In this issue we focus on women in sport, with a cover celebrating the amazing Jo Pavey and her inspiring gold medal performance in the 10,000m at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich. She powered to the title aged 40 –the oldest competitor ever to win in Europe – and only a year after giving birth to her second child. It was lump in the throat stuff.
Athletes like Pavey show what incredible feats women are capable of and are a huge inspiration at a time when girls and women around the world are increasingly being threatened with loss of life and liberty and denied the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
We kick off our special coverage on page 44 with a report from Sports Management's Tom Walker on the International Working Group on Women and Sport (IWG) World Conference, which took place in Helsinki recently.
This four-yearly event brings together thought leaders to share best practice. A quick look at its five sub-themes gives insights into its purpose and the challenges facing the sports community if we are to successfully break down gender barriers. They are: increasing girls’ participation in sport; leading the change in sport policy; enhancing female leadership and coaching; women’s physical activity and wellbeing; and promoting sport as a safe haven and bastion of human rights.
The IWG is working to empower women to get involved at every level – from taking part in community sport to training for elite events and encouraging more women sports leaders.
At the conference, Johanna Adriaanse, IWC co-chair said, “Globally, women’s sport is a very important tool for developing nations. It can empower women not only in physical activity and sport, but also as a vehicle for other sectors of life.’’ Much has been achieved, but there’s still a great deal more work to be done.
There are few greater ways for women to celebrate freedom and self-determination than through sport and it’s incumbent on all of us to offer girls and women these opportunities.
Yet wee still falling short in fundamental areas: according to the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation’s (WSFF) report, Changing the Game for Girls, 51 per cent of girls in the UK are deterred from exercise by their unsatisfactory experiences of school sport.
And the report found it’s not just the overall standard of PE that’s discouraging them, it’s the lack of choice: 46 per cent of inactive girls gave up on sport because they didn’t enjoy those on offer at school. WSFF says: "Those girls who have been let down by school sport grow into young adults who see little value in taking part.’’
So the challenge is clearly laid out. The social and health benefits of involving girls in sports which engage them – which they want to do, not what someone else thinks they should do – is hugely positive and we must work together to find effective ways to make it happen.
Part of the solution is opening our minds to what works and what really engages girls and women and then being prepared to change and adapt. On page 52 we look into the growth of parkour (or freerunning) and discover that up to 25 per cent of participants are female – something few people will be aware of, as this is largely seen as a male-only sport.
Sport and the confidence and empowerment it brings, is one of the best ways to support women and girls in their battle for equality around the world, and now is the time to act.