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ukactive, Sport England and CIMSPA have today announced an investment from Sport England of nearly £500,000 for the award-winning This Girl Can campaign to provide resources and training to help leisure and fitness facilities ensure their spaces are safe and inclusive for all women.

Announced by ukactive’s Head of Consumer Engagement, Hattie Jones, at today’s Active Uprising conference in Birmingham, the project will see the sector joining forces on this key issue, with Sport England, ukactive and CIMSPA working to develop and provide tools and support.

This will enable women to feel assured and confident in the facilities they visit, and leisure sector workforce members to feel equipped to support women and prioritise their inclusion and safety,

Research has found that many women cite personal safety concerns as one of the reasons they may be reluctant to be active in gyms and leisure centres, with two thirds of women who had attended a facility saying they had taken some measure to protect themselves from sexual harassment in a fitness or leisure centre. By improving feelings of safety and inclusion, This Girl Can, ukactive and CIMSPA hope to increase participation of women in leisure settings more broadly and therefore continue working towards closing the persistent gender gap in activity levels.

As part of the project, funding will contribute to:

  • Partnering with safeguarding organisations and experts from both inside and outside the sector to bring on board their expertise
  • Developing tools, training and best practice guidance to upskill the workforce on how to deal with issues relating to personal safety as well as providing the support to enable staff to also feel safer and more confident themselves
  • The creation of sector-wide opportunities for leisure facilities to deliver, with a core focus on supporting women to use weights areas within facilities and reduce feelings of intimidation.

This work to deliver safer and more inclusive services follows last November’s joint publication of This Girl Can and ukactive’s guide to help fitness and leisure operators appeal to more women. Research shows that women are less likely to engage with sport and physical activity and the gender activity gap persists.

The ‘How to improve your services for women and girls: As told by the 51%’ guidance was based on extensive research and insight. This highlighted that many women cited personal safety concerns as one of the reasons they might be reluctant to be active in gyms and leisure centres. The guide has been downloaded more than 1,500 times by organisations within the fitness and leisure sector, with operators and providers already beginning to implement recommendations to help tackle this area of concern for women.

Ali Donnelly, Executive Director of Digital, Marketing & Communications at Sport England, said: “Safety and harassment fears often stop women from getting active, and these fears can undermine confidence to the point that many women are reluctant to use gyms and leisure centres.

“Through This Girl Can we have learned a huge amount about how to help our partners make their facilities and spaces safe and welcoming for women, and this investment will provide significant support to the leisure and fitness sector to make improvements.”

Steve Scales, Director of Membership and Sector Development for ukactive, said: “It is great to secure this additional investment into the fitness and leisure sector, to enable us to further support operators and providers with these very real concerns women have when entering facilities.

“The work of this project will not only positively impact women and girls visiting facilities, but others too, as we continue to grow and draw people from more diverse backgrounds – becoming a fully inclusive environment for everyone to feel safe, empowered and comfortable while enjoying the benefits of being active.”

Tara Dillon, CEO for CIMSPA, said: “It’s crucial that, as a sector, we do everything we can to make sure gyms and leisure facilities are safe, welcoming and inclusive spaces for all women. This starts with training and education for the workforce; helping them to prevent, identify and deal with any instances of harassment. We are proud to be working on this important initiative alongside our partners at Sport England, This Girl Can and ukactive.”