Gender in the Fitness Industry – Part 1

10th June 2018

At the start of 2018 my path crossed with a leading UK supplement company and it has become a catalyst for my evolving thoughts towards the Fitness Industry.
Now the Fitness Industry is not small, and there are many different spheres that all fall under this umbrella; Globo gyms, boutique gyms, personal training, specialist training, sports, athleticism, fitness brands, supplements, fitness media & advertising. A few of these spheres will be touched upon, but the main focus will be gender. The male female divide within the Fitness Industry.

Is there a gender divide?
Is there a stronger sex within the Fitness Industry?
Is there positives or negatives against your gender in the Fitness Industry?

There any many questions that I have, I don’t have the answers, and chances are it may open a few more questions. But I am using this as a chance to explore these questions.

So what sparked this…

In exploring the supplement company’s website to obtain a little more knowledge about the company I explored their “Ambassador” page. They had a strong list of names, 17 in total. International Rugby players, Football players, PTs & models. The thing that struck me the most, 17 in total, 1 female.
Lets just let that sink in a little.

17 individuals, representing this brand.
This brand supporting these 17 individuals.
1 of these is a female.

16:1

This could be for a number of reasons, I do not know the answer behind the ratio, I do not have an answer. But a 16:1 ratio is pretty hard to fathom.

How many other brands are of the same nature?
Is it the same across the board?

In taking a number of top UK supplement brands, I began to explore their Instagram stories & posts. The 16:1 ratio brand, well that very much showed what I expected. Some expressed a little more of a ‘balance’ (if I can call it that) in terms of gender on their feed. Despite a little more gender balance, the content of posts were perhaps not of equal nature.
What do I mean by this?

A pensive male boxer in the corner of a ring, with a deep stare into the lens.
Endless videos of topless males, pull ups, leg extensions, sled pushes, tyre flips.
Males in their specialist sporting environments, showing their skills.
A side view of a female, holding the brand’s merchandise.

A male deadlifting, a male benching, a male squatting.
A posterior chain portrait of a female.

Oh one thing I did discover, one top brand will only sponsor a female if she is a fitness model.
Ok that might shed a little more light on that account.

There first thing that sprung to mind…
Where are the females flipping tyres?
Where are the females benching?
Where are the females deadlifting?

Why are males given the stereotypical “strong” image?

Is “strong” a masculine term, or is perspective shifting?

I just continually scroll to many posed female figures, in a position that seems to be the norm. One leg slightly bent, sight twist at the waist, over the shoulder gaze.

Being in the Fitness Industry (only 5 years) has not been without some frustration.
Admin > Instructor > PT > Manager.
The stereotypical ‘Cardio Bunny’ image. ‘Squat Clinics’, ‘Deadlift Clinics’ allocated to male colleagues. Are you able to take the Zumba qualification? Erm, how about a British Weightlifting course?!

Being asked if I need help when returning dumbbells to the racks, “How about you just put them back where they belong?” – but that is a whole different story.

In 2016 there were 13,770 registered Personal Trainers in the UK.
5,256 were females.

35%

This may have changed over a two year period, but unfortunately this is the most recent figure I can find.

In a study about the genders of male and females as Personal Trainers there was defining characteristics or specialties between the gender.
There is a lean towards females for group exercise environments.
Female clients felt that they would have a better connection with a female PT than male.
A hypothetical female PT scored higher for aerobic based knowledge then a hypothetical male PT.

And yep you guessed it, individuals are more likely to go to a male PT for strength based work.
But is there a shift in this gender association? Is it generational shift in perception or are there further aspects influencing the shift?

When I interviewed for my Personal Trainer role, the closing question was “What is your favorite form of exercise?”

“Clean & Jerk”
No hesitation.

It was a panel of 3 males. As you can imagine they were a little struck back.
I could understand why, a CV filled with Spin, Boxercise, Freestyle Yoga and I start talking about Olympic Lifting.
The interview continued for a little longer.

 

Is there a shift in the perspectives of females working in the Fitness Industries?
I wish to say yes, my heart wants to say yes, but I think that may be because at the present moment the sector I am within is filled with strong, professional female coaches & athletes. However when I attend other sectors of a more ‘globo gym’ style the dated perceptions are still there. Males in the weight sections giving PT sessions, females based in the cardio, bodyweight sections or perhaps the cables. A shift is starting to happen but perspectives are still very much there.

This post is the start of a series focusing on Females in the Fitness industry. Next time around I want to look at the aspects of being a female athlete.

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