New research to explore women as volunteers in sport
The £60,000 study has been commissioned by Women in Sport – the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming sport for the benefit of every woman and girl in the UK – with the aim of developing the sport sector’s understanding of female volunteers, to enable them to support, encourage and ensure they have a positive volunteering experience in sport.
Despite sport being the third most common sector for volunteering, and equal numbers of men and women volunteering generally, only 16% of women actually volunteer in sport compared with 30% of men. Where a lot of research has been done into sports volunteers as a whole, we know very little about female volunteers in sport.
The research, led by Dr Leanne Norman, Senior Research Fellow within the Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure at Leeds Beckett, will:
- Bring together existing research on women as volunteers.
- Uncover the difference between general volunteering and sports volunteering and why women are less likely to choose sport.
- Investigate the range of volunteering roles that women currently participate in (both formal and informal) and how this compares with men.
- Understand what motivates women to volunteer in sport.
- Learn more about the experience for women volunteering in sport and the role they play in enabling women and girls to play sport.
- Work with the Insight and Policy team at Women in Sport to develop ways to support women volunteering in the sport sector.
Dr Norman explained: “Nationally, and internationally, there are lower levels of engagement in sport by women and girls. Whilst we recognise this in relation to active participation, this research will focus on sports volunteering. Here in the Institute of Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure, we have a long-standing reputation for engaging in research and consultancy and draw on a great amount of expertise in gender in physical education and sport.
“Our research seeks to answer questions such as how many women volunteer and in what roles? What is their route into volunteering? What are the benefits to the sports participants, if any, of having female volunteers in comparison with male volunteers? What motivates women to get into sports volunteering compared with other sectors and what are the barriers?”
The study will take place across three regions in England: the Midlands (where there is a low voluntary base), Yorkshire (with an average voluntary base), and London and the South East (one of the highest areas in England for volunteer numbers).
The team will speak to women who are sport volunteers across a wide range of activities, volunteers in other sectors, and those who do not currently volunteer. Additionally, they will interview national governing bodies of a variety of sports, including those traditionally associated with women, such as netball and gymnastics, and those traditionally associated with men, such as rugby and boxing.
Alongside interviews, the researchers will explore women’s real-time experiences of volunteers – this might include tools such as Facebook, blogs, a portable ‘diary room’ and/or disposable cameras to encourage participants to share their views and thoughts.
The study, which will be completed in January 2017, will be used to inform the work of Women in Sport as well as Sport England’s strategy on volunteering. The full research team is: Dr Leanne Norman, Dr Hayley Fitzgerald, Dr Annette Stride, Dr Samantha Holland, Dr AJ Rankin-Wright, Ellie May, Dr Leonie O'Dwyer, Robert Stanley, Vicky Gilbert, and Luke Barnes.
Dr Norman is a full-time researcher within the field of sport and sociology, internationally-recognised for her research and writing within the area of equality and diversity related to sports coaching, sports leadership and organisations. Her current research is focused on examining the experiences of different groups of women in leadership and coaching positions within sport.