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RS Sailing
Premier Way, Abbey Park
Romsey Hampshire SO51 9DQ
01794 526760

Inspire Inclusion for Women & Girls in Sailing

March 8, 2024

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘inspire inclusion‘. So, we thought we would share some of the initiatives created by The World Sailing Trust that you could use at your club to inspire inclusion and genuinely make a difference for women and girls in sailing.

Back in December 2019 The World Sailing Trust conducted an extensive review called ‘Project Women in Sailing‘ to make a case for change. The report is a couple of years old now but the messaging is still incredibly relevant today.

“We know anecdotally and through observation that there are fewer women and girls in sailing than men and boys, and that discrimination exists. To ensure that sailing is not left behind, the time is right, culturally and economically, to capitalise on the existing momentum and drive for greater inclusivity within the sport, at all levels” – Women in Sailing Strategic Review.

The project report is a really compelling read, and we highly recommend giving it some of your time if you are keen to create positive change within our sport. Here’s a short video if you don’t have time to tuck into the full report right now. Following the project, The World Sailing Trust suggested initiatives on how to create impact called the Starter Toolkit. The Starter Toolkit lays out 10 suggestions that you can use to implement change at your club, which will enhance gender diversity and increase participation by women and girls.

 

Here are the ten suggestions

 

1. Provide or seek mentors for female sailors in your clubs.

“Research shows that same sex role models positively influence self-perceptions. They challenge stereotypes about gender and leadership and offer diverse perspectives, insight and advice to their athletes. Gender diversity in role models is important because it challenges outdated gender stereotypes about women in leadership” – Dr Nicole la Voi, Co-Director of the Tucker Centre for Girls and Women in Sport (University of Minnesota)

Do you have role models already within your club that you could approach? Or do you need to campaign to empower some key people to come forward? From Race Officers, Coaches, Racers, Committee Members and volunteers, there’s a wealth of knowledge and experience that could be shared to inspire more women and girls onto the race course.

 

2. Introduce a female only regatta to provide dedicated opportunities for women to sail together.

“If you want to have a fundamental change of the outcome, you have to change the process fundamentally. We knew that W Series would be controversial because of course it is. Ultimately what it is, is positive discrimination – and there are always people that sit on the two sides of that debate” – Catherine Bond Muir CEO W Series

Could your club create a day or weekend regatta exclusively for women and girls? Could it be supported by a women led race committee and female race coaches? Could you choose a date and time of year that puts the least amount of barriers for women and girls to get out on the water?

 

3. Introduce a mixed gender regatta where females helm and represent over 50% of the crew.

A softer take on the recommendation above, but it could be a good and more attainable starting point to then work towards a female only regatta.

 

4. Mandate races that must be helmed and/or crewed by women.

Much like the recommendation above, could you add an event like this to your event calendar for 2024?

 

5. Mandate mixed crews in regattas / amending the rules to encourage higher female participation rates, or create new mixed events.

Could you add an event like this to your event calendar for 2024?

 

6. Run training programmes for women to become race officers, and provide them with learning opportunities on races.

“Women race officers should have a verbal leading role during races. I’ve been on race committees where only men were given the privilege of verbally saying countdown or announcing the finishers and the finisher time. More female race officers, more female judges, more female sailing coaches and committee chairs”. 74 year old female, Women in Sailing Strategic Review

Is there an experienced Race Officer at your club who could empower more women to get involved in race management? Check out this video by the RYA, presented by Patricia Ordsmith, on how to encourage more female engagement in race officiating. It’s packed full of great facts and ideas to inspire you. There’s also a Race Officials Development page on the RYA website that has a boatload of resources for you to get stuck into.

 

7. Run training programmes for women to become coaches, and provide them with learning opportunities in training.

“Increasing the number of female coaches will support a number of positive impacts: female coaches provide leadership and inspiration for young female sailors, they bring additional skills and styles to coaching, and will develop career longevity for female sailors post-racing”. – Women in Sailing Strategic Review

Are there any existing female coaches at your club you could ask to drive this? If not, are there any up and coming sailors or existing coaches that would be a good fit? From shadowing a few coaching sessions to heading off to gain their RYA Level 2 Race Coach qualification, there are so many opportunities to get women and girls involved in coaching. The RYA website is packed full of information, from how to become a coach to how to improve your coaching. Could the club offer free in-house training or subsidise the cost of an external course?

 

8. Actively encourage more women into senior leadership roles

Lack of female role models and women in positions of leadership is substantially impacting female participation in sailing. Improving women’s representation within the sport’s governance will raise women’s voices at decision-making tables and encourage better consideration of women’s needs, their ambitions and the barriers they face. How can you help this? By recruiting specifically for women on committees or boards, creating mentors for women who could lead in the future, and sharing the experiences of women in those roles.

“2 years ago I tried to submit a motion to the club I sail at – for the club’s Board to reach 30% female representation by 2020. I instead became the least liked person of the club”. 31 year old, female, Women in Sailing Strategic Review.

 

9. Increase the promotion of female sailors

How can you do this? You can do this by highlighting female role models! For example through your clubs social channels, email newsletters, website, magazines, guest speakers at dinners, and in photographic and graphic work around the club.

“I want to see better representation of badass women in the media. I want to see women wearing foulies, drenched, and tired, taking on sailing feats that most people can only dream of. I want to see representation for women of color, who often find the sailing world even more isolating and discriminatory than white women do. I want everyone to be able to pick up a sailing magazine and read about heroines, not just the same heroes we’ve been talking about for decades”. 24 year old female, Women in Sailing Strategic Review.

 

10. Support women’s social events, talks and knowledge transfer to create clear space for women to participate and build networks.

All the initiatives above need support from club committees to make them happen, from resources, time, spaces and access to communication channels. There are many barriers for women and girls in sport, self-belief, capability and body image concerns to name just a few, so creating a postiive female community within your club will curb disengagement, especially for teenage girls. More importantly, it will build a stronger community moving forward that will grow year on year.

 

Feeling inspired?

The World Sailing Trust suggest that for the best results, a champion and/or a committee should be identified to make sure this work is taken forward. It’s time for change, lets inspire inclusion!

 

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