After monitoring their Recreation Center usage for an extended period of time, Wayne State University realized a recurring trend in their observations: their facilities and programs were being dominated by the male students at the University.
Directors and staff realized a change needed to be made—to ensure that their mission of serving the entire student body was met. With students in mind, a goal was proposed: serve the population that is noticeably absent from the facility. To do this, the final decision of creating a Women’s Only Fitness center was made.
The Recreation Center decided to shift their marketing focuses as well, to ensure that they were being marketed to women equally. Director of Campus Recreation Christy Nolan, Ed.D., said the idea was to create a space where women can feel welcome, and comfortable to exercise.
“On the programming side, we concentrated efforts to hire female officials,” Nolan said. “This engagement was two-fold, it provided on campus jobs to qualified students and added to the comfort level of female participants in our intramural program. Female participation in intramurals exploded. Officials schedule themselves based on availability and on one point in a single night across three sports, we had nine female officials and no males for the entire night. This shift in culture reduced barriers and grew participation in all of our programs.”
The Women’s Only Area was developed during a facility renovation that began in fall of 2006, and it took around a year to complete. The area includes a treadmill, free weights, televisions, a stretching area and various other pieces of fitness equipment to serve workout needs.
Adding to their goal of making women feel comfortable, the facility has security cameras monitoring entrances and exits and activity around the facility.
Nolan said the Women’s Only Area has been a huge success, and they have the numbers to prove it. “Evidence that the strategy of building the Women’s Only Area and shifting our marketing focus is working in the numbers. The percent of female usage of the facility rose from just 7% of all users to 48% of all users today,” Nolan said.
Nolan also said that the strongest area of the facility is the student staff, who takes on the role of communicating message and services regularly to a diverse community. “Typically, they are the first point of contact for our patrons, and they do an outstanding job of making everyone feel comfortable,” Nolan said.
Students agree that the area is successful and are thankful for its efforts. “The Women’s Only Area is perfect for female groups that would like to work out together,” said student Zaynab Hazimeh. “There is a variety of equipment to use. I love how it’s a safe place for women to feel comfortable while working out whether if it’s for personal, cultural, spiritual or religious religions.”
In the future, Nolan hopes for more space for programming, storage and areas for students to congregate and relax.
Expert Advice: “The best answer I can provide is that all campus’ are unique and have their own personalities. Recreation should be welcoming and inviting to all. If you see a particular group not participating, find out why, and address their needs.” -Christy Nolan, Ed.D.