Girls sport has come a long way in recent years, but research still shows that girls begin to doubt their sporting ability from as young as 7. And perhaps it's no wonder, with all the messages they are still receiving from the outside world about who they are and what they are capable of. We work to give another side to the story for girls and women - one where they are free to make their own decisions about their physical activity, without the stereotypes they might otherwise be facing. This starts with the messages they receive and take on board - some of which we might even be sending through our own language or behaviour. Here are some of the more surprising facts about women's sport we are working to change...
Boys are more physically active than girls
Gender has a huge influence on involvement in sport. Sport England's Active People data shows that 1.55 million more boys and men in the UK are physically active at least once per week than girls and women. If girls don't see other sporty girls and women they may begin to feel that sport is not something that is "girly" or for them. This type of self judgement isn't just something that girls do - according to This Girl Can research 75% of women want to be more more physically active but most give "fear of judgement" as the number 1 reason they don't do more sport. We need to show the women and girls in our own lives that they can be who they want to be and that judgement for being physically active is unacceptable.
We have less female coaches in many sports then male coaches
In 2015 Team GB took 39 coaches to the Athletics World Championships. Only 2 of those were female - so is coaching more for boys and men than it is for women? And do children see the same stereotypes in the coaches and trainers they engage with.
Only 33% of leadership positions in Sport England Funded Sports NGB Boards are held by women. Although there has been significant progress since 2009, when only 20% of leadership positions were held by women, this is still not enough if we are to encourage more girls to continue being physically active and feel that sport is something that can be for them.
We see more media coverage of men's sport than we do of women's sport
Women In Sport figures for media coverage put women's sport at 7% of all sports media coverage in the UK, with just over 10% of televised sports coverage dedicated to women, and even less national newspaper (2%), radio (5%) and online (4%) sports coverage. You can't be what you can't see - and if girls don't have female role models - both in the media and in real life - it can be difficult to see their own physically active futures.
UK investment in women's sport is far less than in men's
Between September 2011 and December 2013, Women In Sport data showed that women's sport received just 0.4% of reported UK sponsorship deals in sport. In 2013 the highest figure for a men's sport deal recorded in the World Sponsorship Monitor was £280m for Adidas and Chelsea Football Club. In the same year, the highest figure for a women's sport deal was between Continental and the FA Women's Superleage. This totalled £450,000, or 1.6% of the highest men's sport deal.
If girls and women are ever going to feel like there is a level playing field for them to be who they are, there is no better place to start than physical activity. And what better place to start than running?
Why use running as the tool?
The benefits of running are massive. As well as being linked to prevention of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and cancer, running can create huge improvements in our emotional and mental wellbeing. Here are a few of our favourite awesome benefits of running;
It adds years to our lives
Running for 1-2.5 hours a week has been shown to add around 6 years to average life expectancy. Running for just a few minutes a day has even been credited with lowering levels of cardiovascular disease, in a 2013 study in the American College of Cardiologists - so it's no good claiming that we don’t have time for a run!
It makes us happier
...and not just because of the endorphins (who doesn’t love some happy hormones?!) linked to exercise. A 2006 study published in Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise found that just 30 walking minutes on the treadmill could lift the mood of someone suffering depression. A 2013 study in the same journal concluded that physical activity was an effective alternative to standard depression treatments. Moderate exercise was shown in a 2012 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health to boost sleep quality, mood and concentration during the day. What’s not to love?
It keeps us switched on
A 2012 study in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review found that regular exercise helps beat age related mental decline, highlighting functions such as selective attention, task switching and working memory. Attention, concentration, planning and organising are all improved through regular exercise.
It reduces our cancer risk
A review in the Journal of Nutrition showed that regular exercise is associated with a lower risk of certain types of cancer. In those undergoing chemotherapy it has also been said to improve quality of life.
It’s great for weight loss
Any exercise is great for losing weight, but running is particularly good for those wanting to tone up and get fit. Regular exercise boosts the “afterburn” effect of calorie burning too – so the more intensity in your run, the better ongoing increased calorie burn you get – its win-win!