Barriers to entry for Women & Girls in sport: Part III

In my previous blog I focused on strategies and ideas that can be implemented in sports organizations, clubs and schools across different continents that may help to increase the participation of girls in sports in your community. Here I will focus specifically on how to increase participation of women in sports, in different contexts around the world.

Coaching programmes:

  • Ensure that women are encouraged and have the opportunity to undertake leadership positions within the organisation, including in coaching, officiating, and committee membership
  • Provide good technical instruction
  • Establish a positive group atmosphere
  • Use positive, encouraging, and instructive feedback
  • Ensure that the training and competition needs of elite female athletes are identified and addressed
  • Promote beginner and intermediate activities for girls and women as fun, open and non-competitive.
  • Organise mother and daughter sessions to help create a familial culture of support for sport.
  • Women and girls are more open to ideas about ‘health’ and ‘well-being’ than sport. Combine physical activity with health promotion; offer guest speakers on active lifestyles, nutrition, body image, smoking etc.
  • Give women a strong voice in programmes and maintain a flexible approach to participation to ensure their needs are heard and met


  • Close and secure parking, appropriate internal and external lighting, security guard if needed, panic button within reach
  • Exercising in groups can make physical activity safer for women and girls.
  • Ensure that community sport facilities are related to safe pedestrian networks, cycling and public transport routes and taxi ranks


  • Change facilities that take into account women’s and girls’ hygiene needs, and the needs of women and girls with disabilities (such as mobility, physical access, parking and access to information)
  • Ensure that all areas are accessible to parents with prams and to people in wheelchairs; and that there are baby-changing facilities
  • The provision of childcare and a child-friendly approach so that women can bring their children with them to the venue
  • Provide crèche facilities and/or provide classes for toddlers and children, either with or separate from their parents, so that the adults can bring their children along when they go to exercise. For example, parents and baby aerobic classes could incorporate exercise like lunges with pushchairs, encouraging participants to see how they can incorporate physical activity into their daily lives.
  • Specify exercise machines that are a suitable size for women, including appropriate increments on weight stacks


Western fashions promote increasingly revealing clothes for women and girls, whereas social norms in some cultures prohibit exposure of the female body. For example, some Muslim girls and women practise Islamic law which prevents them appearing in front of men dressed in inappropriate attire.

Women playing netball

  • Encourage staff and coaches to wear casual, loose-fitting sports clothes
  • If sports gear or clothing is inappropriate within a certain cultural context, then clothes can be designed that still respects traditions but allows women to play. Encourage women to design and choose their own sports clothing
  • Shower and changing facilities that cater for the privacy needs of women and girls
  • Different training times for men and women. For example, at the swimming pool where some cultures prohibit the exposure of the female body
  • Different areas in the gym for men and women. For example, a separate weight training section for women

Price / Affordability:

  • Subsidies for women’s activities can make them more affordable. If subsidies cannot be sustained, consider offering them at the start of a new project or activity, and then gradually introduce fees
  • Provide the first session of a course free, to offer a taster before participants commit themselves
  • Workplace gyms and/or gym membership can be tax deductible benefits provided by employers to keep their workforce healthy and active. Making physical activity a part of the working day can help address the lack of time so many women experience. For example, lunchtime walking, running or exercise groups, supported by the employer, can help staff to fit physical activity into a busy working day.
  • Promote physical activity, which doesn’t require transport, such as walking and running. Walking groups and running groups can support women to take part in low cost, low tech, easily accessible physical activity in a friendly, supportive group which can be tailored for different groups, such as young mothers (with or without their children), women in isolated areas etc.


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