Female Sporting Role Models

With just 31 per cent of girls reckoned to be participating in sporting activities – there is a growing concern about the future health and wellbeing of Scotland’s young women.

Katherine shows off the gold medal she won last year
Katherine shows off the gold medal she won last year (SNS Group)

GOLDEN girl Katherine Grainger never had to look far for sporting inspiration as she rowed towards an Olympic triumph in London last year.

But with only 31 per cent of girls reckoned to be taking part in sport – compared to about 70 per cent of boys involved in regular exercise – she shares a growing concern about the future health and wellbeing of Scotland’s young women.

Body image and self-esteem are at the heart of debates about positive role models for girls with the on-stage antics of Miley Cyrus or the fashion obsession with thigh gaps grabbing the headlines.

Katherine, who helped launch new charity Scottish Women in Sport (SWiS) at Glasgow’s Emirates Stadium earlier this week, reckons there’s plenty of strong, successful women young girls can look up to.

She said: “There are women achieving incredible things at all levels across many sports, yet so few of their names get known.

“It’s such a shame – we need a greater choice in role models for girls.

“There is a fantastic group of women within sport who would be amazing role models.

“What they can offer is all about the lessons of working hard, having really high goals, achieving success – and looking great while they are doing it.

“The potential for this is completely untapped right now.”

Eve Muirhead in action during last year's World Women's Curling Championship
Eve Muirhead in action during last year’s World Women’s Curling Championship
Ints Kalnins/Reuters

Sporting success stories include world champion curler Eve Muirhead, world top 10 golfer Catriona Matthew, Arsenal Ladies’ Kim Little, voted player of the year in England,

But for SWiS, they simply aren’t getting enough coverage in the mainstream media.

Only one article is published about sportswomen for every 53 written about sportsmen.

But the charity insist its a complex problem that needs more women involved on governing bodies and more commercial support.


Kim Little in action for Team GB
Julian Finney/Getty Images

A recent report by the Commission on the Future of Women’s Sport showed the total sponsorship share of men’s sport was 61.1 per cent.

Women’s sport accounted for just 0.5 per cent (with the rest spent on mixed sports). And Grainger believes increased media coverage remains key to turning this round.

She said: “Look at the statistics, women don’t get any real share of the media at all.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of journalists and editors about this. They’ve usually told me they have a responsibility to their readers and their readers don’t necessarily want to read about women’s sport.

“But I think, especially having been part of the Olympics last year, this argument has been blown out of the water by the vast interest in everyone who competed for Team GB, not just the men. If you don’t put the stories about women’s sport into newspapers then there’s no option to be interested.

“But if you do put them in then, unsurprisingly, people do want to read about it.

“No one’s saying women are going to dominate the sports pages. But that statistic, the one in every 53 articles, we can certainly do better than that.”

As Britain’s most successful female rower, the Bearsden Academy pupil who went on to take up her medal sport at the University of Edinburgh – winning silver at three Olympics before securing the ultimate prize last year – is certainly a poster girl for achievement herself.

But Grainger insists that the message is about the benefits of participating – not about winning competitions.

She said: “I got into sport through school and my mum and dad taking me down to the local pool where I learned to swim with my sister.

“It was fun – and it was something I enjoyed doing with my friends.”

And Grainger believes it’s important to stress that when trying to convince teenage girls who may turn up their noses at the thought of getting sweaty – or breaking a nail.

She said: “People take part in sport for different reasons and it brings them benefits in every area – social, academic, health.

“But I don’t think banging on about those benefits is what’s going to get 12-year-olds excited about it.

“It’s about having fun and pushing yourself. If you don’t try it, you don’t know.”

Article courtesy of The Daily Record