Addressing inequality in sport and the workplace

From 3% to 30%, how we’re increasing female engagement at Street League

Football is the most popular sport in the UK, with the FA reporting 14.1 million people playing. While 3.4 million are women, men still dominate the figures and keep up the perception of football being a ‘male sport’*.

Inequality isn’t only found on the pitch and as a sports and employability charity, we want to play a role in challenging inequality in both sport and in the workplace.

This year's theme for International Women's Day is #ChooseToChallenge calling for us to be alert, collectively challenge gender bias and inequality and celebrate female achievements. 

It hasn’t always been easy for us to reach girls in the communities where we work. Until 2014 our participants were 97% male with only 3% female. Since then, we’ve taken steps to make our programmes more inclusive.

Researching change

Making changes requires research. We started by speaking to hundreds of girls in our communities and worked alongside local organisations who already were working with woman and girls. 

We knew this change couldn’t be done alone and it was thanks to local collaborations and funding from Sport England, Barclays, Robertson Trust and Standard Chartered Bank that we were able to turn our research into a reality. 

Our first step was to introduce a wider range of sports and fitness activities and build relationships with employers and organisations who championed gender equality as a priority. We then identified that it was vital that all our academies were places girls felt comfortable. This led us to re-evaluate our venue choices, redesign our sports kits and make period products available at all academies.

#ChooseToChallenge

It’s not just turning a logo pink. 

Lindsey MacDonald

Managing Director, Street League

Street League operates a co-managing director model with Lindsey Macdonald working alongside Dougie Stevenson. She said: Tackling inequality is at the heart of what Street League does and why we wanted to increase the number of young women we engaged and supported by our programmes.”

“It has been a journey, with hundreds of young women’s voices guiding us to look at every aspect of our programmes and the organisation – it’s not just turning a logo pink. Each year we have challenged ourselves to become more inclusive, ensuring we are not just reaching more young women but that we are just as successful in supporting them into work.”

I am extremely proud of the efforts we have made to ensure balance is closer than ever.

Cheryl Jenkins

- Operations Manager, Dundee & Angus

We are proud that across the 12 regions where we work, our average participation has risen from 3% in 2014 to 30% in 2021. 

Cheryl Jenkins, Operations Manager in Dundee and Angus said: Street League has made a conscious effort in recent years to increase female participation within our delivery services. The traditional ‘football’ sports delivery has been enhanced with a more inclusive multi sports offering and we have worked hard to ensure we are working with groups of young women who are most in need of our support within our areas.”

“Further work is required to ensure this percentage increases, but I am extremely proud of the efforts we have made to ensure balance is closer than ever.”

Your gender shouldn’t mean you’re less likely to take part in sport, gain qualifications, or move into secure employment.

Lindsey MacDonald

Managing Director, Street League

Increasing female participation over the next five years

Tackling inequality is a key part of Street League’s five-year Business Plan which will be published in April. Current targets are for 30% female participation, the new Business Plan calls for 50% across our schools, employability services and apprenticeships.

Lindsey Macdonald said: “Your gender shouldn’t mean you’re less likely to take part in sport, gain qualifications, or move into secure employment. That’s why we have set ourselves the target of achieving 50% female participation (and progression) by 2026.”

This will see Street League engaging with more than 5,800 young women over the next five years. We’ve also committed to establishing transparency of our pay scale, signed the Show the Salary pledge, and will be using a new HR system to readily identify and help us address gender and ethnicity pay gaps.

Boosting confidence among girls at school

As well as increasing female participation at our academies, our partnership with Standard Chartered Bank took us into schools in London and Liverpool to deliver their flagship female empowerment programme ‘Goal’. The programme creates a safe space for girls to learn and grow in confidence.

If I never started Goal programme, I wouldn’t have gained the opportunities and skills I have now. Holly helped me have the confidence that I didn’t have before.

Briony

- Goal Participant, Liverpool

Since the Goal programme started in schools in September 2019, we have supported more than 190 girls. Briony is one of them. Similar to many of us, she’s struggled with her confidence. Wanting to overcome her social anxiety and tackle her nerves she joined the programme in Liverpool. As part of the programme her and a few other girls took on a half time challenge at the Liverpool derby. With 54,000 people watching there was nowhere to hide. Holly Clarke, who delivers the programme, said it took a lot of courage for Briony to take part but that the impact on her confidence was immediate with being more vocal and confident in sessions the following week.

Briony said: “If I never started Goal programme, I wouldn’t have gained the opportunities and skills I have now. Holly helped me have the confidence that I didn’t have before”.

By making new friends, the girls have had a triumphant development which results in them having power with their personalities and using this to help them in the future.

Holly Clarke

- Project Coordinator, North West

Speaking about the programme, Holly said: “The girls that have been a part of the Goal programme have experienced a journey of growth. The growth of their personal skills and qualities to support them and their families economically.”

“The girls said that sessions supported them in building communication skills, confidence and empowerment. By making new friends, the girls have had a triumphant development which results in them having power with their personalities and using this to help them in the future.”

It’s not only the girls who have grown in confidence through taking part in the programme, it’s helped Holly too: “I was keen to be a part of the programme but actually being on board has been fantastic, I have loved being a role model to these girls as it has provided me with increased confidence and self-esteem!”

With a gender balanced leadership team, increased numbers of female outreach staff and a commitment to addressing the gender pay gap, Street League will continue to lead by example while pushing for equality in sport and in the workplace.

First step - let’s reach that 50% target!

*Source: FA Strategy

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