Are segregated sports classes scientifically justified?

Lawson, Sian and Hall, Edward (2014) Are segregated sports classes scientifically justified? In: 6th IWG World Conference on Women and Sport, 12-15 June 2014, Helsinki, Finland.

This is the latest version of this item.

Image (Poster)
IWG 2014 Lawson Hall Final 2.pdf - Published Version

Download (712kB) | Preview


School sports classes are a key part of physical and mental development, yet in many countries these classes are gender segregated. Before institutionalised segregation can be condoned it is important to tackle assumptions and check for an evidence-based rationale. This presentation aims to analyse the key arguments for segregation given in comment-form response to a recent media article discussing mixed school sports (Lawson, 2013).

The primary argument given was division for strength, ability or protection (75% comments). It is a common, but false assumption, that young female bones are more breakable or girls more fragile when given the same level of exercise. Schools already have fairly homogenous groupings due to age-based classes. At school age variation within gender is larger than variation between genders, yet there is no tendency to segregate a sports class on the basis of height or strength, only to segregate for gender.

The secondary argument was that keeping children separate avoids behavioural issues including self-consciousness, sexual harassment or discrimination (13% comments). As segregation isn’t realistic as a life-long strategy, we must question the validity of losing this controlled opportunity to teach respect. Indeed, people raised in segregated environments as minors have been shown to experience greater social anxiety in the adult world.

Segregation moves gender politics to identity politics. There is no evidence for widely-held scientifically-valid reasons to segregate gender at school, yet it is socially accepted. Teaching curriculums are often blamed for specifying game-based activities, but there’s no physiological reason why in the UK boys play football and girls rounders, or in the USA soccer is considered a “girls sport” and baseball is “for boys”. Children’s development is shaped by the environment and value systems they are placed in. If we are to condone belief in individual variation over stereotyping the curriculums should enforce this.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Subjects: C600 Sports Science
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Edward Hall
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2015 11:13
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2021 04:31

Available Versions of this Item

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics