Image: Jonathan Yip
[Aimone Sharif | Sports Manager]
In January, Sports England released their “This Girl Can” video, reaching out to girls nationwide. Since its launch, the perspective and subsequently the entire dynamic of female sports has undergone a complete overhaul, much to the delight of female-sports lobbyists up and down the UK, of which there are many millions.
An unprecedented 36 million views of the video has given way to a remarkable upsurge of female participation in sports since January. This magnitude of growth seemingly overnight, has set pulses racing and, understandably, has also sparked curiosity amongst many as to just what is achievable with so many enthusiastic young women on board.
Counties, local organisations and schools have taken notice and are now striving to increase female participation in sport making the aforementioned group their main demographic
Active Students, a sporting organisation working alongside Sports England to promote a sport-centred lifestyle, decided to launch their very own “This Girl Can” week. From the 19th to the 25th of October, students and citizens of Hatfield alike assembled at the University of Hertfordshire to celebrate female participation in an event-filled week dedicated entirely to and aimed exclusively at young women.
As Active Students prepared themselves to embrace their biggest challenge so far, promoters and marketers were out and about spreading word of the event. They exploited a plethora of promotional avenues ranging from the more well trodden social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to more old fashioned promotional tools such as t-shirts and kits. No stone was left unturned and no avenue unexplored. Active Students worked diligently to spread their message as far and wide as humanly possible.
The need to promote female participation comes from recent research indicating that that the discrepancy between active men and their female counterparts sits at a surprisingly vast two million (41.7 per cent of men participating in sports as opposed to the 31.6 per cent of women). While the UK ranks a very respectable third in Europe for male participation in sports, the numbers for female participation are less impressive, especially given the facilities at their disposal.
In terms of aspiration, Sweden seems to be a great model to follow given that both their male and female population rank amongst Europe’s top five whilst our ladies languish in 19th across the continent.
A recent study shows that 75 per cent of women would like to participate in sports but for various reasons cannot or do not wish to do so. At UH, girls were questioned as to what constituted those “various reasons”.
“I am body-conscious sometimes but I adore sports, I am scared of being judged by men in the gym or at football because they are “male dominated” environments but I love them too much to stop” admits UH student, Abby Sanderson.
Not having enough time, money, and general convenience were listed as recurring phenomena that stop women from participating. Nevertheless, a Hatfield student admits:
“I think female participation is so low because of the media and the image of the perfect body, leading girls to feel fat, ugly or very self-conscious.”
Active Students is celebrating five years in Hertfordshire and is determined to reach out to as many students as possible.
A study focussing on data recorded between October 2014 and May 2015 has recently shown that 43 per cent of female students attend their Active Students sessions, which are in stark contrast to the 57 per cent of males who attend theirs. To tackle this issue, they have organised their own Girls’ Football Week and are targeting more and more women to join in order to reach an equilibrium once and for all.
These campaigns show that the women of England are active and ready to go. Working together, we can bring gender equality to the world of sport if we remember that this girl can.