Q&A with Maureen McGonigle - Founder of Scottish Women in Sport

  • Maureen McGonigle is the founder of Scottish Women in Sport (SWiS)
  • Recognises there is little media coverage of women in sport, but social media is being widely utilised
  • Praises positive industry changes being made, but recognises there are still hurdles to overcome
  • Believes sport is more than just winning - it can benefit your health, well-being and social life

Maureen McGonigle, Founder of Scottish Women in Sport

Maureen McGonigle founded Scottish Women in Sport in 2013, and having been employed in sport for over 25 years, she has been a vocal ambassador for females working in professional, amateur and grassroots sport. Sport Careers sat down with Maureen to get her views and opinion on some of the issues still surrounding women involved in sport.

How did the concept of Scottish Women in Sport first come about? And what do you see as the fundamental aim of the organisation?

The concept idea was born just following the 2012 London Olympics. At that point Clare Balding was delivering statistics on the lack of investment into women in sport, lack of media coverage, opportunities etc. I was aware that England had quite a few organisations that focused on women in sport, but nothing existed in Scotland - so I decided to create one.

My main aim at that initial point was to raise awareness and increase the profile of our female athletes, however we are now so aware of all the other areas in sport that need attention, that we now try to assist in whatever way we can.

The lack of media and press coverage of women in sport has come under scrutiny in recent years. What do think the consequences are of a lack of female media representation? And do you think there are ways we can target this problem?

The issue we have, to use the well documented quote by Marian Edelman Wright, is "You can't be what you can't see". Basically, a lack of positive coverage of our athletes in effect does little to encourage young women and girls into sport. Also, it can be very difficult to encourage sponsorship into an area of sport that has little visibility, so we are creating a 'catch 22' situation.

Social media has also given a new impetus to women in sport and most women in sport use these tools particularly well, and to their advantage.

Having been involved in sport for the past 25 years (in several capacities), how do you feel the representation or even awareness of women in sport has changed at local and national level over the years, if at all?

Because I can go back over 20 years, I can see the changes that have occurred, and thankfully there have been many. I believe that there is an acceleration in every area of sport now to ensure that there is a level playing field for all.

However, we have many hurdles to overcome before that is achieved. The satisfying thing is that, now the conversation is happening and change is continuing at a rapid pace, there is a greater awareness of the benefits that diversity in sport can bring at all levels.

Are there any SWiS projects/campaigns that you are particularly proud of? Or ones that have made a positive impact on women in sport?

I think our conferences have been really well received and the speakers and topics we have had over the past three years, have hit the mark. Feedback has always been very positive.

Our awards dinners recognise and reward not just our elite athletes but those that work in the background, and they have been extremely successful. Our 'Pledge for Parity... in sport' social media campaign on International Women's Day was also trending on twitter by the end of the day and had amazing impact on raising awareness.

Getting The National newspaper to agree to a two-page weekly coverage of Scottish women in sport was also a great coup; it's the only paper to have regular coverage of women in sport, that I am aware of.

Ultimately, the fact that we are now established and recognised as an organisation that will support and assist women in sport is the main area that gives me great pride.

Karen Ross & Judy Murray

What are some of the SWiS projects/campaigns that you have planned for 2017?

As always I have a thousand ideas battling in my head. However, we need to strengthen the SWiS Board with an aim to move forward and offer even more support. That is one priority.

Planning for the 2017 conference 'The Business of Sport' is underway and we are hoping to pull in a big name to be the keynote speaker. So watch this space!

SWiS TV has always been an ambition and that may become a reality in 2017, alongside Sporting Connections which is a business club aimed at bringing sport and corporate bodies together to network is also an ambition, hopefully for 2017.

Finally, do you have any advice for young girls or women wanting to get more involved in sport?

Well the first thing I would say is never take 'no' for an answer if you want to participate in sport, and if you're told 'it's not for girls'- they're wrong - it is! Sport isn't gender specific - it's for everyone. Don't believe that you cannot do something just 'because you are a girl'. You can do anything.

For those young women who don't think sport is cool or don't think it is for them, I would say why not try it, you might enjoy it. You can become fit and healthy and have fun, it's not all about winning, it's about creating friendships and helping yourself to be the best you can be.

And remember, sport can be your career. There are many women at the top now in sporting organisations. Women in the media, on the board of national governing bodies, coaching, leading, administration, they are paving the way for your future. Good luck.

To find out more information about Scottish Women in Sport and their projects, please visit: http://www.scottishwomeninsport.co.uk

Tas & Jo

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