Jacqueline Hooton is the founder of WIFE (Women in Fitness Empowerment) Events. She created the first ever all-female conference in March 2015 to champion professional women working in health and fitness and provide a platform for their voices to be heard.
We met with Jacqueline to find out about what operators can learn from listening to the voice of their female employees, the value of female part-time staff on the gym floor and the other benefits of a diverse range of trainers.
Why do we need all-female conferences?
I used to attend conferences and wonder where were all the female speakers? Where were the role models for other women? Who should women working in the fitness industry aspire to be like? At the same time I was struck by the role female fitness professionals were stepping into on social media. For me, the modern day ‘fitness selfie’ can sometimes verge on soft porn! This shouldn’t be part and parcel of getting recognition for the work that you do.
My mantra, ‘if we can’t see it, how can we be it’ is what WIFE events are all about. We create a platform for women to lead, educate and inspire other women. At our most recent conference Claire Burlinson Green, the founder of Clubbercise, was one of our speakers. In just three years Claire has created a successful business with 1000 instructors and 50,000 participants across the UK. Clubbercise has also become the largest importer of Glow Sticks! Claire has hugely valuable business insight to share yet she had NEVER been invited to speak at an event before. The fitness industry needs to start paying more attention to its female rising stars as both men and women can learn from them.
What are the opportunities for operators in recognising their female workforce?
Operators still have a long way to go to perfect communication with their female customer. We still see too much marketing material depicting healthy athletic women; it’s restrictive and can even put women off joining a gym altogether. Operators could benefit hugely from female insight to help them reach out beyond these stale campaigns, to reach their desired customer.
There are challenges on the gym floor too. Younger male PTs don’t necessarily understand the predominantly female challenges of things like juggling the school run with a part time job and raising a young family. More mature female PTs can bridge that gap which presents a huge opportunity, yet operators need to recognise that women working part time can have as much to offer as their full time male colleagues. The industry still tends to value full time employees more than part-timers, but a women who can multitask is worth her weight in gold!
What are the benefits of female led discussion?
At our most recent conference we had an open discussion about mental health issues within the fitness industry. We talked at length about the challenges around body image but also the issues facing people who work in the industry. I’ve never attended a conference where this has been on the agenda before and I think that’s the difference a female perspective can bring. Women are not afraid to address sensitive topics; we had 100 women in the audience all participating in the discussion, which was incredible!
What’s next for women in the fitness industry?
I’m championing female collaboration. Men have always had the edge here and are seen to be naturally good at working together. Women sometimes feel apprehensive when faced with competition. I think it’s a cultural thing; society reinforces the idea that girls are valued for being the ‘prettiest’ or the ‘most popular’. I encourage women to recognise the value in coming together for mutual benefit, and in doing so develop fresh ideas and new ways to work.
If you could change one thing about the fitness industry, what would it be?
I’d like to see more diversity on the gym floor. I want to see operators championing female PTs, mature PTs and PTs with disabilities to name just a few currently underrepresented groups. Personal training relies on building strong relationships and with more diversity we could bridge the current gap between client and PT.