The number of women playing sport and getting active is at an all time high.
Sporting organisations up and down the country are working hard to promote inclusivity and breakdown the barriers to participation.
The Courier’s #sistersport campaign has the support of Calderdale businesswoman and retail guru Kate Hardcastle, ambassador for Women in Sport, aims to build on their work, empowering and encouraging women in Calderdale to give sport a go and become more active, no matter their skill or ability.
It has been two years since public body Sport England launched its nationwide This Girl Can campaign, on January 12, 2015.
The initiative’s mission is to tackle head on the barriers that stop millions of women being more active.
It seeks to tell the real story of women of all shapes, sizes and abilities, who exercise and play sport.
And it features hard-hitting lines such as ‘Sweating like a pig, feeling like a fox’ and ‘I kick balls, deal with it’ to help boost women’s confidence and change attitudes.
More than 7.2 million women in England now play sport and do regular physical activity – 250,000 more than when This Girl Can first launched.
And the gender gap, which once stood at over two million, has narrowed to 1.55 million, according to figures from the latest Active People Survey.
Jennie Price, Sport England chief executive, said: “These figures are really encouraging, especially the substantial increase in the number of women playing sport and being active every week.
“Our This Girl Can campaign set out to tackle the gender gap, so to reduce it significantly in just two years shows we are making a difference.”
Reacting to the latest findings, Elie Barnes, former Wales hockey player and trustee for Women In Sport, a national organisation committed to transforming sport for women and girls, said: “We are really encouraged by this set of results which show the number of women taking part in sport is at record levels and the gender gap narrowing.
“We know through our research and partnership with Sport England, that the way to get more women and girls to participate in sport is through encouragement and support, as demonstrated by the huge success of the This Girl Can campaign.
“While the gender gap has narrowed to 1.55 million for women aged 16 and over, the gap is 1.66 million for women aged 14 and over, which means we still have work to do to ensure teenage girls are given every opportunity to enjoy the benefits of sport as their male peers. We will continue to work with Sport England and our other partners across the sector, to ensure all women and girls have the opportunity to become active and participate in sport.
“We cannot become complacent about these results and we must continue to ensure the government and sport sector continue to invest in women’s sport for the benefit of every woman and girl in the UK.”
Both Women in Sport and Sport England - as well as county sports partnerships (CSPs), including the Yorkshire Sport Foundation, which delivers Sport England programmes at a local level - are working to tackle the challenges and barriers that prevent hundreds of women from getting involved in sports and activities.
And one of the biggest of these, for women of all ages, is the fear of judgement - on appearance, on ability and on how they choose to spend time on themselves. Mrs Price said: “Before we began the campaign, we looked very carefully at what women were saying about why they felt sport and exercise was not for them.
“Some of the issues, like time and cost, were familiar, but one of the strongest themes was a fear of judgement. Worries about being judged for being the wrong size, not fit enough and not skilled enough came up time and again.”
Nigel Harrison, CEO of Yorkshire Sport Foundation, said: “The narrowing of the gender gap over the past two years is very encouraging but there is still a long way to go.
“The This Girl Can campaign so far has shown how sport can be an everyday part of women’s lives without the fear of being judged.
“It’s crucial that opportunities are available that make it easy and enjoyable for women to take part on an ongoing basis.”
Other barriers include time, cost, a lack of information, difficulty accessing facilities, clothing and equipment and a lack of confidence. Through #sistersport we want to help break these down.
We are celebrating women of all shapes, sizes and abilities who are active or involved in sport and we will highlight the work of clubs and organisations supporting them.
We aim to profile the sports and activities in our area, giving you all the information you need to find one at a time, place and cost to suit you.
And ultimately, we want to encourage and inspire more women and girls to give sport a go by sharing the sporting stories of women of all abilities in our district.
l Would you like to share your story of how joining in an activity has helped, inspired or improved your life no matter how big or small that change has been? Would you like to promote your group, and encourage more women to get involved? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01422 260209.