By Laura Roozendaal

Women have been part of Scottish’s membership history since they started joining in the early 1970s, but recent years have seen strong growth in the number of women joining. In 1989 women made up just 20 percent of the club’s membership, by 2009 that grew to 40 percent. Scottish women have long made their mark in the competitive side of the sport (Bernie, Melissa, Michele) and now a broader mix of women now call the club their own.

These women are also helping lead the club into the future, accounting for half the Management Committee membership. I asked some of the change-makers what women want and what they have got.

For most of our early years Scottish was a male only club, as were the majority of clubs both here and overseas. In the 1930s mention was made of “harrierettes” and our club history records in 1933 “for the first time the club had lady & cyclist members”. However for the most prior to the 1970s women did not appear as participants in the club. In 1972 there was a hotly debated remit to allow lady members…! It was passed with a majority vote and the history records; “ The 1972 season heralded the beginning of another era for Scottish” who welcomed 14 girls who formed the nucleus of the new women’s section of the Club. It was hoped that from this small beginning the ladies ‘section’ would grow from strength to strength”.

The strength has certainly grown since the 1970s although it has taken time for the women’s side to expand and reflect a broader group of women.

Helen Willis remembers the club being a very different place when she joined in 1986; “there was a smaller group of women back then. It wasn’t until the women won the road relay in Akaroa that we were more respected.”

Scottish and proud

Maryanne Palmer joined the club over 10 years ago and agrees there was not a lot of focus on women. “I think it was seen as a male-dominated club, and clubs in general were seen as elitist. “That’s why I’ve always run in my uniform: to show that you can belong in a club and run at the back.”

“That’s why I’ve always run in my uniform: to show that you can belong in a club and run at the back.”

Michele Allison first joined the club in 1982 because “everybody was friendly”. I think the non-competitive female runners have been key. The social side of the club means that it doesn’t matter if they’re not fast, they can still come and enjoy themselves,”she says.

Andrena Patterson, women’s captain from 2004- 2006, was an important person in developing the social side of women’s running. Andrena; “I created a plan with the key women of the club in the lead up to the first open day. They introduced themselves to the new female members, helped them decide which pack to run in, and then introduced the new runners to me. After the first run we helped decide if they were suited to their pack or if they needed to move to a different one. These women were joining the club to get fitter so their pack couldn’t be too easy.”

Andrena also helped introduce the Thursday evening runs from Freyburg Pools, with a coffee had after the run.

At one point there were up to 10 or 15 women of all abilities turning up on a Thursday and it is still going strong (so new runners come and join us!).

The crèche held during pack runs has also been essential in encouraging women to join the club. Helen says the crèche has been important for mothers who were worried about what would happen to their children during the run. In the past the club has relied on runners with teenagers willing to babysit, but this year sponsorship has meant the crèche has been able to hire a proper babysitter. The crèche also has set dates it will operate on, meaning parents will be able to turn up without having to book in advance.

For the future, Michele says the only thing the club lacks for women is the development of the junior grade – though that is not for lack of trying; “What we need is a driving force like Don [Dalgliesh] is for the junior boys, or like Alan Curwin used to be with the junior girls.” So we are looking for a keen person to put a hand up.

With the clubhouse renovations meaning the female changing rooms and showers have been expanded, there is now plenty of room for the women’s side of the club to grow larger and even stronger. We look forward to the club’s 100th anniversary in 2015 and being able to report that women make up at least half of this club because it is providing women what they want out of a modern running and walking club.