Teenage girls football

Daring to Dream: The Gender Dream Deficit in Sport


Over the last three years Women in Sport has tracked how the increased visibility of elite women’s sport has inspired girls. The 2023 Women’s World Cup had a positive impact on girls who watched, with 9 in 10 saying it made them feel proud and happy.

But despite this, a very significant dream deficit persists between girls and boys. Girls who love sport and take part a lot now have heroes and can dream of reaching the top, but this group makes up just 19% of all girls.

Overall, less than a third of girls can dream of reaching the top compared to more than half of boys.

Dream Deficit Report (4.51 MB)
  • 29 %

    of girls dream of reaching the top in sport

    Women in Sport

  • 52 %

    of boys dream of reaching the top in sport

    Women in Sport

Teenage girls playing football

The recent success of women’s sport has also done little to change persistent attitudes with eight in ten girls (82%) still believing women’s sport isn’t taken as seriously as men’s. Lack of funding and opportunity also prevents girls envisaging a career as an athlete. Girls are also not always encouraged with 35 per cent of girls believing they’re not expected to be good at sport, compared with just 4 per cent of boys.

The true passion and hard work all the women put into every match was just amazing.
Female, aged 21

Barriers to sport for girls

When asked what deters them from taking sport, these were girls’ top answers…

  • I don’t like people watching and judging me (54% of girls)
  • I don’t feel good enough (41% of girls)
  • I don’t like doing sport when I have my period (38% of girls)
  • 53 %

    of girls watched the 2023 Women's World Cup

    Women in Sport

  • 61 %

    of girls watched the 2022 Women's Euros

    Women in Sport

Inequality at the top

The public display of misogyny witnessed following Spain’s 2023 World Cup victory also played a big role in how girls feel about the treatment of female athletes, with 72 per cent saying the ‘questionable kiss’ opened their eyes to how women in sport are treated.

I found it disgusting and completely inappropriate. You would never see this in men’s football.

What girls would like to see in the future of sport

Teenage girls playing rugby

Here’s what girls told us they would like to see…

  • Equal coverage of women’s and men’s sport in the media (60% of girls)
  • More celebration of women’s achievements in sport (51% of girls)
  • More support for girls’ and women’s teams (51% of girls)

On top of this, 24% of girls told us they would like more girls-only opportunities to get involved, while 46% told us they would want more opportunities to try lots of different sports.

I am used to watching men's football, women's football is still a new concept to me.
Female, aged 15

Closing the Dream Deficit

  • We must capitalise on the growth of women’s sport and invest more in our girls’ futures.
  • We need to understand the needs of different girls and remove the persistent barriers that stop them experiencing the joy and freedom of sport.
  • We must provide equal opportunities in school and grassroots sport to ensure all girls feel able, inspired and encouraged to pursue their sporting dreams as much as boys.

Sport should be a normal part of life for girls.

Video credit: Sky Sports News

Download the report

Dream Deficit Report (4.51 MB)

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