Maureen McGonigle: Women storm bastion of male-dominated sports

Pic Greg Macvean - 14/01/2015 - Hibernian Football Club press conference to announce the plans to widen ownership of the Club by issuing new shares that would enable the Holding Company's shareholding in Hibernian to be diluted below 50%.  Attending were Charlie Reid (Proclaimer), Kenny MacAskill (MSP) and Leeann Dempster (Chief Executive Hibernian FC)

Pic Greg Macvean - 14/01/2015 - Hibernian Football Club press conference to announce the plans to widen ownership of the Club by issuing new shares that would enable the Holding Company's shareholding in Hibernian to be diluted below 50%. Attending were Charlie Reid (Proclaimer), Kenny MacAskill (MSP) and Leeann Dempster (Chief Executive Hibernian FC)

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It can be difficult when you have a passion driving you forward, and a very fine line between harnessing support from people for your own particular cause, to utterly boring them to death as they quietly mumble to themselves: “Here she goes again.”

Yet the reality still exists. Women and girls are under-represented for the most part, in all areas of sport.

Football still dominates Scotland’s sporting culture and it remains very much a traditional male domain. However, even football has come round to understanding the benefits of diversity, not just in the boardroom but also in the continued success of the Women’s National Team.

To expand a little on both points, the SPFL now have three women on their board, Anne Budge, owner of Heart of Midlothian, Leeann Dempster, CEO of Hibernian FC and Karyn McCluskey, Chief Executive of Community Justice Scotland.

As for success on the park, the women’s national team will be flying the flag for Scottish football in the Netherlands later this year, having qualified for the Euro finals for the first time in their history.

Let’s be honest though there is a lot more work that can, and I hope is being done: football is deemed to be our national game, it should lead the way and set the bar for a new era in sport.

There is still no professional status for female footballers in Scotland and the majority of our national team players are currently plying their trade outside Scotland to earn a decent living.

In rugby, Scotland has one full-time player in Jade Konkel – the first full-time professional women’s rugby player. She was selected on merit and was one of 16 players in the second tier of the Scottish Rugby Academy in 2015 and the first to make the full-time third tier.

Thankfully the situation is slightly easier for athletes who are not participating in team sports. Many sports have implemented major changes to embrace diversity. However, improvements can still be made.  

Other sports who are currently challenging and changing the traditional male dominated culture, particularly in the leadership area, are golf, with Shona Malcolm taking the top spot as secretary of the PGA, and Eleanor Cannon, a highly qualified director with an engrained passion for golf, appointed as the inaugural Chair of Scottish Golf Limited. We have Sue Beatt, taking the top spot in bowling, elected to the position of Chair just last year, and Dee Bradbury of Oban Lorne RFC waiting patiently in the wings to move into the SRU President’s role in 2018, from her current position of Vice President

Commercial investment, increased media coverage, more diversity on boards, more female coaches are the major areas that require support.

These changes are crucial for the future of sport and plans should be in place to implement them now.

Maureen McGonigle is founder & CEO, Scottish Women in Sport

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