Women’s Fencing Follow-Up

As a final follow up to our successful Women’s Fencing Symposium, we wanted to share with you all the results of our survey taken at the event, and some thoughts about day and further possible events.

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This was the first time we’d tried anything like this, and we had no idea what people might actually want!  So we kind of threw in everything to see what would stick.  We’re really happy with all the positive feedback people have given us.  Our guest speakers were wonderful, and apparently you all enjoyed the opportunity to hear their different perspectives side by side.

We also used it as an opportunity to reach out to our wider community and potentially recruit new members.  In this it has proved quite successful, and we were delighted to have some offers of sponsorship for the event.  Thanks again to Lifestyle Portraits and Amante Jewellery for their generous contribution.  The raffle raised enough to cover all costs, which is more than we hoped for when we started out.

We counted about 40 people in the audience on the day, once we add in the speakers, and the family members and infants lurking at the back there was probably around 50 people in the hall for the event.
7 Prospective fencers joined our have-a-go session, while existing fencers enjoyed a warm-up activity with Sam Auty and fencing with each other.

We tried to aim this event for all ages, to demonstrate the breadth of the women’s fencing community that exists and bring together women who might not normally interact.  We wanted our young fencers to know that fencing doesn’t end when you become a teenager, and for the oldest to see the enthusiasm of the young girls who will benefit most from what we build now.

A significant number of people were unaware of what would be happening at the event.  Some were surprised to have speakers, others were surprised there was fencing.  We had assumed people would check the website for detailed information – but this does not appear to be what happened.  Future events will probably be more focused and easier to concisely advertise.

Survey Results

We received 21 surveys back.  Unfortunately there was some confusion with the two different surveys (one for current fencers, one for non-fencers) and a few people filled out the wrong one, but most of the results are still good.

There were approximately 50 people at the day, but the 21 surveys probably represent most of the active participants (as opposed to supporting family members).

Demographics as follows:
U13 = 5
U20 = 1
U30 = 0
U40 = 1
U50 = 5
U60 = 6
U70 = 1

So the participants are very much skewed toward the very young and the veteran age groups.
Possibly this reflects something in the nature of the event, perhaps simply calling it a Symposium tended to attract more mature women, with the youngest ones being brought along by them.
Alternatively, these demographics do closely represent the female participation in our club, does it also reflect female fencing participation more widely?  We’ll be passing these results to Fencing Victoria who may have a better idea.

Preferred Weapons:
Foil = 3
Epee = 7
Sabre = 2

A clear majority for the epeeists!


Club Level – 4
State Level – 1
National Level – 2
International – 1

2 people explicitly stated they don’t compete, we presume the other 11 don’t either.

Advertising: Where did people hear about the event.

The largest source of information was clubs and coaches, with 5 and 3 respectively, and one person citing Fencing Victoria.
4 people heard from friends and family
4 people from Facebook and another from the website.
3 people from the local newspaper, one from the local radio, and one person from our community posters.

Current fencers were primarily reached via their clubs and people they know in fencing.  Possibly not as many are reading the Fencing Victoria newsletters as we would have thought.

Prospective fencers were mainly reached via the local paper, although utilising many methods has resulted in more enquiries to the club (mostly for boys).

Paid Facebook advertising was not effective at all, we probably wouldn’t bother with it in future.

Do people want to see more events like this?

The answer is a unanimous yes!

Verbal feedback suggests people wanted a longer session.  We had wanted a longer one as well, but were constrained by venue availability.

How many events would you like?

Of 10 responses, 6 said 2-3, 4 said 4 events per year.  Nobody wanted only one or less than 1 per year.
We didn’t offer an option of more than 4 because we felt the fencing calendar was too crowded and the organisation required was to great.

Our hope is that other clubs, and/or Fencing Victoria can now use this information to plan further events.  This is something the whole fencing community should be involved in!

What activities do people want at events?

Guest Speakers = 10
Group Training = 9
Piste Fencing = 7
Competition = 6
Development and Planning = 6
Tea & Biscuits = 1

So people aren’t too fussed about the free food, but guest speakers are popular as is the opportunity to fence and train with other women/girls.

For this first event we threw in a bit of everything to see what people liked, and the response to our selection of guest speakers has been hugely positive.

The young girls clearly enjoyed the chance to fence with each other, and one of them has written on the survey that she would like one of the Olympians to fence them next time.

Other suggestions include:
Undertake an skill set  audit of women fencers, to see what skills are available that people can potentially contribute.  This could be the subject of a survey at a future event.

A project planning session regarding women in fencing and sport.  We interpret this to mean a session for coaches/administrators/etc to discuss and coordinate further activities in this space.

Based on the above, we would recommend trying to run:
At least 2 training clinics a year specifically for women, with a fun/social aspect but also the opportunity to build skills.  If time permits these could be combined with one or two guest speakers, perhaps on a particular theme, and practical development planning activities.  An alternative to the speaker presentation model might be a panel discussing a particular topic.  Having multiple insights from our speakers during the Q&A session was great.

With regard to competition, it may be better to nominate a couple of existing competitions for each weapon as “the” competition everyone will try to attend?  All the fencers who indicated they were interested in this as an activity we also people who were already competing at least at a club level.

At least 1 session a year aimed at administrators, coaches and other interested women.  To plan joint projects, share ideas and experiences, discuss professional development and opportunities.  One or two sessions held very late/early in the year could possibly facilitate planning for the year ahead in clubs.

We also asked our prospective fencers some questions on what they looked for in deciding to take up fencing.

Most popular answers were fun, developing fencing skills and improving fitness, followed by making friends and developing competition skills.  Most people went for all of the above.
The majority wanted multiple (group) classes they could swap between, and about half were interested in women’s only classes.


So there it is, what we have learned so far.  Feel free to discuss in comments, or use as a starting point for your own activities.