You can’t be it if you can’t see it - this phrase can be applied wherever we experience inequality, but with the Women’s Six Nations if full flow it’s timely to look at the barriers stopping girls and women taking part in sport.

The data is clear - by their early teens just 10% of girls are getting the recommended amount of physical activity per day.

What are the barriers though, and why don’t girls get the same opportunity as boys? Don’t we raise and teach them in the same way?

Some of the barriers are obvious, others less so. However, like all inequalities, what we do know is inequality doesn’t solve itself, wishful thinking isn’t going to redress the imbalance – only action can do that. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say, up until very recently, there appears to have been a systemic exclusion of women and girls which is deep-rooted in our culture.

Girls come up against far more barriers to getting active than boys do, ranging from a lack of confidence to the simple reality there are far fewer sporting options available

Low self-esteem can be a very high barrier - with girls (and women) judged far more harshly for their appearance – even though taking part in sport clearly improves self-esteem and women’s perception of their own bodies. This is turn means fewer sports clubs have traditionally targeted girls – because girls have been harder to attract…a vicious circle.

We could be fooled into thinking that girls and women’s participation in sport is on the crest of a wave – and certainly 91,000 spectators at a recent women’s soccer match and 14,000 at the England v Wales rugby international at Kingsholm in Gloucester are both great adverts.

However, only 5% of media sports coverage is dedicated to women’s sport. Let that awful percentage sink in. It’s no surprise then that people respond best to the role models they relate to and girls simply aren’t seeing enough relatable role models participating in sport.

There is also a pervasive belief that sport is designed for men, that to participate in it is unfeminine. Market research has shown 55% of women and girls agree that “many women feel unwelcome to play rugby because of the jokes and negative language some people use about women”. 

All these barriers are more intense for girls and women belonging to Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) groups, who are wholly disproportionately underrepresented in sport. Only 36% of black children and young people are active, as opposed to 48% of white British children. 

If we accept the barriers facing girls is rooted in our culture this doesn’t mean we can’t create change at a local level. At Bath Rugby Foundation we begin this intervention as early as possible because we know the big drop-off in girls’ participation in sport is around secondary school age.. 

We do this in several ways: through engaging with local schools, we provide opportunities for young girls to play rugby, inspiring and nurturing their desire to be active. We actively encourage participation from traditionally underrepresented groups and have a multi-sport Hi5 Club which meets four days a week and is designed for children with special educational needs and differences.

It is for this reason that we remain as diligent as ever in providing the encouragement and facilities that girls need to be active. Competition is important but confidence and enjoyment are paramount if we are going to keep them into adulthood and providing the role models for the next generation.