Removing barriers for young women in sport


The factors which stop young women getting involved in sport have been highlighted by a group taking part in a Scottish Parliament project aimed at increasing women’s participation in politics.

The Young Women Lead (YWL) project is a leadership programme for women aged 30 and under and focuses on increasing political participation. This year, the group explored the barriers to getting involved in sport and physical activity including how this is provided at school and how societal pressures can affect young women’s attitudes.

The report found that the move from primary and secondary can see participation in sport decline rapidly and the YWL project is calling on the Scottish Government to introduce guidance for schools on how to involve young women and girls in the development of PE teaching/classes. This could include providing single cubicle changing rooms and making schools aware of the physical changes which may affect participation and confidence.

The report, which was features research done by the YWL participants, also explores the role of social media in encouraging young women to get involved with sport or physical activity. 56% of those surveyed cited body confidence as a barrier to participation, with many citing the images on social media channels. Now the group are calling on the Scottish Government to raise the issued with the UK Council for Internet Safety.

Speaking as the report launched, Jenni Snell member of the YWL project, and one of the authors of the report said:

"The Young Women Lead Programme has created a much needed space for young women to explore this subject in depth. By collecting women's voices and identifying key barriers, we have produced a report with a set of recommendations which we believe can further bridge the gap between women and men's experiences and opportunities in sport and physical activity.

“We hope that these recommendations will be taken on board by the relevant committees and action will be taken to ensure that Scotland is continuing to work towards #GenerationEqual."

Deputy Presiding Officer, Linda Fabiani MSP convened the group and said:

“This summer we are lucky to see some of the best of women’s sport with the Women’s World Cup, but sadly, for too many women, sport and physical activity feels inaccessible. 

“As the report makes clear, there are barriers, but these can be overcome. To do so, we need to think differently and make sure that young women, like those involved in YWL, are consulted in order that these changes are real and impactful.

“I have been involved with these women over the past six months and seeing this report, and the passion and dedication they have brought to their work, has truly inspired me. This group of young women have the drive and determination to change things and improve the lives for all people growing up and living in Scotland. I can’t wait to see what they do next.”

A copy of the report can be found here.


The Young Women Lead Committee is a leadership programme for young women aged 30 and under who live in Scotland. It is delivered in partnership with the Scottish Parliament and the Young Women’s Movement. The programme focuses on increasing political participation and was created from a need to address the underrepresentation of young women in politics.

This is the second year the programme has run and since November 2018, 30 participants from a range of diverse communities came together in the Scottish Parliament to run their own committee inquiry, focusing on a topic of their choice.

Chaired by Linda Fabiani MSP, these meetings mirrored the format of Scottish Parliament committees, with the group hearing evidence from witnesses and undertaking research.

More information on the Young Women Lead project can be found here. 

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