Under the floodlights: Exception rather than the rule?

By Louise Harris, South West Regional Manager at Sported

Louise HarrisThis week to mark International Women’s Day (8th March) we will be looking at what more can be done to increase female participation in sport.


To kick things off on a positive note, there have been some fantastic female success stories in sport over recent years …


-2015 historically marked the first year that the women’s and men’s universities Boat Races were staged on the same day and on the same course (it has to be said, largely thanks to the vision and determination of Helena Morrissey, Chief Executive of the race’s sponsor Newton Investment Management).


-The triumph of the England Women’s Rugby team lifting the World Cup.


-And across the pond, in the male dominated world of the UFC, who’d have thought that a female fighter – Ronda Rousey – would become the poster-girl for the sport and one of the biggest box-office draws.


Whilst tremendous progress has be made, thanks in part to organisations such as Women in Sport and Sport England’s award winning ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, there’s still much to be done. Unfortunately at this moment in time, these examples are very much the exceptions rather than the rule. Examine some of the stats and a more challenging landscape presents itself.


-Female representation on the boards of NGBs and other sports organisations that are funded and supported by Sport England and UK Sport is finally averaging 30%.


-In 2015 only nine Sport England funded NGBs have female Performance Directors. [Source: ‘Trophy Women’ – No more Board Games’ (2015) Women in Sport]


44.5% of females aged 16-25 participate in sport once per week (compared to 65.4% male) [Source: Sport England Active People Survey]


-Only 31% of coaches are female and this declines even further when you look at qualified coaches – then only 18% are female. [Source: Sports Coach UK]


So what role does community sport and Sport for Development have to play? At Sported we have seen some brilliant examples of our members not only increasing female participation, but also using sport as a tool for social change.


Take for example Urban Fit in Bristol. The charity aims to boost teenage girls’ confidence through fitness, dance and also delivers schemes to help teenage girls who are victims of sexual exploitation and gang violence. Or there’s Wings South West in Torridge who have launched a new programme targeted at women and girls. This is a cycling project for young local mums who can exercise on the nearby cycle trails with a qualified cycle/youth leader, free bike hire and free buggy hire for their children. The aim is increasing female participation in  an area that’s in the bottom 20% most deprived wards in the country, whilst also creating active role models for their daughters.


At Sported we encourage all our members to think about inclusivity, so here are a few little things you can do to promote gender equality at your club.


-Promote governance best practice.  A gender balanced committee makes for a more dynamic committee. Do you have enough female representation on your club’s Board? Check out Your Sported Network’s online ‘How to’ guide on governance and compliance for more details.


-Create coaching opportunities for women and girls.More info can be found at Sports Coach UK information here.


-Work towards having suitable changing facilities – the little things can make a big difference! Log On to Your Sported Network to do a funding search to improve your facilities.


-What do your female participants want? Is it female-only sessions or tailored activities?  What are the barriers and how can they be reduced? Women in Sport has some great insight into this area, check out their  Understanding Women’s Lives research here.


-Need some inspiration? Watch and share fabulous videos like Be Like a Girl and This Girl Can .



Of course here at Sported we are not resting on our laurels and aim to attract more female volunteers to ensure we have equality within our volunteer support team. So if you would like to join our volunteer team and effect change within your local community and the wider Sport for Development sector, please contact us on volunteer@sported.org.uk .