Media, arts and sport

Men’s over-representation across the media and creative industries is reflected in widespread stereotyping of women and lack of gender balance in print, on the airwaves and on screen. The portrayal of women across media, popular culture and the arts is damagingly limited, especially for disabled women, minority ethnic women, older women, lesbian, bisexual and trans women.

Both the media and creative industries have immense power to shape the way society views women’s worth and both play a part in perpetuating damaging gender stereotypes which undermine women’s equality. Creativity is not dependent on gender and yet there is marked underrepresentation of women both in production and visible roles.

In terms of sport, women’s sport is overwhelmingly undervalued and underfunded when compared with men’s, and the support girls receive to participate in sport and exercise is shaped by gendered norms. Women are not able to freely and equally participate in sporting activities as participants, observers or commentators.

Action can be taken both to remove the barriers to women’s full participation in these sectors and enable the production of culture and media that offers meaningful representation to all of Scotland’s population.


By 2030 the media actively seeks to offer equal representation to women and girls in Scotland.

Scottish Government, Creative Scotland and other bodies should work together to:

Change the story

The negative impact of the media on women and on gender equality is profound. In 2017, men are editors of 100 percent of Scotland’s main newspapers, and 100 percent of national broadcaster chief executives. This trend is reflected in ubiquitous stereotyping of women and an overwhelming lack of gender balance across all media platforms.

In 2015, analysis of print and broadcast news sources showed that:

appearing in these media were men.

Women are more likely to be described in terms of their family status, and over three times as likely to be described as victims than men. Women standing for political office are routinely subjected to sexism in the mainstream media, and the absence of quality reporting on gender issues contributes to low awareness of women’s inequality and thus to sustaining it.

Meanwhile, sexualised imagery of women and girls across media platforms is so commonplace and widely accepted that it generally fails to resonate as an equality issue. This objectification of women’s bodies is extraordinarily damaging and shapes how women are valued, reinforces sexist attitudes and has negative impacts on body image, self-worth and health. The media’s reporting of gendered violence also perpetuates harmful myths, as highlighted by Scotland’s annual Write to End Violence Against Women Awards. As set out in Chapter Eight, the explosion of new media and social media means that online safety, particularly for young people, is an emerging issue that requires investment and development.


By 2030 women are enabled to undertake paid creative roles on an equal basis with men.

Scottish Government and Creative Scotland should work together to:

Gather evidence

Encourage new practices

Promote sustainable employment

Women are systematically underrepresented in cultural production across media and creative industries. For example:

Within this, sub-sectoral occupational segregation also occurs. In film, TV and performing arts, women are the majority of the creative workforce only in casting, make-up and costume, and are clustered in ‘feminine’ genres, such as romance, lifestyle and homes. However, this does not correlate with how women consume culture. In the print media, women consistently hold editorial positions such as fashion or features, as opposed to politics or business.


By 2030 women and staff in the sports sector perceive equality between women’s sport and men’s sport.

Scottish Government and SportScotland should work together to:

Tackle sports inequality

Women’s sport is marginalised in Scotland. Although sport dominates many of our national conversations, 99 percent of sponsorship investment and 95 percent of media coverage is dedicated to men’s sport, representing a comprehensive exclusion of women from a key area of Scottish public and cultural life. The invisibility of women in sport has an impact on women and girls’ activity in schools and beyond.

The enormous gender gap in sport is underpinned by a number of differences in men’s and women’s lives. Women experience greater time poverty and have less access to resources for expensive fees, clothing and equipment than men. Male-dominated sporting cultures, sexual harassment and abuse in sports venues, a lack of appropriate facilities, negative or limited experiences of PE, and related self-esteem and body issues result in girls and women dropping out of sport. Systemic transphobia and racism in sport also have particular implications for trans and minority ethnic women, and lack of opportunities limits participation for disabled women and girls. Girls withdraw from sport at a faster rate than boys, and teenage girls and women are significantly less likely to participate in recreational sport, which in turn has a negative impact on women’s health and wellbeing.

Professional opportunities for women within all levels of sport are extremely restricted. Only 14 percent of CEO positions across Scotland’s national governing bodies are held by women, and there is a large gender pay gap within elite sports. Men are 82 percent of qualified sports coaches across the UK, and even at community level investment in girls’ sport is hugely unequal. This represents a cycle of inequality that disincentivizes women’s participation and employment in sports sectors.

Recent industry-led initiatives to tackle the barriers to women participating and working in sport are to be welcomed. However, workers within sporting sectors believe that this action is not sufficiently substantive to make change happen, and certain national sports bodies in Scotland think the focus on equality is unnecessary. With voluntary approaches only enabling marginal gains for women, there is now a need for political will to be applied to tackle systemic and persistent gender inequality in sport.

Further reading

See also

Share this page on …


Gender Matters Roadmap - towards women's equality in ScotlandGender Matters Roadmap - towards women's equality in Scotland

Key terms


A benchmark is a point of reference, by which progress can be measured.


An employment pathway is a route through an occupation or sector that connects different job roles and opportunities to acquire skills and knowledge.


A gendered audit assesses the extent to which gender equality is visible and supported in programmes, policies and organisations.


Gendered norms refer to the roles, behaviours and attitudes which society expects of women/girls and men/boys.


Gendered violence is violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman, or violence that affects women disproportionately. It is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women and can include domestic abuse, rape and sexual violence, and harassment.


New media generally refers to content which is available through the internet. it includes online newspapers, blogs and social media.


Over-representation is where one group is disproportionally represented at the expense of other groups. In this chapter, it refers to men being given more than half of the available media jobs and coverage.

More information


Contact us Loading