Shelley Kerr made history earlier this year by becoming the head coach at Stirling University FC, making her the first female coach of a Scottish senior football side.

Many reacted with disbelief when news broke that Andy Murray appointed Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach, but Judy Murray believes that there is a place for women to coach at the top level, like she has done so admirably in the past. The role women can play as a coach is pivotal in the fight for equality and progress in sport.

Photo: Rob Adair

Speakers at the event can consider themselves feminist role models after standing up for women’s rights and discussing their successes so commendably. They played an extremely important role in inspiring those in the audience to get out there and participate. They were all scathing in their attacks against the current inequalities in sport, but all ended positively, with hope for the future. Anna Signeul, the coach of Scotland’s national women’s football team, suggested that a quota must be put in place that calls for 33% of governing bodies in sport being made up of women – currently 1 in 5 board members in these governing bodies are female.

Talking is the first step in the fight for equality, but action now needs to be taken to tackle the problems that face sport far too regularly. Events such as these play such an important role in empowering women through sport.if (document.currentScript) {