Sport - You said – we listened

What you told us

In September and October 2019, we invited public feedback on the Spotlight topic of sport. We’d like to give a huge thank you to everyone who shared their experiences and ideas. A full report has been given to the NACWG and a summary version is shared below.

Please note: these reports summarise the responses received to this open call for submissions. They do not represent the views of the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (we are seeking feedback to gain more insight) nor do they represent a majority view or the view of the Scottish population. They represent the views of those organisations or individuals who have chosen, proactively, to respond.

View the full PDF Summary Here

Who did we hear from?

We had a great response and heard from both individuals and ‘Wee Circle’ discussions.

‘Wee Circles’ included discussion groups organised by employer groups, sports clubs, women’s networks and feminist groups.

We asked three questions:

Q1 What needs to change in Scotland, to improve opportunities for women and girls in sport?

Q2 In Scotland, what needs to change to reduce harmful stereotypes for women and girls in sport?

Q.3 What actions should NACWG recommend to improve gender equality in sport, in Scotland?

What did we learn?

Feedback spanned elite/competitive sport and recreational physical activity. People highlighted some areas of positive progress in 2019, particularly around increased coverage of some major global events. Participation in and enjoyment of sport by young people and teenage girls was a recurring theme, as were calls for ensuring there are a fair and safe opportunities for all women within recreational and competitive sport.

1. Media representation

Respondents welcomed that noticeable progress has been made in terms of the media showing and reporting on women in sport (including references to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and Netball World Cup). Respondents wanted to see progress continue, including an increase in the diversity of coverage (different sports, different body types, and more diverse role models). Respondents called for scrutiny that increased coverage isn’t sexist or stereotypical in nature, (including focus on appearance, clothing, and motherhood). One difference from the sport Spotlight in 2018 was increased mention of more equal use of language and calling time on men’s sport being the default (i.e. World Cup / Women’s World Cup and first British / first male British). There were also calls for increased visibility of women simply enjoying being active (versus elite competition); and for action to increase the number of female sports journalists.

2. Funding

As in 2018, respondents highlighted gender inequality across several financial measures including: funding, sponsorship, prizemoney, wages, high-level competitive training and travel, and grassroots / community provision. Regulation and legislation were suggested, where feasible (e.g. equal pay, Government funding, equal funding for elite athletes).

3. Leadership

Feedback on leadership spanned high-level sports bodies to local clubs. Respondents wanted to see actions around: tackling the gender pay gap; more sports scholarships for women; more female coaches; better training for coaches around participation by women and girls, and avoiding misperceptions and stereotypes about women’s bodies and sporting potential; reviewing guidelines on competition clothing and safety equipment; organisation/club communication materials featuring more women; creating women/equality officers; and tackling sexist or stereotypical ‘banter’.

4. Facilities

Feedback included calls for more women only spaces, sessions and less elitist competitions to increase participation and development. The need for affordable opportunities was also raised. Feedback spanned outdoor spaces, cycle networks, and consideration of women’s physical activity within residential planning, as well as purpose-built facilities. Changing room facilities were also raised in the context of adequate facilities for women such as hairdryers; and in the context of women’s safety and the cultural/religious acceptability of mixed gender changing areas.

5. Opportunity and access

Responses highlighted that the existence of facilities must be supported by action to help women access and benefit from these equitably. Suggestions included: more recreational / fun opportunities; more opportunities for ‘tasters’ of new activities without pressure on existing skills and experience, or to make a financial commitment; and more events (e.g. cycling) genuinely for beginners.

Feedback also covered: improving the availability and standard of grass-roots coaching for disabled children; providing more opportunities for ‘family sports’ where children and adults can all be active together; providing childcare so women can participate; and considering parental responsibilities when setting training/class times.

Feedback included a range of points related to reducing cost as a barrier e.g.: reducing the cost of hiring school facilities out of hours; providing opportunities for young people to watch high-level sports; increasing access to sports through youth clubs; increasing sports scholarships for women; ‘try before you buy’ options on equipment; and more organised free activity (e.g. jogging groups).

6. Encouragement

Feedback called for changes in the way women and girls are encouraged to take part in sport and be physically active. This included suggestions around putting more emphasis on enjoyment and the emotional and social benefits of being active. Feedback also called for a shift away from an emphasis on women’s physical activity being focussed on losing weight or improving appearance.

7. Physical appearance

Feedback highlighted numerous ways that over-emphasis on women’s appearance creates barriers to participation, and hinders women being ‘taken seriously’ in high-level sport. Respondents wanted to see more emphasis (in all spheres) on encouraging women to be active because of the emotional and social benefits, rather than on altering weight and appearance. Respondents also wanted action to reduce sexist or harassing behaviour, particularly in the context of schools and young women. Several comments questioned the uniforms women are required or expected to wear, while others identified unequal regulations (e.g. men having a choice of head-protection, while women are required to have the most protective version). Respondents wanted more diverse body types reflected in growing media coverage of women’s sport and less commentary on sportswomen’s appearance. Suggested actions also included avoiding the sexualisation of staff members within sport for promotional and marketing purposes and encouraging gyms not to show sexualised music videos on gym screens.


Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their feedback – it is valuable.

We’d love as many people as possible to share their ideas on our next Spotlight topics. We have a new one every two months.