In this weekly column on Women in Sport, Rob Hartnett dives a little deeper into issues surrounding Women in Sport. We shouldn’t need a column like this but until such time as reality matches rhetoric, let’s throw a few pebbles and see what ripples emerge…
It was a privilege to be invited to contribute to the launch of Liberty Insurance’s Sports Ambassadors programme for 2017 and of research which gives us clearer insight into the state of play for Women in Sport in 2017 and how we might seek to improve things.
This is a piece I wrote for the publication of that research…
The role of sport and physical activity is important for the mental and physical wellbeing of all our citizens.
How simply wrong is it that their benefit should be enjoyed or denied based on gender?
There is a problem in Irish sport that we do not recognise equality in sport as being on the same level as equality in education, medicine, workplaces or the right to vote.
The problem takes hold in teenage years where boys go into secondary school 32% fitter than girls and leave transition year with the gap widened to 42%.
Today’s survey from Liberty Insurance reveals that 74% of women between the ages of 17 and 24 have little or no interest in sport, yet of those who do play a massive 94% see it as having an important role in their lives.
The gap between what is and what is right would be obvious to a blind man riding past fast on a horse.
Yet all is not lost. There is a global momentum towards better engagement, better participation, and better respect for Women and sport. Change is as inevitable as universal suffrage was 100 years ago.
The language, the structures and the ethos a of sport have largely been designed by men for men. There is nothing wrong in that but if changes are needed to make sport more accessible then changes have to be made.
We need to keep raising our game in terms of women’s participation, particularly in teenage years.
We need to keep raising our game in terms of normalising women in sport so that questions of quotas are no longer a thing, so that women feel comfortable going from playing to coaching to leading in the same way as men do.
We need to show girls that sport is for them as much as it is for boys; that the life lessons of learning to win, learning to lose and the benefits of teamwork are as relevant and important to them in the formative years.
We are better now than we were five years ago but we need to accelerate the improvement and it is for all of us to do what we can. We have to put our hand up as players, supporters, media, sponsors, parents of daughters, lovers of sport or believers in equality.
It is possible, it is vital, it is up to us.