New research finds fewer than a third of girls (29%) dream of reaching the top of sport compared to half of boys (52%). Over the last three years, the charity Women in Sport has tracked how the increased visibility of elite women’s sports has inspired girls.
Despite inspirational performances from football’s Lionesses and netball’s Vitality Roses this summer, the latest data shows the number of girls who aspire to play elite-level sport has declined (by 2%) compared to the same time a year ago.
However, Women in Sport’s report, ‘Daring to Dream – The Gender Dream Deficit in Sport’, did find the success of women’s sport on the world stage has helped to release the hopes of a generation of girls who love sport and take part already with 86 per cent of girls in this category believing they can be like a Lionesses. However, this group is the smallest of all categories, representing just 19 per cent of all girls.
Although the visibility of elite female athletes is increasing, eight in ten girls (82%) still believe women’s sport isn’t taken as seriously as men’s. Comparative lack of funding and opportunity also prevents girls from envisaging a career as an athlete. Gender stereotyping also continues to have a significant and negative impact on girls with 35 per cent of girls believing they’re not expected to be good at sport, compared with just 4 per cent of boys.
The public display of misogyny witnessed following Spain’s 2023 World Cup victory also played a big role in how girls feel about the treatment of female athletes, with 72 per cent saying the ‘questionable kiss’ opened their eyes to how women in sport are treated.
‘I found it disgusting and completely inappropriate. It took away from the player's celebration and I don’t feel it was handled well. You would never see this in men’s football.’ (Female, aged 23)