It’s 2022, and despite the progress we have collectively made, the gender gap for sport and activity persists.
The disruptions of the pandemic have not helped; our latest Active Lives survey found that there are more than a quarter of a million fewer active women than there were the year before, with women’s activity levels slower to recover than men’s.
And the gender gap starts at a very young age, with nearly two thirds of girls (64%) having quit sport by the age of 16 or 17.
That means millions of women are missing out on the physical, mental and social rewards of getting active.
Tackling inequalities is at the heart of the our 10-year Uniting the Movement strategy, and this issue remains a major inequality for us to confront. But, as with all challenges, we are determined to understand the barriers to participation and remove them.
worry about their personal safety in relation to doing physical activity and exercise
It’s this focus on listening and finding solutions that drove Sport England to create the ground-breaking This Girl Can campaign back in 2015.
We set out to identify the barriers stopping women from getting active and inspire women to have the confidence and opportunity to overcome them.
Our research found some common themes that were obstacles for women in 2015. While the campaign has had far reaching and lasting positive impact, sadly they still persist for some women in 2022. We need to keep pushing.
Fear of judgement, a lack of confidence and not having enough time – these are the practical and emotional pressures that can stop women from being more active.
A barrier that has come into sharper focus over the past year – as violence against women has shot to the top of the public and political agenda – is women’s fears for their own safety.
As such, we’ve been examining how this contributes to the gender gap in activity.
Our recent research found that one in five women (22%) worry about the risk or threat of sexual harassment in relation to doing physical activity and exercise. This rises to 38% of those aged 16-20 and over a third of women (35%) aged 21-3. And more than a quarter (28%) agree that they worry about ‘personal safety’ (excluding sexual harassment) – such as exercising outside in the dark.