International Women's Day is being celebrated today as hundreds of events are taking place across the country to mark the economic, political, social and sporting achievements of women. 2011 marks the 100th Anniversary of IWD and sporting achievement by women and access to sporting opportunities for women are just two of the themes explored by IWD conferences and events.
There is currently a gap between the levels of sports participation of men and women, with women’s participation in sport less than that of men. Only 13% of women take part in 30 minutes of sport three times a week compared to 20% for men.
Sport England data also shows that 30% of women take part in sport once a week whilst 37% do sport once a month. Many would like to participate more but face barriers in becoming more active. British Cycling aims to help close the ‘cycling gap’ with a number of initiatives.
In May, British Cycling will launch a network of local bike rides for women. It will make it easier for more women to get out on a casual group bike ride. The new network of women-only rides is all about bike riding for fun, in small sociable groups, on local, accessible routes. Local ride champions will help other women to enjoy the fun, fresh air and freedom offered by bikes rides. Support from Sport England’s Active Women fund is making this unique network possible. The first courses are in April.
Supported by Sky, British Cycling's Cycletta offers the opportunity for women to take part in a women-only ‘sportive’ – an event on closed roads. These first two events will combine a sportive with female focused entertainment and support including post-event massages. Cycletta North is in Cheshire on 26 June. Cycletta South is in London on 11 September.
British Cycling is committed to growing the number of female coaches, trainers and leaders at all levels. A recent call for women to train as ride leader tutors was oversubscribed.
British Cycling works closely with the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation and supports their work to encourage, enable and celebrate active women and girls. Partners include local authorities, health bodies, cycling clubs and groups and leading charities.
British Cycling’s Go-Ride initiative provides cycling opportunities for under-16s and is popular with girls and boys.
At the elite end of the sport, British women are the best in the world.
British Cycling’s Director of Recreation and Partnerships, Stewart Kellett said: "Almost three times as many men as women take part in regular recreational cycling and this gap is getting larger as male participation continues to increase. With the resources British Cycling has at our disposal and our track record of delivering successful recreational programmes such as Sky Ride we are more than hopeful that these initiatives will make a big difference to the ‘cycling gap’.
"We have a great understanding of what works, how to respond to customers, and how to help get new women into bike riding."