A new report by a Scottish parliamentary committee has revealed the many challenges that women and girls face in taking part in sport and physical activity in Scotland.
Harassment and abuse while exercising
The report says that one of the main barriers that women and girls encounter is the harassment and abuse they can face while exercising. This can range from verbal insults, sexual comments, unwanted touching, flashing, and even physical assault. The report says that this behaviour can have a negative impact on women and girls’ confidence, self-esteem, and mental health, and deter them from engaging in sport and physical activity.
The report calls for a zero-tolerance approach towards tackling this behaviour and urges the Scottish Government to set out plans to ensure that personal safety for women and girls is properly integrated into the design of sport or physical activity facilities. It also recommends that schools and clubs should provide education and training on how to prevent and respond to harassment and abuse.
Negative body image amplified by social media
Another barrier that the report identifies is the negative body image that many women and girls experience, which can be amplified by social media. The report says that social media can expose women and girls to unrealistic and harmful standards of beauty, fitness, and performance, which can affect their self-perception and motivation to participate in sport and physical activity.
The report suggests that social media can also have a positive impact on women and girls’ attitudes to sport and physical activity, by providing inspiration, information, support, and community. It wants the Scottish Government to work closely with the UK Government to ensure that the UK Online Safety Bill addresses the harmful impact of negative body image content and misogynistic abuse on social media. It also calls for more positive role models and campaigns that celebrate diversity and inclusion in sport and physical activity.
Lack of coverage of female sport
The report also highlights the lack of coverage of female sport in the media, which can affect the visibility, recognition, and funding of women’s sport. The report says that coverage of women’s elite sport has increased substantially in recent years, especially during major international tournaments, but much more needs to be done to sustain and broaden this coverage. It also says that coverage should include a wider range of sports and a greater diversity of women in elite sport.
The report urges the Scottish Government to work with broadcasters, media outlets, governing bodies, sponsors, and others to increase the coverage of female sport. It also recommends that schools and clubs should promote female sport more actively and provide more opportunities for girls to watch live events.
Other barriers related to health, caring, and stereotypes
The report also acknowledges other barriers that women and girls face in participating in sport and physical activity, such as health issues related to pregnancy, menopause, and menstruation; caring responsibilities for children or other dependents; and stereotypes and expectations about gender roles and abilities.
The report calls for more research, education, guidance, and support on how these factors affect women and girls’ participation in sport and physical activity. It also encourages more flexible, accessible, affordable, and inclusive provision of sport and physical activity opportunities for women and girls of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, and preferences.
The report concludes by saying that there are too many barriers standing in the way of women and girls’ participation in sport and physical activity in Scotland. It says that this has profound negative repercussions for their long-term health and wellbeing. It calls for urgent action from the Scottish Government, public bodies, sports organisations, schools, clubs, media outlets, social media companies, and others to address these barriers.
The report says that removing these barriers will not only benefit women and girls individually but also society as a whole. It says that increasing female participation in sport and physical activity will contribute to improving public health outcomes; reducing health inequalities; enhancing social cohesion; promoting gender equality; boosting economic growth; developing sporting talent; enriching cultural diversity; strengthening national identity; inspiring future generations; celebrating human achievement; fostering joy; creating happiness.