UTM’s Department of Physical Education, Athletics, and Recreation hosts a wide variety of opportunities for female students to participate in a safe, educational, and inclusive environment. More than ever, UTM is taking charge to accommodate women, especially the expanding Muslim female population on campus, creating a respectable environment for all women no matter religion, ethnicity, or ability.
From May 2013 to April 2014, male students swiped their way into the UTM athletic facilities 202,883 times, making their way to the weights, a group fitness class, or casual recreation time. Even with the female population on campus being larger than the male population, females only swiped into the facilities 88,756 times—a third compared to men.
Louise Vanderwees, a program coordinator for the department, says, “It must be difficult for that first-year female to walk into a weight room, having never done so before, and try to lift a weight.”
To combat the intimidation factor men may bring to the facilities, the department understands the services need to be controlled so that women feel comfortable in the environment.
Rachele Tennant, another program coordinator, and Vanderwees claim that providing the women with women’s-only hours enables more women to participate.
“My friends feel very comfortable with the women’s-only hours. When they come in, there’s a trainer there that helps them with any questions they have—they can feel safe and comfortable in the clothes that they wear,” says Ayah Adeidayem, UTM’s ambassador to women at the RAWC this year.
“If I were to attend the women’s-only program, I would need complete confidence that the area was isolated, and women were the only ones present,” says Dahab Faraj, a first-year life sciences student.
Luckily for female students, “During swim times the blinds come down, and there are only female lifeguards… The response has been positive from Muslim women and women in general,” says Vanderwees.
During women’s-only hours in the other facilities, there are female staff members on hand to ensure no men come in unaware of the women’s-only program.
“We were struggling with women’s-only hours, which a lot of the times weren’t well utilized,” says Tennant. To improve numbers, they hired the ambassador to women, who is responsible for promoting and studying the programs.
“We decided to bring in a person who would look at the times and do some statistical analysis to see how many people were using them and whether or not people were utilizing what we were offering. The challenges of the students are different every year, so we look at typical times women can participate in these programs, and we accommodate accordingly,” says Vanderwees, who is in charge of the women’s-only programs.
Ken Duncliffe, director of athletics, said that the majority of the group fitness classes target women specifically, giving them opportunities that are not overcrowded by men like pick-up soccer and basketball.
RAWC statistics show that when women participate, they’re doing it mainly through membership activities—classes that aren’t included in the $171.76 mandatory tuition fee. More than half the memberships purchased in the past five years were by women in the male-dominated facility.
Next for Adeidayem is the Move U event happening on Friday at UTM. “Move U has two signature events that provide instructional and group fitness opportunities. Anyone can attend,” she says.