Increasing gender diversity in sailing

Published on December 5th, 2019

The World Sailing Trust, a global charity to support the sailing community, has released its Strategic Review into Women in Sailing, a report that explores gender balance and makes a case for change to address disparities within the sport.

Announced on International Women’s Day 2019, the Strategic Review forms part of the Trust’s Access to Sailing work and focuses on increasing gender diversity across the sport.

The document provides insight from 4,500 respondents aged 11-83 from 75 nations with a variety of experience across the sport. Respondents’ backgrounds vary from dinghy and keelboat sailors with offshore and inshore experience to Member National Authorities, Class Associations, Race Officials, volunteers, and event organizers.

On the release of the review, Dee Caffari, Chair of the World Sailing Trust commented, “We understood anecdotally and through observation that there are fewer girls and women in sailing then boys and men. Discrimination existed but there was no fact-based evidence to support this claim.

“The 4,500 responses backed up our concerns and provided a deep, purpose-driven insight into the issues we currently face with gender diversity in sailing.

“The report does not look to replace male sailors with females or compare both sexes against each other. Nor is it for those looking to prove a point or talk about what should have been.

“If we want our sport to progress and move forwards then we need to consider 50% of the population otherwise we are going to be left behind. This is for all of us to take forwards into the future with a collaborative and cohesive approach to make the sport stronger.”

Of the 4,500 respondents, 80% of female and 56% of male respondents believed that gender balance is an issue in sailing. This belief intensified with age and is prominent globally. The key trends identified by the respondents include issues around a lack of female participation and support for women and girls as well as a poor perception about women in sailing, particularly racing.

Insightful experiences of discrimination were shared by respondents and it was found that 59% of females and 14% of males had experienced some form of discrimination within the sport. These ranged from isolation and harassment, being treated as less competent, not receiving the same opportunities and level of support as male sailors, and being stereotyped by gender.

Supported by Andrew Pindar OBE DL, the survey, run by Qualtrics and supported by SAP, was offered in five languages – English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Japanese. Alongside the 4,500 responses, nearly 40 one-on-one interviews were conducted to provide a deeper and richer insight into discrimination within sailing.

Furthermore, case studies from Badminton, Golf, Cycling, Rowing, Rugby League, Rugby Union and Football were explored.

Authored by Vicky Low, the report brings together all of the findings and is supplemented by discussions and interviews with numerous stakeholders within international sailing and sport. To address the disparities within sailing, the report also identifies nine recommendations to balance the playing field.

These recommendations include:
• Diversity and inclusion working group
• Gender Charter
• Equality policy
• Increasing participation and creating space for women to compete
• Gender equality for officials
• Gender design working group
• Female coaching programme
• Fast track leadership programme
• Women’s mentoring programme

Outlined in further detail within the report, these recommendations will be put forward to World Sailing, Member National Authorities, Class Associations, and the global sailing community.

“With 70 million global participants in sailing, we are committed to supporting women in sailing and achieving gender equity,” said Kim Andersen, President of World Sailing. “However, we know that the playing field isn’t as equal as it could be. We welcome the World Sailing Trust’s report and its recommendations and look forward to working with our partners across the sailing community to enhance female participation.”

For the full Women in Sailing Strategic Review… click here.

Alongside the report, the Trust has produced a Starter Toolkit (click here) designed to help clubs, associations and events to think about their gender diversity and how it might be improved.

For further information and queries, contact World Sailing Trust Head of Fundraising, Hannah Hoare.


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