Insight Blog - February, 2020

February, 2020

Posted: Mon, 03 Feb 2020 15:00 by Thomas Lawley

January - New Year, New Blog

Hello and happy New Year. Welcome to the first insight blog of 2020!

In the spirit of the main stream fashion of 'new year, new me'. The insight blogs will be changing slightly as we begin the New Year. The blogs will still provide you with all the good stuff like; funding bids, research projects, key projects provided by us at Sports Partnership Herefordshire and Worcestershire, as well as insight about Herefordshire and Worcestershire. However, to try and give this blogs more of a focus and hopefully make them more relevant, future blogs will be taking on a key theme for each month.

This month's theme is Women and Girls coinciding with the relaunch of Sport England's 'This Girl Can'.


Here at Sports Partnership Herefordshire and Worcestershire, we've just had our own This Girl Can conference. The aim of this conference was to educate leisure providers, schools and local development officers of the gender gap that we face locally and nationally when it comes to physical activity participation. Alongside tackling the participation gap, we are also looking to try and provide support for mental health issues that face women and girls in their everyday life, which in turn become barriers to participation.

The Stats

The Active Lives May 18/19 report details participation rates across England. The report revealed that there is still a gender gap in terms of participation. Women (61%) are less likely to be active than men (65%). Conversely Women (26%) are more likely to be inactive than men (24%). More locally the picture remains the same – women (57.6%) across Herefordshire and Worcestershire are less likely to be active than men (63.9%). This gap is maintained when looking at both county's individually. With Worcestershire women (58.1%) being marginally more active than women (56.2%) in Herefordshire, but still are less active than their male counterparts.

As with adults, the gender gap always exists in children and young people. According to Sport England's most recent publication (academic year 18/19), under half (43%) of girls are active for 60 minutes every day. This, in comparison to boys, where just over half (51%) are active for 60 minutes a day. Although it is not all doom and gloom as both boys and girls saw an increase in participation from last year (Boys: +3.8%, Girls: 3.2%). What seems to be more concerning is that young girls (30%) are more inactive than boys (27%), evidencing a gender gap on both sides of physical activity participation. This trend where girls are less active than boys is seen across all ages, with the largest gap appearing in years 7-11 (9% difference).

Why is there a participation gap?

So, clearly there is an issue where women and girls are taking part in sport or physical activity. This on its own is useless to everyone. So why are women and girls less likely to take part? Research from Sport England has suggested that there are several reasons that can be attributed to the gender participation gap. Firstly, young girl's attitudes to sport are different to young boys. Young girls are said to have very binary views when it comes to participating in Sport or physical activity. By this it's meant that girls either see themselves as good or bad at an activity, and this has a massive impact on whether they are will take part or not. Boys however do not appear to hold as much relevance to their ability when deciding to take part in an activity or not. Secondly, girls are less likely to enjoy being active than boys. As part of Sport England's Active Lives Children and Young People survey detailed children's attitudes towards sport and physical activity. The results show that girls are less confident in taking part in sport or physical activity, which in turn impacts their subsequent enjoyment. Thirdly, research from Women in Sport has highlighted that pressure of school work and low confidence present themselves as substantial barriers to taking part for girls. Women in Sport's research stated that alongside pressure of school work, dissatisfaction with their body image represents a significant barrier to girls. Body image represents a larger problem for girls (1 in 3) at ages 14-16 years, than younger girls ages 13 and below. Finally, it has been reported that girls simply do not see the relevance of the skills they learn in PE to their lives (45% of girls compared to 60% of boys).

How do we solve these problems?

There is no catch all approach to solving the women and girls participation issue. However, there are steps that can be taken which can create a more positive environment for women and girls to feel safe and motivated to participate in sport and physical activity.

Recommendations for schools (from Women in Sport)

1. Make PE and physical activity relevant to girls' lives.

2. Empower girls through involving them in design and delivery of PE and physical activities.

3. Develop role models by using girls as positive influencers and advocates with their peer group.

4. Place developing self-confidence at the heart of PE and physical activity.

5. Recognise the power of friends to drive progress.

6. Take a long-term approach to engaging girls.

Recommendations for activity providers and organisations (Sport England)

1) Start where women are – being real and friendly will engage women

- Use their language: friendly and informal

- Use pictures and images of real women

- Show an understanding of real issues (looking sweaty, pressure of time)

2) Show women what sport can do for them personally – they want to feel confident doing sport

- Use real role models showing women confident being themselves (hot and not bothered)

3) Show women that sport is a good use of their time socially

- Communicate that this is a good use of their time – having some run time with the girls (or their kids)

4) Design the offer to make it easy for women to do sport – don't expect women to change to fit sport

- Right time – be open or run classes to suit women's lifestyle (work and family)

- Right place – close to where women are, with the right facilities (changing rooms, hairdryers etc)

- Right welcome – make sure the welcome is warm by reception/ class leaders

- Right company – ideally they should be with people like them

- Right gear – reduce the fear of the wrong gear

5) Focus on repeat participation – ensure you design the offer to keep women engaged, not just to attend once

- Once engaged, keep in touch with them

- Encourage communities of interest: women spending with their kids, with the girls (meeting up after for food or drink), or seeking to achieve more

- Make your communications personal

- Appeal to all the senses (music etc)

Thanks for reading, and make sure you get active yourself!

Links and references

Gender Gap – Attitudes towards physical activity in teenagers

Sport England – Sport for All? January 2020

Sport England – Active Lives Adult Survey – May 18/19, November 17/18

Sport England – Active Lives Adult Survey – Understanding behaviour

Sport England – Active Lives Children and Young People Survey – Academic Year 2017/18

Sport England – Active Lives Children and Young People Survey – Attitudes towards sport and physical activity

Sport England - Applying the insight – women & girls checklist

Tags: Active Lives, Blog, Herefordshire, Insight, January, Sport England, Sports Partnership, This Girl Can, Women and Girls, Women in Sport, Worcestershire

Tom Lawley

Tom Lawley

Project Officer (Information and Insight)

  • Insight
  • Data analysis
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Active Lives
01905 542380