Changing perceptions of sports for women.

Written by Natalie Doyle

July 14, 2023

Scrabble tiles spelling out 'Be the change'

A lot of the work we do to grow women’s and girls’ participation in sport involves working with sports that have historically been mostly played by, and run by, men. One of the challenges that is regularly raised is how to infiltrate the ‘old boys club’, how to change perceptions of women and girls playing these sports, and how to drive change and create opportunities for women and girls. So I thought I’d use this week’s blog to share some thoughts on how you can drive this change:

  1. Find your allies. If you are supporting a club through your job role, or are part of a club, you need to get to know as many people as possible within that club. The more you learn about them, the more you can get to know what their priorities and motivations are. You can then identify who your key allies are and work together to move things forward.
  2. Show what other clubs are doing. People involved in sports are naturally competitive. Showing them what another club nearby is offering for women and girls may encourage them to do the same. Perhaps a nearby club recently had some success on the pitch with their women’s team, or were able to develop a new partnership with a respected local business because of their girls section? Find out as much as you can and use it as an example of what can be achieved.
  3. Explain the benefits. Apart from it being the right thing to do, having a women’s and girls’ section within your club has a lot of additional benefits. Wider membership of the club means additional income from your bar/clubhouse; being able to offer playing opportunities for both genders often integrates your club further within the local community; and some funding opportunities are only available if you offer opportunities to both boys and girls. Use the knowledge you have around the club decision makers to use these benefits to influence their thinking around change.
  4. Utilise the voice of parents. If enough members of the club, or their parents, speak up on a certain issue, change can be hard to resist. Talk to the parents about the change you want to see, and get their opinions on whether they support your ambitions. Encourage them to share their thoughts with other members of the club and look to grow momentum behind your plans. Perhaps they have daughters or nieces that would be keen to get involved if there was an offer for women and girls?
  5. Don’t give up. Major change doesn’t happen overnight. The changes that have already taken place in women’s and girls’ sport are down to a lot of people persevering, breaking down barriers and overcoming challenges. Change is happening now and you are perfectly placed to be part of it. Try and find some other people that are trying to drive similar change in their clubs and take the opportunity to discuss the challenges you face, look at solutions, and have a bit of a moan when you need to! Good luck!

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