More sportswomen on TV will see more girls on the pitch

6 June 2019

Four in five girls think greater visibility of women’s sport will inspire more girls to be active, new research from Girlguiding reveals.

As the Women’s World Cup is set to kick off, more than half of girls say the lack of women’s football on TV makes it seem less important than the men’s game.

The research comes from Girlguiding’s Girls’ Attitudes Survey, which questions over 2000 girls and young women across the UK each year.

More than 80% of girls aged 7 - 21 also think there should be an equal amount of women and men’s sport shown on television. Two thirds of young women aged 17 - 21 think having less women’s sport on TV than men’s sends a message that sport is mostly for boys and men.

This year has seen a marked effort to increase coverage of women’s sport in the media, from the BBC’s #ChangeTheGame season to national newspapers pledging to cover it more. However, girls are less happy with coverage than they were three years ago: 68% of girls aged 7 – 21 want to see more women’s sport on TV, compared to 65% in 2016.

Brownie Sienna, 10, who plays football for her school team, said:

People think of football as a boys’ sport because some people don’t think girls are very active. But it’s not only boys who enjoy it. I think girls would find it interesting to see more sports on TV, to think they could have that chance too.

Brownie Mia, 9, added: 

I think people think girls care more about make-up and they don’t like messing around with balls and getting muddy. But I like playing football, it’s loads of fun. In football you’re free, you can do anything.

Anna, a Girlguiding British Youth Council delegate, 15, said:

Watching men’s sports on television is easy because every channel has extensive coverage of them. You have to put in special effort to find women playing sport on TV and the signal that sends to young girls is devastating. It says that women participating in sports is rare and not accepted by society. The message from the Girls’ Attitudes Survey is simple – television coverage of women’s sports inspires girls to take part.

Alex Greenwood, left-back for the Lionesses, said:

We know how important it is for more women and girls to enjoy and embrace sport and increased TV coverage and media coverage overall is crucial to that. We as a group of players can change the game forever and the future of women’s and girls’ football in a positive way. If a 7 year-old picks up a football this summer because of seeing us on TV then we have done our job.

Figures from Sport England show that there is still a gender gap in how many children exercise regularly. While 20% of boys are active for 60 minutes or more every day, only 14% of girls are.

Girlguiding is the UK’s leading charity for girls and young women. In July 2018, the charity updated its iconic badges and activities to reflect the interests of girls in the 21st century. Girls of all ages can work towards badges which encourage them to be active, including Sports, Agility, Fitness and Dancing. Girls aged 10 – 14 can also work towards the Media Critic badge.

In April the charity launched Future Girl, its major new manifesto for girl-led change. 76,000 girls and young women in Girlguiding shared their vision for the future, including the hope that women’s sport is treated equally to men’s sport. Girlguiding will now work with girls all over the UK to make this future a reality.

The Girls’ Attitudes Survey, which will be released later this year, asks girls and young women about their lives, views and interests. A total of 2,118 girls and young women aged between 7 and 21 across the UK took part in this year’s research, from both inside and outside of Girlguiding.