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A British Canoeing initiative which aims to increase the number of women and girls involved in the paddling community

Sport England have reported that there are 2 million fewer women than men regularly participating in sport and exercise.

The opportunity for sporting bodies such as the paddling community, to involve these women is massive. 13 million women said they would like to increase their participation in sport and physical activity, including 6 million women who are not currently active.

Something is stopping them from getting involved. The This Girl Can 2020 survey highlights the key and well established barriers to women participation which fall into three main areas:

Fears around appearance - For example, being sweaty and having a red face; wearing tight, wrong or sports clothing; changing in front of others; how their body looks during exercise; developing too many muscles and not appearing feminine.

Fears on their ability - For example, not being physically fit enough, not being ‘good’ enough therefore holding up the group, not knowing the rules or how to use equipment properly or bringing the wrong equipment; either not competitive enough or being seen as overly competitive.

Fears on what women’s priorities should be - Societal pressure that reinforces women should be prioritising the following things over participating in sport or physical activity, e.g. spending time with friends and family; studying or working, and spending time on other things I should be doing.

She Paddles Club Champion 1

How does this relate in the paddling community?

Results from the British Canoeing Inclusion Survey 2021 indicated that, although not all women felt the same, there were four common barriers identified from respondents:

  • Lack of role models
  • Under representation in the coaching workforce which can put some paddlers off
  • Fear of rejection or exclusion (particularly for those who are trans or non-binary)
  • Feeling uncomfortable or struggling to find a suitable kit which fits a range of body sizes and shapes, and isn't always based on men’s sizing or fits

Our women membership continues to grow, with a rise of 5.5%, bringing our total membership figure to 37.8%. The number of women in leadership roles continues to increase with women making up 26% of British Canoeing’s qualified coaches and leaders.

This highlights the successes of the paddlesport community and the combined efforts of club members, many of which have been involved in the #ShePaddles programme and others inspired by the #ShePaddles Ambassadors spreading the love in the Women's Paddling Community Facebook Group.

However, we still have a long way to go…

The #ShePaddles movement is on a mission to continue to close the gap between men and women and girls participation in the paddlesport community by taking a targeted approach in reducing barriers and creating more appealing paddling opportunities for women.

This programmes aims to:

  • Improve the overall diversity of paddling by growing women and ethnically diverse membership in clubs and organisations in England
  • Increase the number of qualified women coaches and leaders in England
  • To award successful clubs with #ShePaddles Champion Club status
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What does #ShePaddles consist of?

#ShePaddles started small but it's growing year on year:

#ShePaddles Ambassadors - Each year we choose ten inspirational women who share their love of paddlesport via social media and on the ground. You can learn more about our #ShePaddles Ambassadors here.

Facebook Women's Paddling Community - This awesome group connects over 7,000 women who are sharing and supporting their paddling ideas and ambitions, make new friends, meet up, swap advice and stories and discuss paddling in general. Join the group here.

#ShePaddles Champion Clubs - This programme aims to improve the opportunities for women and girls in the paddling community across our clubs within England by supporting them to achieve on the water qualifications and improving the provision for others in their club or community. Learn more here.

Broadway Meadow On The Water

​Useful documents:

  • Women in Sport have provided substantial research on women and girls' engagement in physical activity. Click here to see their website.
  • Insight on engaging women and girls in sport and exercise -Sport England produced this guidance document that provides both insight and practical advice on how to engage women and girls in physical activity. You can download it here.
  • This Girl Can campaign - This provides you with an overview of the recent study into barriers for women and girls in sport and exercise, and how the campaign had a positive impact on women and girls' participation in physical exercise. You can download it here.
  • Engaging Women in Paddlesport - This document was produced to provide guidance to clubs, centres and other organisations that want to gain and retain more female members/participants. You can download it here.

Further Information
If you would like any further information or advice about #ShePaddles and how you can get involved please contact [email protected]

We have a #ShePaddles clothing range in our online store. Check it out and grab your gear here.

#ShePaddles news