BREAKING down a culture is extremely hard, particularly when it has been in place for hundreds of years. Knowing this and being aware that part of the role for Scottish Women in Sport is to help break down long-held myths surrounding women in sport, I was shocked and saddened to read of comments by Tanzania’s president, Samia Suluhu Hassan.

She berated women footballers and said: “For those who have flat chests, you might think they are men and not women, and if you look at their faces you might wonder … because if you want to marry, you want someone who is attractive, a lady who has the qualities that you want.”

She didn’t stop there, adding that for female footballers “those qualities have disappeared”.

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It is so disappointing to read that a female, and one in a position of great power and influence, is so embedded in her culture and failing to spearhead change for women who want to be happy, healthy and play sport.

A survey carried out by Sport England basically said there is too much emphasis on physical appearance of women and girls playing sport and that confidence, stress levels and happiness should have more significance. The study said changes to marketing campaigns, diversity in advertising and the delivery of physical activity in schools, gyms and sporting clubs can all make a difference to participation numbers.

This isn’t really news and if you are involved with women in sport, whether you are female or male, you must be aware of these issues by now.

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Research is important as it gives gravitas to a situation, particularly when it has qualitative results from first-hand observation, interviews and questionnaires.

Our recent collaboration with Observatory for Sport in Scotland does just this and will form the basis of our 2021 conference, The 51% Club, at Tynecastle Stadium in Edinburgh on September 9.

We are looking at the gender balance in leadership roles and until we get a more even split, with women at the forefront of the decision-making process, particularly where women and girls in sport is concerned, we will continue to read studies similar to this recent one and basically hold back development.

Women and girls understand the issues that face their gender, and perhaps having experienced those issues themselves, will have a better understanding on how to resolve them.

Tickets for our conference are available at