Give women what they want on sport, says minister

Great Britain's (left to right( Claire Hamilton, Vicki Adams, Eve Muirhead and Anna Sloan celebrate winning the Women's Bronze Medal match against Switzerland Britain's women won a curling bronze to ensure Team GB will equal their best Winter Olympics medal haul

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Women should be asked what they want when it comes to sport, to get more taking part and to close the gender gap, Sports Minister Helen Grant says.

Women should be offered "what works for them", whether that be more traditional hockey or athletics, or ballet, gym and cheerleading, she told the Telegraph.

Mrs Grant also urged broadcasters to show more women's sport, saying a "behavioural change" was needed.

She added that women did not have to feel "unfeminine" when they take part.

Her comments come after Britain's women won a curling bronze to ensure Team GB will equal their best Winter Olympics medal haul.

'Balanced coverage'

Figures suggest that, despite an increase in the number of women playing sport regularly, 1.8 million more men than women take part in sport at least once a week.

Mrs Grant, whose ministerial responsibilities cover sport, tourism and equalities, told the Telegraph's Wonder Women website there had not been enough media coverage of women's sport "to close this gender gap".

She said: "I think we ultimately need a behavioural change.

"I think we need to get to the point where women's sport is looked on and regarded as equal to the men's game. When we get to that point, that's when we get the balanced coverage."

She said women needed to be offered a "good spread" of sport.

Sports Minister Helen Grant takes part in a new women's sport campaign in Bury on December 3 Sports Minister Helen Grant said women could "look radiant" while playing some sports to a high level

"We really need to take a step back and actually ask women what they want and give it to them," said Mrs Grant, Conservative MP for Maidstone and The Weald in Kent.

"That can be whether it's a Zumba class or a game of rounders after they've dropped the kids off. That's the approach we need to take - what works for them," she said.

"It's having a good spread on offer. For example, some girls may well not like doing very traditional hockey, tennis or athletics, others might, so for those who don't want to, how about considering maybe gym, ballet, cheerleading? It's not just schools, it's clubs, it's being innovative. Actually looking at our women and our girls and asking, 'What do they want?' "

'Not unfeminine'

She also stressed that women "don't have to feel unfeminine".

Mrs Grant said: "There are some wonderful sports which you can do and perform to a very high level, and I think those participating look absolutely radiant and very feminine, such as ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading and even rollerskating," she said.

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Women's sport still faces a number of disadvantages compared with sport for men”

End Quote Women in Sport Inquiry

Mrs Grant later told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour that the newspaper had taken her comments "out of context", but she welcomed the fact the ensuing publicity had opened up a debate on the opportunities available to women in sport.

The minister, who represented her county at a junior level in judo, said it would be "naive" to claim that all women wanted to play traditional team or individual sports, and there should be "something for everyone".

She said: "For other girls, and we must recognise this, dance, ballet and rollerboarding may be much more appealing, and if that is what our women want, we should give it to them."

'Lazy stereotypes'

Responding to Mrs Grant's comments, Labour MP Angela Eagle said: "I was really disappointed to see her saying what she said about cheerleading for women's sports.

"She's an equality minister, she's the sports minister, and she really should be championing women getting involved in sports, not repeating lazy stereotypes about women in sports feeling unfeminine."

A Sport England survey carried out between April 2012 and April 2013 suggested just 30.5% of women were participating in sport once a week, though this was up from 29% two years earlier.

And a BBC Sport survey carried out after the London Olympics found just 10% of women said the Games had inspired them to become more active.

An inquiry was later started into women's participation in sport, with the first evidence from various women's sporting organisations heard last November. Its final report and recommendations are due this year.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    Whatever they try, I have enough experience to know that young girls need to be in a sports club early. When I say 'early'? I mean 4 or 5.

    The success rate for sports participation is much higher with women when they ''grow up with it''. In fact we need girls to fall in love with sport LONG before they are subliminally stereotyped by boys, friends, the media and even their own families.

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    I'm a woman. I like football. I hate having to watch what the Ladies Arsenal team have been up to before seeing what the real teams are doing. This kind of thing only makes the majority dislike the things they are supposed to be being encouraged to show an interest in. It certainly doesn't encourage me to be more active.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    As a fan of Bobsleigh, both mens and womens i was bitterly dissapointed with the coverage of the womens event on Today at the Olympics the other night, it was literally 10 seconds. Some of us have to work and can only see the highlights on a night. On a more general note women should have every right to choose what they want, at the same time the size of an audience dictates the coverage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Just because something is popular doesn't make it interesting to watch. By far the biggest participant sport in the UK is angling but it doesn't broadcast well so is seldom shown.

    The only thing "banning" anybody from most sports is their own lack of interest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    Women's relationship with sport may come from school. Boys are positively encouraged to play football, whereas girls tend to do more sedentary activities.
    This carries through to later life. Any sport that men can do, women can do too, But in my experience, it seems to be harder to encourage men to take part in fitness than women. It's nothing to do with the choice of sports, it's about attitude.


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