During the webinar and panel session celebrating International Women’s Day 2022, we outlined our intention to address the gender imbalance in table tennis by setting the future ambition of achieving gender parity.

51%* of the population in the UK are female but as a sport only 12% of members, 17% of coaches and 3% of club or league Chairs are female.

To achieve gender parity, we will have an unapologetic focus on increasing the numbers of women and girls involved, and making table tennis a space where women and girls feel welcomed, valued, visible and have the opportunity to progress. This will be aligned with the goals set out in the Level the Table strategy to diversify the sport.

Table Tennis England’s National Participation Manager, Jenny Leach, has been leading on the women and girls work.

She said: “Firstly, I want to thank the four fantastic women who were involved with our #breakthebias panel discussion. If you haven’t seen it yet I would urge you to catch up and hear about different lived experiences in the sport

“There has been a real shift in the past year in clubs and leagues wanting to increase the number of Women and Girls in their clubs or leagues. These projects have shown how impactful creating female-only opportunities and the right offers can be. I look forward to building more on this and creating more female only spaces and opportunities across England.

“The biggest challenge we face when wanting to increase the number of women and girls in the sport is understanding the barriers and how to overcome them. One way we have recently aimed to do this is to benefit players at competitions. We have increased the flexibility in what clothing can be worn at competitions and removed the need for approval from the referee. When competing, the only thing a player should worry about is putting their best performance out there, not feeling uncomfortable in what they are wearing. Following the rule change domestically, Table Tennis England put forward a proposition to the ITTF AGM for discussions and debate to start internationally with regards to the rules set out for choice of clothing, which was unanimously passed.

“Looking to the future, I hope that you will support and commit to joining us on making the sport a more welcoming and accepting place for women and girls.”

Greg Yarnall, Director of Development adds:

“Through surveys and direct contact with our female members and women involved in the sport, we have a clear understanding that, for many people, table tennis looks and feels like a space designed and dominated by and for men.

“This doesn’t negate that there are women and girls having fantastic experiences in the sport and that there are clubs, leagues, coaches and volunteers doing some great work to create inclusive spaces, but we cannot ignore that there are also women and girls having very bad experiences and who are being put off playing and participating. Our insight shows that females would like to engage more in our sport and when provided with the right opportunities, they do! So, gender parity is not only important for our inclusivity agenda, but for the growth, development and future of our sport too.

“Our commitment to women and girls does not mean that male participation becomes less important – we will continue to work hard to develop opportunities for men and boys too, but we must acknowledge the disparity that exists. We are therefore wholeheartedly committed to #LevelTheTable for women and girls and, going forwards, a much higher percentage of our time, funding and energy will be directed towards increasing opportunities for women and girls in our sport.

“It is clear as a sport, that we need to be prepared to do things differently to change the narrative. We need everyone’s support to achieve gender parity and #LeveltheTable.”

We want to continue to remove barriers to increase women and girls involved in the sport. If we want to create female-only spaces and increase the number of women and girls in visible roles, we will need to increase the number of women in the table tennis workforce.

Rewatch our International Women’s Day webinar and panel discussion below, which outlines our future vision.

We will also be offering 50% off Level 1 coaching course to female candidates until 17th March 2022. To take advantage of this offer, please email [email protected], letting us know the course you would like to attend and a discount code will be sent to you.

You can see a list of current courses here.