Scrabble tiles spelling out 'Equity' to illustrate the topic of equity in running

Understanding equity in women’s running

Today is International Women’s Day, an awareness day held worldwide each year on 8th March highlighting the issues and barriers around achieving a truly gender-equal world. The campaign imagines a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. Every year there is a given theme to help focus in on a specific message, which for 2023 is #EmbraceEquity. We decided to take a look at equity in women’s running in this short blog. 

The words ‘equality’ and ‘equity’ are often used interchangeably, but it’s actually really important to understand the difference, and when and how each term applies. Equality strives to ensure that every person has equal opportunities in life and be treated the same, with access to the same resources. Equity is about ensuring fair and impartial treatment, with access to different resources to meet individual needs, to arrive at an equal outcome.

It can be a tricky concept to get your head around, as they are similar. One analogy that is often used is based around an athletics track, as this is easy for most of us to visualise. If every single person started in the same position on the track, this might appear equal. However, the person in the outside lane would run further than the person in the inside lane, meaning it’s not giving the opportunity of a fair outcome. This is why we stagger the start lines on a running track, so that each person runs the same distance whichever lane they are in, offering a fair opportunity.

As a women’s running community, we strongly believe that every woman should be able to run and enter races in a fair and equitable manner. Women’s participation in races is growing year on year, so race organisers need to take into consideration how to ensure that their events are inclusive, welcoming and safe for all. We love the She Races campaign, launched by ultrarunner and mother of three Sophie Power. Its goal is to ensure equity in running so that more women experience the joy of racing, and for races to offer an equal experience. They have put together a series of Race Guidelines, which event organisers can follow to help ensure that their events offer a fantastic experience for all women.

Our experiences on equity in running

As a team of female runners, we’ve all experienced examples of equality vs equity at play in our own running journeys. How many times have you stood in a long toilet queue before a race, while the male toilets have no queue at all? Women have different needs than men; the mechanics of going to the loo means we need cubicles, space, time to change sanitary products, etc. Not all women feel comfortable using female urinals, even when they are provided. We’ve been to races where there are a number of unisex cubicles for everyone to use, plus a set of urinals, giving men more toileting facilities overall. Or there are equal numbers of toilets for men and women, but the queues for the women’s is still longer due to the above reasons. If we want to get female runners on the start line in good time, then there may need to be more toilets for women than men to ensure equity.

Another example we’ve come across is the finish-line t-shirt. These are often unisex to save money – but we know that unisex is cut to a men’s fit. Which means we’re often left with ill-fitting mementos, rather than a women’s fit. And some races even run out of some t-shirt sizes by the end of the event – as there are statistically more women in the second half of the race, this can mean that it is women who miss out on an appropriately sized finish-line t-shirt.

We could go on, but there are already some incredibly good resources out there and initiatives fighting for true gender equity in the running world. We encourage you to take a look at some of these great websites and articles – if we start telling running companies, events and races what we, as women, need then hopefully we can start to see some real change. We’d love to hear your thoughts in our Run Mummy Run Community group.

Useful resources and further reading

International Women’s Day – #EmbraceEquity campaign

Find out more about this year’s campaign


International Women’s Day – Equality vs Equity

Helping you understand the difference


International Women’s Day – Mission: Sport

Celebrating the successes of women in sports


She Races

An initiative fighting for fairness and inclusivity for all women at running events


Women In Sport

Encouraging more women and girls from all backgrounds to participate in sport


Running Industry Diversity Coalition (RIDC)

Working towards a running industry committed to racial justice


Run Equal

Going the distance for gender equality


Women’s Running UK article

‘The issue of gender inequality in running – and how we can change it’


Train Right article

Why ultrarunning needs to solve its gender inequality problem now

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