In this new blog series, we explore beyond the traditional gender stereotypes when it comes to after school activities. Have the strict traditional gender stereotypes become more fluid and blurred when it comes to activities for children? We tend to think so and for the better! Boys can be brilliant at ballet and girls can be great goalies. Whatever your child’s passion it’s great to nurture and embrace it.
In the lead up to International Women’s Day, we take a look at how more girls are getting involved in sport outside of their school PE lessons. Women are becoming more visible in mainstream media in sports traditionally considered for ‘men only’. Women’s football and rugby are becoming increasingly popular with sport stars such as Lucy Bronze (football) and Maggie Sanni-Alphonsi (rugby) becoming pivotal role models for our daughters.
Of course, we won’t forget the boys in our series, as we go on to discover how boys are also fighting back against traditional stereotypes. Our feature about the popularity of dance and creative arts across the genders will be coming very soon.
Celebrating International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day or IWD takes place annually on 8th March. It is a day acknowledged around the world to celebrate the ‘social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women' along with a call to action for gender parity (1). It is not affiliated with any one group, but instead brings together governments, women’s organisations, businesses and charities.
The awareness day calls for gender equality which it runs alongside their annual campaign themes and pledges. This year’s campaign theme is #BeBoldForChange in which the organisers of International Women’s Day call upon everyone to ‘help forge a better working world - a more gender inclusive world’ (1)
Did you know….
Five Facts about International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day can be traced back to 1911, where the first IWD events took place in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
In 2011 President Barack Obama proclaimed March 2011 to be ‘Women’s History Month’ to mark IWD 100th Birthday. (1)
There is also an International Men’s Day which takes place annually on 19th November.
International Women’s Day is an official holiday in some countries around the world. ‘Countries including: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia’. (2)
It is also common for some countries around the world to celebrate IWD in a similar way to Mother’s Day, with men giving gifts and cards to the women in their lives. (2)
Getting girls into sport
In recognition of International Women’s Day and the importance of gender parity, we shift the focus on how more girls are embracing activities traditionally considered strictly for boys. The popularity of women in sport is on the rise and this can only be a positive shift in the way girls are perceiving taking part in team games such as football and rugby.
British track and road cyclist Laura Kenny (nee Trott) CBE is well known for being one of the most successful Olympians of all time. She understands how testing sport can be for girls, particularly during their teenage years. Kenny says: “I think a lot of girls get put off sport because it seems hard or they get embarrassed”.(3) This is in fact very much the case as studies have often shown that during the teenage years, girls often lose their self-esteem at an alarming rate. “Research from UN Women claims that at puberty, a girl’s confidence drops at twice the rate of a boy’s and that, at that time, 49% of girls drop out of sports altogether - six times more than the rate of boys” (3).
This Girl Can
Back in January 2015, Sport England released their ground-breaking This Girl Can campaign. Their objective was to get more women and girls into sport with their honest advertising and motivational slogan that actually - This Girl Can. The campaign is a ‘celebration of active women who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how red their face gets” (4)
Two years on Sport England have more than succeeded with their goals; as figures published show “that the number of women playing sport regularly increased by 261,200 to 7.12 million between 2015 and 2016”. (5)
Girls participation in sport is on the rise and long may it continue. Not only is actively taking part in a sport such as football and rugby great for health and for fitness, but being in a team also has fantastic benefits for girls and in particular those in their teens. Nichola Aitchison, Head of Physical Education at The Mary Erskine school in Edinburgh highlights the vast benefits of girls taking part in team sport saying that “achieving success and dealing with failure in a team are shared experiences that build resilience and create memories that last a lifetime” An influencer at advocating girls in sport, Aitchison goes on to explain that team sport and competition contributes significantly towards a variety of skills needed in later life as it help girls in “dealing with different personalities, identifying strengths and weaknesses and taking leadership opportunities through competition.” (6)
As the The Girl Can campaign storms on, the future is bright for women and girls in mainstream sport. Youngsters of today have strong female role models such as Olympic gold medalist, Cyclist Laura Kenny, Rugby legend Maggie Alphonsi who has recently been entered into the World Rugby Hall of Fame (7) and Lucy Bronze who is tipped to lead the England Women’s Football team into the Euro 2017 championships. Even mainstream media have started to show their support for Women’s Sport, with more live coverage of football, rugby and more recently netball.
As parents of girls and young female adults, we need to stay focused on our goals for our women of tomorrow. Teaching them that it is acceptable to challenge and go beyond the gender sporting stereotypes. Because when ‘This Girl Can’ together we can #BeBoldForChange.
Stay tuned to this blog series as next time we examine the revival of netball as a team sport and celebrate #NetballOnTheRise. We will be following this up with the third blog of the series, discovering how boys are also challenging gender stereotypes when it comes to after school activities.
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