The race for sport­ing equal­ity

Scot­land’s sport­ing women saluted as stars in­sist race for equal­ity is be­ing won from the grass­roots to the medal podium

The Sunday Post (Inverness) - - NEWS - By Mag­gie Ritchie MAIL@SUNDAYPOST.COM

It’s game on for women de­mand­ing equal­ity in sport.

And, as Scot­land’s finest sportswomen were hailed at an awards cer­e­mony in Glas­gow, Mau­reen Mc­go­nigle, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Scot­tish Women in Sport (SWIS), says the ul­ti­mate goal is in sight.

Five years ago, when she founded the or­gan­i­sa­tion, Mau­reen was pes­simistic about women ever hav­ing the same sport­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties as men and pre­dicted it would be eight decades be­fore this hap­pened.

To­day, she is more hope­ful since the #Metoo move­ment took off on so­cial me­dia, cou­pled with the cam­paign for equal pay and an end to sex­ual ha­rass­ment that con­tin­ues to cause waves.

“In this case I’m de­lighted to be proved wrong,” said Mau­reen. “No­body could have pre­dicted this huge sup­port for women’s equal­ity, which has made huge and rapid ad­vances over the last year or so. So­cial me­dia has fi­nally given women a global plat­form to chal­lenge at­ti­tudes and de­mand equal­ity – and I would love to think we are part of that move­ment.” Mau­reen, who spoke at the SWIS awards cer­e­mony on Fri­day night, when shooter Seon­aid Mcin­tosh was named Sportswoman of the Year, added a note of cau­tion.

“We still have a long way to go – men’s sport­ing achieve­ments still dom­i­nate the me­dia. But there are cer­tainly far more op­por­tu­ni­ties open to women now, and women are more will­ing to speak out.”

Women’s equal­ity has made huge ad­vances over the last year

She cites ten­nis star Ser­ena Williams’ claims of sex­ism after her out­burst at the US Open fi­nal as an­other sign that sportswomen have had enough of be­ing treated un­fairly.

Williams was fined $17,000 (£13,000) for code vi­o­la­tions that in­cluded call­ing the um­pire “a liar” and “a thief”. Beaten by Naomi Osaka, she was docked a game for ver­bal abuse, had a point penalty for rac­quet smash­ing and a code vi­o­la­tion for coach­ing.

Williams later said it was “sex­ist” to have been pe­nalised a game, and BBC ten­nis pre­sen­ter Sue Barker backed her up, say­ing that while the um­pire was fol­low­ing the rules, she’d seen male play­ers rant­ing at um­pires with­out be­ing given a vi­o­la­tion. Mc­go­nigle said: “When you have a woman like Ser­ena Williams chal­leng­ing the sta­tus quo, it brings it home that she may be an elite ath­lete at the top of her game, but she is still fac­ing in­equal­ity.”

She founded Scot­tish Women in Sport after she’d been lis­ten­ing to pre­sen­ter Clare Bald­ing speak­ing post-lon­don 2012 on in­equal­ity for women in sport.

It struck a chord with the for­mer ex­ec­u­tive ad­min­is­tra­tor of Scot­tish Women’s Foot­ball. In Novem­ber, 2013, she launched Scot­tish Women in Sport with the sup­port of ten­nis coach Judy Mur­ray and Olympic gold medal­list rower Kath­leen Grainger. “We want to give our elite ath­letes the ex­po­sure they de­serve,” she says, re­fer­ring to the lack of me­dia cov­er­age for women’s sport.

“By rais­ing women ath­letes’ pro­files we hope to help bring in more fi­nance for Scot­tish women and sport, but it’s also about cre­at­ing role mod­els for young girls to en­cour­age them to con­tinue in sport.

“We want young girls to en­joy sport and get all the ben­e­fits that come from it – the ca­ma­raderie, con­fi­dence and lead­er­ship skills.”

She says small strides have been made in re­cent years, par­tic­u­larly with the raised pro­file of women’s foot­ball, which she puts down to the suc­cess of the Scot­tish FA na­tional team, who have qual­i­fied for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.

“I’m ab­so­lutely de­lighted for the team and coach, Shel­ley Kerr, and I know that I will be in France to watch them.

“We are also see­ing many more fe­male sports pre­sen­ters – an­other chink of light.

“But we are still a long way from equal­ity in sport.”

Mc­go­nigle is keen to stress, that SWIS is not sim­ply about high­light­ing the suc­cess of top women ath­letes – women of all ages and stages are en­cour­aged to take part. “We don’t want to just cre­ate role mod­els from the elite side be­cause not ev­ery­one can re­late to that.

“They may look at an ath­lete who trains hard five times a week and think, ‘I don’t want to do that. I want to go out with my friends, have a boyfriend, eat a burger’.

“We want to get it into women’s heads that they are wel­come in all sports and that you can have fun with your friends. No­body is judg­ing you. “We want to chal­lenge out­dated at­ti­tudes.

“You still hear peo­ple use ‘run like a girl’ as an in­sult, but there’s noth­ing wrong with run­ning like a girl.”

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