Welcoming More Women to Sport

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Welcoming More Women to Sport

Stefan Grun is one of the key figures behind VicHealth’s This Girl Can campaign to grow women’s participation in sport. The program has been a huge success, and he will be outlining his approach in a detailed case study at the Women in Sport Summit in August.

During the lead-up and roll-out of the campaign Stefan learned a lot about women’s participation and the sporting industry as a whole, and we took the opportunity to pick his brain in an interview ahead of the summit.


Growing Participation

62% of women in Victoria say they want to become more physically active, but what’s holding them back? VicHealth research shows pretty clearly what the problem is:

  • Among Victorian women aged 25 and over, nearly half believe that sporting clubs are intimidating, and a third believe that sporting clubs are not welcoming to people like them.
  • VicHealth research shows a staggering 52% of Victorian women worry about being judged while exercising. Women worry about how they look, they worry about not being good enough and they worry about being judged for how they prioritise their time.

For Australian sporting organisations, sports marketers, and anyone trying to engage women and girls in sport and physical activity, the answer is that they need to rethink their approach. Women – particularly less active women who are disengaged with sport – are interested in more social, fun, supportive and welcoming activities and environments.

We also know that when women can identify with the people in the advertising, they are more likely to overcome the fear of judgment associated with being physically active. And that’s a key reason why our This Girl Can Victoria campaign has resonated so strongly. The campaign, which features real Victorian women instead of professional athletes or airbrushed Instagram models, inspired an incredible one in seven Victorian women to get moving.

The most important thing to keep in mind is the lack of confidence and fear of judgement that less active women can feel when they think about getting involved in physical activity. Sports and other providers can address this by creating an environment that is as welcoming as possible and tailoring their program or experience to suit.


Evolving the Sporting Industry

Females remain under-represented in sport – both on and off the field – in terms of media coverage, pay and prizemoney, and hold fewer media commentating roles in sport. These inequalities send a damaging message, not just to our female athletes but to all women and to our society as a whole.

Sport provides a valuable setting to change social norms, attitudes and culture and there’s such a powerful opportunity to create positive change. It’s critical to have women in leadership roles in sport to represent the interests of women and girls, and to contribute to the creation of more diverse and inclusive sporting environments for women and girls.

The Victorian State Government ‘Inquiry into Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation’ outlined a number of findings including that there is a substantial gap between the number of men and women in leadership positions across all Victorian sporting sectors.

VicHealth aims to increase the representation of women on the governing bodies of sporting organisations with which it partners. It first announced its position in January 2017: By 1 July 2019, selected sport and recreation organisations in receipt of VicHealth funding will be required to have a minimum 40% self-identified females on the governing body.


Stefan Grun is the Executive Manager – Marketing & Communications at the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth). He presents at the Women in Sport Summit on 6th August 2019.


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