Barriers Women Face in Terms of Participation Whilst Reflecting on an Initiative

Barriers Women Face in Terms of Participation Whilst Reflecting on an Initiative Essay Sample

In the first part of this assignment there will be a heavy focus on social exclusion and the journey which the topic has travelled, moreover the development of poverty leading to eventual social exclusion. Once this has been defined and discussed, the next section will then go onto look at a particular topic, in this case women in football. It will look at their barriers to participation and difficulties they have encountered in terms of exclusion as well as reflecting on how they are trying to combat it. This will be done by looking at a case study, an initiative which has been set up to try and help make the term ‘social exclusion’ redundant for women who wish to play football and were previously unable to due to the barriers which will be discussed later. Once the case study has been explained, there will be an evaluation of the particular initiative stating how it could be improved and maybe how other initiatives could be set up to achieve the same ambition.

It is essential to firstly introduce the commonly used term social exclusion by defining it. In complex terms, Madanipour et al. (1998) describe social exclusion as ‘a multi-dimensional process, in which various forms of exclusion are combined: participation in decision making and political process, access to employment and material resources, and integration into common cultural processes. When combined, they create acute forms of exclusion that find a spatial manifestation in particular neighbourhoods.’ This for most people is a definition which is far too intricate, the idea of social exclusion is under the surface a difficult term to define however most individuals understand the term to an extent. Roche and Annesley (1998) assist here by providing a much clearer statement, ‘exclusion is seen as a consequence of unemployment and low income.’

The Social Inclusion Unit which was set up in 1997 by Tony Blair to ultimately combat social exclusion, stated that social exclusion ‘happens when people or places suffer from a series of problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime, poor health and family breakdown.’

As suggested previously by Roche and Annesley (1998), as well as being mentioned in the opening paragraph there is an emphasis on poverty when discussing social exclusion, however Walker and Walker (1997) believe it is important to distinguish the idea of social exclusion from the notion of poverty. They state that ‘…we have retained the distinction regarding poverty is a lack of the material resources, especially income, necessary to participate in British society and social exclusion as a more comprehensive formulation which refers to the dynamic process of being shut out, fully or partially, from any of the social, economic, political or cultural systems which determine the social integration of a person in society. Social inclusion may therefore be seen as the denial (or non realisation) of the civil, political and social rights of citizenship’.

Poverty however seems to be a term which is being made redundant, moreover, when poverty is mentioned in society these days it usually conjures up images of deprived countries in Africa or parts of Asia. The European Commission (1994) reinforce this attitude that poverty is a diminishing term, ‘the concept of social exclusion is taking over from poverty, which is more static…and seen far more often as exclusively monetary poverty…Social exclusion does not only mean insufficient income and it even goes beyond participation in working life.’

In todays society, social exclusion can affect many different types or groups of people, and without certain initiatives, people in these groups can be unfairly prevented from participating in the sport which they want to. For instance, these ‘groups’ which have been mentioned can be;

* Disabled individuals/individuals with long term health problems – who don’t have access to certain facilities

* Individuals with low income or unemployed or homeless – may not be able to afford certain facilities

* Older individuals

* Individuals of different religions

Barriers to participation

There are many barriers that exist for individuals in their participation in sport. A barrier in sport is something that for some reason or another prevents a person from taking part. These can be physical factors, psychological factors, financial factors, environmental factors or lack of local opportunities. In relevance to my topic, women have many barriers to overcome, and there are many initiatives set up, one of which I will discuss shortly, which have been set up to overcome these barriers.


Football is traditionally seen as a males game, however over recent decades the women’s game, after being taken over by the F.A in 1993, has gone from being non existent to having television coverage and creating role models such as Mia Hann (US female football star). Although its increased popularity, football for women still has negative stereotypes and a common opinion is that female footballers are seen as unfeminine. There is also a lack in opportunity for girls or women who want to play football.


Women as young as 7 years old begin to show negative attitudes towards sport (Sport England 2002). Once a majority of females reach a certain age, they lose more interest in the sports which they maybe would’ve played when they were younger. It is interesting that 40% of girls drop out of sport by the time they are 18 years old (

Attitudes about ethnicity and women

Attitudes to women and girls’ bodies differ in different cultures and religions. For instance, some religions, such a Muslim makes women wear traditional dress, which prevents them from wearing practical clothing for playing football.

Self confidence

A majority of women are reluctant to play football or compete in physical activity due to either the way they look when they are playing or their lack of confidence. From personal experience truancy from physical education lessons is much higher in females compared to men, maybe due to the fact that most females see sport or football as a male’s forte. Research has shown that women are paranoid or self conscious about their bodies and the idea of wearing small sports uniforms can put them off. This is ironic as physical activity has a positive effect on their bodies.

Lack of role model/media representation

As mentioned earlier, there are not many role models in women’s football. When the World Cup was being held in America (1999), there was quite extensive coverage of the matches and the most popular player which came out of it was Mia Hann, who for a short while became a household name. In England however, the more well known players, such as, are hardly household names compared to those in the male’s game. There is a definite under representation of women in football however this is gradually changing due to individual or groups such as the Women’s foundation.

