15 minutes with … Women in Sport

You may have noticed a few weeks ago, we hosted a wonderful event in our showroom with Women in Sport. We’re always excited about working with companies and brands that empower others, help them reach their potential, and give back to their community. Women in Sport is an inspiring charity which helps to inspire just that … women in sport. We spoke with Beth Turner, Research and Advice Service Manager to find out more about the different initiatives Women in Sport have taken on to help raise awareness about the importance of having women play sports…

Talk us through Women in Sport, how did the charity start?

The charity was started in 1984 by Celia Brackenridge and fellow academics, Anita White, Sue Campbell, Margaret Talbot and Derek Wyatt. Inspired by the work of Billie Jean King, they set up The Women’s Sport Foundation (as Women in Sport was originally known)

What are some of the projects and initiatives that the charity is currently working on?

We work on a number of projects which focus on girls and women, understanding their lives in relation to sport and activity, the barriers and opportunities they face and how these might differ at various stages in their life.

Project 51, a program we work on with Sported, focuses on helping teenage girls in socially-deprived areas across the UK fulfill their potential by using sport to overcome the impact of negative gender stereotypes.

We’re proud to also be part of Get Out Get Active, a project that supports disabled and non-disabled people to take part in fun and inclusive activities together.

Over the next few years we will continue our work on teenage girls and try to combat the growing drop-out rate among this age group. We will also be focusing on menopause and physical activity, ensuring that women are given the support to get active during this time of life.

Do you feel that there is still a huge divide between the sports that girls play vs sports that boys play?

There’s a gender gap in most areas of sport, more men and boys participate in sport, than women and girls. There are more men qualified coaches and referees, volunteers in sport are predominantly male which counters the trend in volunteering more broadly and there are also more men in leadership positions within sport.

We know that girls face more barriers to playing sports than boys. For example they feel less encouraged by their schools and parents to take part in sports.

Through the messages we receive via our Research and Advice Service, we hear that there is still a lack of provision for girls in traditionally male sports such as football and that funding at all levels from grassroots to elite is lacking.

We have a clear mission, women and girls are missing out on the lifelong benefits of sports and we want to change this now for every woman and girl in the UK.

Why do you think some girls and women drop our of sports?

There are several reasons why they might drop out of sport, and we know that these can start from an early age. Around age six is when girls are forming attitudes about whether sport is or isn’t for them and depending on their access to fun activity and positive role models will really influence that decision. Bad first experiences either as a child or an adult returning to sport can have a lasting impact on participation, and women especially fear being judged for a whole range of things like not having the right knowledge, clothing or equipment.

For some women and girls, and we are really passionate about changing this, it could be a very real financial or social barrier that is preventing them from playing sport or getting active. It’s important that we highlight these barriers and then try and find solutions so that no woman or girl misses out.

What have been the charity’s biggest successes?

Our Trophy Women work contributed to a significant policy change in England whereby all publicly funded sports organisations must be working towards having at least 30% gender diversity on their boards.

We’re proud that this policy is now in place, but our work continues to ensure that the sports workplace is an inclusive and supportive environment for women. Thanks to additional funding from Comic Relief, we will be diving even deeper into the culture of sport through the next stage of this in our Beyond 30% program.

Nationally we are also seeing the gender gap in England starting to close, our research and insight has been embedded into campaigns such as Sport England’s This Girl Can and British Weightlifting’s Strong is Not a Size.

In 2018, we gave support and advice to 450 organisations to help them make a positive change for women and girls via our Research and Advice Service.

How can the public get involved with helping the charity and raising awareness?

Anyone can donate to us via our website and follow us across our social media pages. We would love people to tell us about what they’re doing to champion women’s sport! We know there are so many people out there doing great work and we love to hear those stories.

If you would like to know more about Women in Sport and get involved :

www.womeninsport.org

@womeninsport_uk

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