Keith McNiven, 34, is founder of London based personal training company Right Path Fitness.
Why do you support the HeForShe campaign?
I come from a sports background and competed for GB in wrestling before moving, eventually, into fitness. Sports and fitness can be quite male dominated industries overall and this can put women off either getting into them as careers or even taking part in sports or fitness themselves. Having diversity in the workplace, like in the mixture of male and female trainers at Right Path Fitness makes it a more welcoming place and avoids that that stereotypical testosterone filled environment that can be so off-putting.
Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?
When I’m employing a new trainer, I’m not thinking about whether they are a man or a woman but about their passion, their motivation and what they can offer our clients. It’s important that men support gender equality because it impacts on everyone, and has the power to change the culture in industries like health and fitness for the better.
How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?
It’s like with anything, if you’re making an effort and showing willing then you’ll be welcome! We did some work on social a while back encouraging women to do weights. There can be misconceptions around weights and weight-training that it’s just for men but that’s not the case. Women can get just as many benefits from adding weights to their fitness routines, and it is through small actions like this and being willing to get involved in the conversation, that change happens.
Do you think groups/networks that include the words “women in…” or “females in…” make men feel like gender equality isn’t really their problem or something they need to help with?
Possibly yes. I’ve never really agreed with the idea of segregation, in the fitness industry you see this a lot with separate gyms or classes for women or men. Our group training sessions are open to anyone, regardless of gender and whilst I can see that women or men might initially feel more comfortable going along to a single gender group or class, I think that you can often get better results in mixed settings.
What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?
By showing that they are open to talking about issues that can be contentious, by challenging perceptions that still exist in their industries and by creating working environments for their staff, and leisure environments for their customers that are diverse and accepting.
Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?
Yes, I’m a mentor to all of my team, men and women. To be a good trainer requires not only personal fitness but the right mentality. You’re giving a lot of yourself when you train a client as you push them on to achieve their personal goals. And in turn my role is to be that person for those that I mentor, motivating them and helping them to develop in their roles. I have a background in social care, so the mentoring side of the business is important to me, and we regularly have apprentices working with us. Having a mentor and a goal in life such as carving out a career in fitness can make an immense difference to a person’s life. It can be literally life changing.
Have you noticed any difference in mentoring women – for example, are women less likely to put themselves forward for jobs that are out of their comfort zones or are women less likely to identify senior roles that they would be suited for?
Not really no, once they are part of the team at Right Path Fitness the environment is about equality and everyone regardless of gender is encouraged to challenge themselves and go out of their comfort zones. It comes down to the culture that you create, just like when you are training a client; if they feel supported and that you are right beside them every step of the way, then they’ll be ready to push on to the next level.