A few years ago, I called a peal. When it was published in the RW, I noticed I was the only female peal conductor that week. I had a millisecond's moment of pride, before realising that not only was this not a good thing, it was actually really bad and unhealthy if that statistic were representative. After that, I sat every week and went through the peal columns just calling out the first names of all the conductors. It was (and still is) shocking just how few conductors are women. For all the peals in each issue (usually over 100) there would be about 1 or 2 women. Once you move into the handbell section, one female conductor [name removed by group] does a good job at redressing the balance, but it's still a gloomy outlook.
A year or so after I began this very casual research, the big RW centenary occurred. We were all encouraged to replicate peals from 100 years ago and there was a bumper issue. There were also, obviously, the "normal" peals that would have been rung anyway, and had nothing to do with the centenary. Here the result were even more chilling. In the 1911 edition, one woman called a peal. In the 2011 edition, one woman called a peal. That lack of progress is shocking. Compare those 1911 women - no vote, no financial independence, no Pill and therefore no control over bodies, no comfy sports bras, jeans and going to the pub afterwards for a pint of beer - to the otherwise emancipated women of today. We've seen the pictures of Edwardian women; they are corseted and stern with no freedoms and utterly reliant on a patriarchy. We've come so far in other aspects of life, why so so so far behind in terms of conducting in ringing? It's not as if towers all have heavy bells on plain bearings that need physically stronger individuals to ring the back bells any more, and anyway, not all men are physically stronger, and it's more about technique, not brute force AND there are far more compositions available that don't require conducting to be done from back bells.
Peal ringing is only one aspect of ringing, but it's the easiest from which to glean data. I think most behaviour patterns in ringing are replicated through peals, quarter peals and practice nights. Until the touches at practice nights are called by men and women and not just from n-1, we will struggle to break the culture.