Our Participation Officer, Steph was invited to attend the ‘This Girl Can’ launch event at the EIS in Sheffield on 28th February. Following a very informative and empowering session including meeting lots of key stakeholders, active partnerships and school sports co-ordinators, Steph is ready to help close the ‘enjoyment gap’ across Snowsport England’s clubs and facilities.

In 2015 This Girl Can changed the game. We encouraged, inspired, and empowered 2.9 million phenomenal women to get active in all their sweaty, jiggly glory. Everyday women with relatable bodies gave judgement the finger and got moving in ways that worked for them.

We continued celebrating these women during lockdown, helping them stay active. We challenged preconceptions of what getting active looks like. We tackled taboos around periods, menopause, motherhood, and disability.

But there’s more to do.

Research shows that the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have had a disproportionate impact on women. Meaning they have less to spend on weekly budgets and less time to spend on themselves. As a result, their activity levels have fallen and show little sign of recovery. Given this challenging environment, how can we focus our efforts?

Our research shows 2.4 million more men than women strongly agree that they enjoy sport and physical activity. That’s 2.4 million women missing out on the opportunity to relieve stress, build connections and improve self-esteem. To feel just a little more badass. We call this the enjoyment gap.

Enjoyment is the biggest driver in engaging people in sport and activity, that’s why together, this is a gap we need to close.

Enjoyment doesn’t just mean making activity fun. It means making it enjoyable in all its windbreaking, quietly chuffed, belly laughing, sweaty pits, thank God that’s over, life-affirming splendour. It means not having to worry about intimidation. It means a catch up with friends, with a work-out on the side. It means feeling accepted for who you are. It means no woman left behind.

We will always support women fighting the fear of judgement, tackling worries about how they look, not feeling good enough or guilty that they should be spending the time on other priorities.

And now it’s time to take a stand against the enjoyment gap too. The gap is not inevitable. With your help, it’s fixable. Working together, we can smash new barriers by challenging the practical and structural obstacles that make activity feel less welcoming for women. Together, we can reshape women’s experience of activity and help them feel like they belong.

So where do we start? With women of course.

Through countless conversations, zoom calls and heart to hearts with women and girls from across the country, we heard a myriad of concerns, ideas and solutions. Stories of a football club who made it their mission to create space for the minority to be the majority. A gym who rebuilt a woman’s confidence by supporting her journey back into exercise. A group who uses fencing as a platform to challenge gender, racial and religious preconceptions.

With you, we can tell more stories like these. By managing first-time nerves, considering where activities are held, remembering how it feels to be an outsider and directly tackling harassment, we can reshape how women experience activity.

We’ve identified four action areas where people like you – the people who make sport and physical activity happen – can help shrink that enjoyment gap once and for all.

  • Social: Having a support network or feeling part of a bigger community is integral to making activity enjoyable whether you’re exercising alone or with others. Even if it’s a catch up with friends, with a workout on the side.
  • Suitable: Designing your offering to cater to your communities’ specific needs. Considering their cultural and practical requirements, as well as ensuring timings are considerate of their competing priorities. You can power up enjoyment by making it feel possible for them.
  • Self-Affirming: Creating an environment where members feel confident and comfortable in their own skin regardless of shape, size or ability. Boosting enjoyment by empowering them to show up unapologetically as themselves and find their tribe.
  • Safe: Creating spaces where women feel emotionally and physically safe, free from harassment and intimidation. Because when they’re free from worry, they’re free to enjoy activity.

No one knows your organisation – your team, your members, your neighbours, your community – better than you. And you can all play a part in closing the enjoyment gap and transforming the lives of women, now and across future generations.

With you, we will reshape women’s experiences to welcome all women with open arms. With you, we will challenge one another to act on women’s needs. With you, we will change so that no woman is left behind. With you, we can make a real difference to how women experience activity.

So, let’s do this. There are thousands of phenomenal women out there who need you right now.

With you, This Girl Can.

If you would like to tell us about your success stories with closing the ‘enjoyment gap’ at your club/ facility or to get support with this, please contact steph@snowsportengland.org.uk.