PT: Have you experienced gender inequality in your career and, if so, how did you manage this?
KS: As I was pioneering pole vaulting a new event for women, I did see a lot of resistance by many coaches and officials with gender inequality. I actually was told by an official that the competition was full and I wasn’t allowed to enter, and when two boys no-showed, I told him it was great news I could now jump, he went on to say “Over my dead body will a girl ever pole vault in my lifetime”. Hard to believe today!
PT:What do you think needs to happen to achieve gender equality in the future?
KS:I think in the fitness world we are lucky because there is a genuinely equal place for males and females and where there are areas and situations that might benefit men, there are others to benefit us girls, so I think things balance out pretty well. What I do believe we must do is encourage young girls and show them that being active, sporty and fit is a great thing and not something to shy away from. The sport and physical activity attrition rate in teenage girls is still terrible. Figures show that by the time girls reach the 13-16 age band only 10% are reaching recommended activity rates. 44% of 13-15 years old girls are overweight and obese, compared to 36% of boys (both stats are actually alarming) and worryingly 62% of 14-year-old girls report having a low sense of wellbeing. Competitive sport is not for everyone but participation and physical activity is something more teenage girls must be encouraged to make part of their lives and who knows what the positive knock-on effect to our industry might bring over time?
PT: Why is it important for more women to enter your field?