Last week the First Minister and I were privileged to meet Scottish members of Team GB and ParalympicsGB at their homecoming in Edinburgh.
Rio was Team GB’s most successful Olympics for over a century, and our Paralympians did even better than their medal haul in 2012. It was a great performance, not least because of the achievements of our Scottish women.
From Katherine Grainger, Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, to Abby Kane who won Paralympic swimming silver at 13, they did us proud.
Even better, they won their medals in the full glare of media attention, enjoying equal billing with the men.
Elsewhere our women are achieving great things. Scotland’s women have qualified for the European Football Championships, their first major tournament, and Netball Scotland have just won a franchise in the Netball Superleague. But now the glamour of Rio is over how much exposure will they see?
With Women’s Sport Week starting today it’s a timely question.
I fear women’s sport will slip back into the shadows, fighting for the recognition it deserves. This creates a vicious cycle because if TV coverage is limited, sponsors are less likely to put funds into women’s teams. People can’t attend events they don’t know about, and that’s where media attention can drive participation.
Our girls are being short changed and I believe this is one of the main reasons why teenage girls do less physical activity than boys.
The proportion of 13 to 15 year old girls doing the recommended amount of physical activity has increased, from 39 per cent in 2008 to 53 per cent in 2014.
That’s encouraging, but they still lag behind boys.
There have been big improvements in school sport, but a recent survey by Girlguiding Scotland found one in three girls aged 11 to 16 don’t feel they get the same choices as boys.
We need to break this cycle because the gender divide continues into adulthood, with women less likely to take part in or volunteer in sport, and less likely to meet physical activity guidelines.
Sport boosts confidence and helps people to discover leadership potential. It opens up a range of opportunities from coaching, volunteering and behind the scenes roles right up to the boardroom.
The good news is that there’s plenty of work going on to turn this around. At the weekend I visited Project Ailsa, a new scheme from Scottish Swimming aiming to create a positive environment for female swimmers. Girlguiding Scotland have a campaign called WOWwoman about positive role models.
And I recently announced the Scottish Government’s £300,000 Sporting Equality Fund, aimed at increasing the numbers of women in sport.
These are just a few examples. There is an army of organisations and volunteers working in grass roots sport, many with girls and women.
The challenge for the rest of us is to ask what more we can do to make sure girls are not left behind when it comes to sport and physical activity.
As Sports Minister it’s one of my top priorities.
Aileen Campbell MSP is Minister for Public Health and Sport. This article originally appeared in The National