Maureen McGonigle: Why we must back Scots sportswomen

Scottish Women in Sport, Women in Enterprise, Scottish Women in Business, International Women's day '“ you would be forgiven if you thought that all this activity surrounding women was bringing positive results but, unfortunately, that is not the case. In fact, recent statistics released by Ernst & Young predict it will 117 years before we achieve gender parity across the board.

Maureen McGonigle writes for The Scotsman. Picture: SNS
Maureen McGonigle writes for The Scotsman. Picture: SNS

However, as we celebrate International Women’s Day 2017 and their #PledgeForParity, we must also recognise that there have been many positive steps taken in sport. Take the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and Team Scotland. The percentage of female athletes rose from 43 per cent in 2010 to 46 per cent in 2014.

Then there’s the recent amalgamation of two golfing bodies, Scottish Golf Union and the Scottish Ladies’ Golfing Association and the appointment of Shona Malcolm as their secretary.

Also, let’s not forgot the recent historic appointment of Karyn McCluskey, director with the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, as the first female non-executive director of the SPFL. Just some of the more recent and positive moves that will assist in accelerating change.

So do we need Scottish Women in Sport? When the organisation was launched in November 2013, the statistics available then showed 0.5 per cent was the total market sponsorship of women’s sport in the UK, with 61.1 per cent for men’s sports over the same period and the remainder accounted for by mixed sport.

Also there was approximately only 5 per cent of sports media coverage featuring women, and for every 53 articles written about men in sport, there was just one about a woman. To be honest, this hasn’t really changed and the examples above are still relevant at this moment in time. Therefore the work of organisations such as Scottish Women in Sport is a pivotal part of ensuring change happens.

That is why Scottish Women in Sport are supporting International Women’s Day and their #PledgeForParity in sport. Our take on this campaign has seen us targeting many of our sporting stars, politicians, media and supporters and is using the wide reach of social media to send this message out. In a small way we hope that this will kick-start the conversation around women in sport and encourage plans and strategies to be drawn up and put into action that will deal with this disparity. You can add your support to this campaign by going to our website

We need to see more women in the boardrooms of our Scottish governing bodies. Let’s educate everyone on the immense benefits that diversity will bring to the boardroom, then we can take steps towards starting an honest conversation and moving forward.

Understanding that, in the past, the environment for women to enter the boardroom has not been conducive or their attempts certainly not welcomed, will allow those currently holding the power to make the necessary changes. It’s time to do away with the old boys’ network and let’s all work together to make our sporting family stronger.

If we can match the new attitude with a robust strategy that clearly understands the issues and is aimed at mentoring and supporting those women who wish to further their career in various areas of sport, then we can succeed.

It is important that young women have a variety of female role models that they can look up to and aspire to. With this in mind we also need more female coaches and officials, more female journalists and more females in every area of sport. That is quite a long list.

If we could channel investment into women-only coaching courses at recreational level, that could help. As could a greater understanding of the pressure of time on many women who, as well as working full-time, are usually still viewed as the primary carer of the family.

That list also goes on and on. The issues are not insurmountable but we can’t make these changes by ourselves. The success or otherwise of this new dawn will require the support of men, men like Andy Murray who didn’t consider gender a factor when appointing his coach, Amelie Mauresmo. Men still hold the balance of power in sport and we need them to rally to the call for change and implement it. We need men to stand up, give a shout out to their mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and challenge blatant inequality.

International women’s day is just one day. We need to ensure that every other day in the calendar is a day to make change and to support the sporting aspirations of all women and girls in Scotland.

Maureen McGonigle is 
founder and CEO of Scottish Women in Sport.