News & views

Gender balance of walk leading

By: Catherine Negus

Recently I noticed that I hadn’t been on a walk led by a woman in a while, and decided to play with some stats and work out whether this was just coincidence.

It turned out that it wasn’t - over three years (October 2014 – September 2017), only 24% of Metwalks had a female leader.

Why is this? Asking around has produced different theories, from women being less gung-ho about map-reading, to not wanting to recce alone in the countryside, to lack of confidence or too many other responsibilities.

Among midweek walks, the figures are much more even, with 48% having a female leader, compared to 18% of weekend walks. Perhaps ease of planning and navigation do play a big part.

However, even among the weekenders, the difference becomes more striking the longer the walk: of 172 walks of 17+ miles, only 12 were led by women.

Some of the stats are down to a handful of star male leaders, with Matt K and Simon B topping the charts at 51 walks each over three years. A couple of the most prolific women leaders have recently had to deal with injuries (or moving to another continent!). Even so, only 35% of our weekend walk leaders have been women.

Other than being an interesting conversation, does it matter? It’d be a shame to miss out on the variety of walks that a bigger range of leaders can bring, or to place too much of the burden on the ‘usual suspects’. More importantly, when I decided to join in, I found walk-leading surprisingly enjoyable and even character-building.

It allows you to try out skills such as assertiveness and can be usefully adapted as necessary to fill gaps in many CVs (from teamwork to independent initiative). Overall the group are very supportive and appreciative - ladies should not miss out on the buzz from seeing happy people enjoying a beer and crackling fire at the end.

The last year saw 8 new female leaders and 10 male – keep it coming!