Sexual orientation

It is a common opinion that women who play sports such as rugby, hockey or football are seen as lesbians. This has originated from the fact that these types of sports are seen as male dominated sports and women who play them are seen as unfeminine. Homophobia is quite common in society, so therefore women who play football keep their sexual orientation quiet. Although these days more females are playing sport, many individuals and even many parents try to avoid their daughters from playing sport as it is seen as unfeminine.


Women, who can afford childcare in the first place, cite the lack of child care a problem and a barrier to participating in sport. Infact, a recent Sport England study (2002) proved that women are four times as likely to mention this as a problem than men.


Women tend to have less income than men, furthermore women working full time earn on average �559 less per month than men do ( Many women believe that lack of money is a major problem for them in terms of participating in sport. There is also the image of sportspeople who promote the idea that its good to have the right/best equipment or clothing, this can be down heartening to women who cannot afford such equipment which will in turn prevent them from participating.

Lack of time

Women are often restricted to the amount of time they can dedicate to sport as they have the greater burden of housework, looking after the children whilst the male goes to work. This imbalance is slowly getting more even as more and more women are dedicating themselves to work rather than housework and domestic chores.

There are few renowned initiatives in the UK set up to prevent these barriers from existing. With help from the Football Association (The FA), the Sport Council have such an initiative set up. Active Sports is development program which is being run for the next five years using a variety of sports to increase participation and to break the barriers from participation (

In relation to football, the Football Association, after considerable time and effort has constructed a framework which will deliver the best results.

Fig1. Framework for Active Sports


In the next short section, each stage from fig1, will be briefly explained in terms of its function and who can participate at each level.

Stage One:

Stage One is designed for girls under the age of 16 yrs who know basic rules of the sport and have had previously experiences playing it and would like to further their knowledge and skill.

Stage Two:

Stage Two includes setting up and developing junior clubs. This will include competitive matches and regular training sessions. This is to develop and progress the participants skill in the sport.

Stage Three:

Stage Three is to assess and evaluate what stage the participants are currently at, how they can improve etc. This will be found out through a variety of assessed exercises.

Stage Four:

Stage Four is a continuation from stage three where the participants with potential or a high level of skill will get additional higher skilled coaching to improve/further their skills further.

Target group

The initiative is targeted at girls aged between 10-16 years old and is designed to increased participation levels in sport. It is a way of targeting those groups that are underrepresented in sports, especially young women from disadvantaged areas.


The initiative is completely free for all participants and as well as being funded by the National Lottery, Sport England and namely the Football Association have been contributors. It has also formed partnerships with local authorities and local clubs. The money will be used to cover costs such as coaches and hiring of facilities. There will be more opportunities to play or join in clubs, as with more money more clubs and facilities will be set up.

Success criteria

The initiatives main aim is to ‘help young people (namely women) to get more from their involvement in sport’. (

* raise the quality of football played by women

* increase the quantity of female participants

* increase the quantity of females coaches

* increase the amount of female officials and volunteers


‘The Football Association is committed to Active Sports because we believe it will be a key ingredient in ensuring that – whatever their level of participation – young people involved in girls football raise their game to their personal best.’ This clearly signifies that they are setting up these initiatives to improve UK sport for the future, to develop better coaching, facilities and elite players.

‘Active sports’ complies with a basic evaluation process which (website originally set up by Sport England) has underlined as important. For instance;

* The initiative overcomes barriers, which were highlighted previously in this assignment, to get women to participate in sport.

* The initiative is sustaining women and girls in activity.

* It has managed to reach out to marginalise women and girls who might not normally participate in physical activity.

* It achieves it overall aim and objectives of increasing participation levels.

* It involves active stereotyping, at certain venues in the UK, footballers such as Mary Phillips (defender in England team) will be involved in helping train. As well as Hope Powell (England’s women’s football coach)

* The scheme is well structured and organized, (refer to fig.1, framework). A key part of the project was monitoring the participants’ progression, moreover this is clear on the different stages of the initiative.

* A wide range of exercises where used to vary the training and to keep the participants interested.

The initiative, however, seems to lack in advertisement and marketing, for instance, Active Sports is not as well known as it could potentially be. It seems that the initiative itself it a well thought out, well constructed scheme, which has been organised to every last detail in terms of its target audience, its aims and objectives in terms of increasing participation levels. However it has the potential to increase participation levels even more by efficient marketing.

This however does highlight one of the barriers of participation, in which female football/sport is underrepresented in the media, for this to be improved, the sport as a whole is in a need of a increase in popularity, until then, participation levels are going to rise, in complying with Active Sports aims, however until the sport itself can reach the heights of the males games, which seems like a difficult and unrealistic task, participation levels in female football will never increase as much as all the relevant initiatives in the UK want it to.

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