Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.
Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.
To celebrate and support International Women's Day 2023, Portobello Institute is sharing inspiring insights from women who follow their passion to fulfil their potential as they share their experiences with embracing equity.
One of the missions of IWD is Women in Sport and ‘To celebrate women athletes and applaud when equality is achieved in pay, sponsorship and visibility’. Do you think this is an important message to spread, why/why not?
This is a critical message to spread. Sports has been an unfair playing field for a long time and gender should not be the determinant of how much fight is required.
There are shifts and attempts to try and bridge this gap, but in my opinion, there is still a long way to go, but we are certainly moving in a much more positive direction for change.
What was your pathway to working in sports?
My pathway in sports stemmed from childhood and my particular love of football. As a young football fan, I relished any opportunity to be part of the game and this continued into my early adult years but unfortunately had to withdraw from playing due to injury. Although I stopped playing, my love of football was still present and started my journey towards sports being a plausible career option.
This led me to understand how I could position myself to be successful in sports, and this is where my education in sports began. I completed my degree in Sports Coaching before moving on to a Masters in Sports Coaching. Gaining an education in the sector I wanted to work in not only positioned me above others competing for similar roles but also allowed me to consider teaching across different sectors of sport.
I was very fortunate to be given an opportunity to work within Higher Education as a Sports Lecturer and quickly realised that when combining this with the practitioner world, it became quite a successful combination. Alongside my academic career, I was then able to work as a Performance Analyst across numerous clubs within the UK before moving into scouting and recruitment. This was certainly a pathway that worked for me, but everyone has their own journey and every step can look entirely different, but still lead to success.
How do you feel about working in sports as a woman?
I feel proud to work in a sector which is typically considered male-dominant. There are times when you do second guess yourself and it feels like as a female there is much more emphasis on there being a point to prove but some of this is driven by me and not necessarily by those around me. I have come to learn that I can offer just as much as anyone else and that gender is irrelevant. The decisions I make and the opinions I share are based on my experiences, not my gender.
Why do you work in sports?
I work in sports as it is my passion, something I have always enjoyed and has always been a huge part of my life personally and as an adult, professionally too. The way that sport has evolved over the years and the acceptance of women in the game across varying roles is phenomenal and is something that I truly hope will go from strength to strength.
Do you think the sports sector fosters inclusive work cultures for women?
This is a tough question to answer because although there have been strides in making sports more inclusive for women, I do still feel there is a gap in bringing women into men’s sports in particular.
There appears to be an assumption at times that your gender will determine which gender of sport you will work with. I personally have experienced situations in which because I am female, people assume I work in women's football and not men’s. I, therefore, think that there is still work to be done in ensuring inclusivity across ALL sports.
Could improvements be made in making the sports work culture more inclusive for women?
There is always room for improvement and I think in relation to not only embracing those women who already work in sports there is a big opportunity to promote the positives to those women who want to work in sports but have just not managed to secure that opportunity yet. I think there need to be examples of women who are making strides within their domain and showcase the ability of those who are sometimes underrepresented in sports with the creation of more female role models for those aspiring to move into similar positions.
Are leadership opportunities available for women in sports?
There have been some changes in relation to creating a more female presence within sports and there are some that are holding high positions across the sector of sport. Examples of this would be Amanda Staveley who shares a stake in Newcastle United FC, Karren Brady who is the vice-chairperson of West Ham United FC, Sarina Wiegman current manager of England Ladies and Lois Fidler who has had various roles across the FA but is currently a Performance Manager. These examples show that females are welcomed into high-profile roles within sports, but there is still an imbalance when it comes to males vs females.
What women in sports do you look up to?
Hope Powell would be someone I look up to in sports as she was the first female appointed to an FT position within Women’s football in the UK and I believe the groundwork she did and the work achieved under her reign, led to opportunities in the women's game that are present today. I also admire the tenacity and belief of someone like Karren Brady who is not necessarily known for sport but her business acumen and determination have positioned her to be amongst the best in men’s football.
Would you encourage women to start a career in sports?
I would encourage anyone, not just women to pursue a career in sport if it is what you enjoy and can see it being part of your professional and personal life. The downside to working within sports is the difficulty to disconnect between professional and personal life as when a hobby (such as sport for some) becomes your trade it can be all-consuming, so my advice would be, to proceed with caution, but over time you should be able to address the balance.
If you could change one thing about the experience of working in sports for all women, what would it be and why?
The one thing I would change is a feeling that sometimes overcomes you that you are inferior to others. This is not often driven by those around you but there is certainly a feeling that you are different to most in the room and what comes with that is a sense of feeling like you need to prove yourself, do better than others and earn your place just that little bit more than others have to. Some would say this type of scenario builds resilience and I wouldn’t disagree, but at the same time, if these feelings could go away, this is what I would change.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
I am someone who needs to see the value that I have contributed to those I work with and for me, this is the most interesting aspect of my role(s). Scouting players, providing thorough reports and then seeing them being given a chance is most interesting for me. It allows me to determine how my observations compare to others and this is really important in a job like mine.
What are you passionate about?
My passions over the years have changed and as I’ve gotten older my focus has shifted more toward my own happiness and self of achievement. I enjoy educating others, I enjoy being able to create opportunities and enjoy helping those who have the ability to break into the world of sports but just haven’t got that break yet. Seeing someone achieve and knowing that I played a part in that is something I am really passionate about.
What does International Women’s Day mean for you?
IWD for me is about celebrating the achievements of women and recognising the great work that is done across different sectors that not only make them great role models but are actively changing the future for women in sports. Although the focus is on women, there are many who wouldn’t be in the roles they are today (myself included) without some exceptional men that have seen beyond gender and spotted the value and potential insight females can bring to sport. In order to show complete fairness in the future I would hope there doesn’t need to be an International Women’s Day to reflect the balance between genders.
What do you think can be done to embrace equity to allow people to follow their passion and fulfil their potential?
Education is proving a really useful tool for being more inclusive and offering things such as sports scholarships to entice more females to become involved in sports careers. The changes that are occurring now in relation to bringing more women into sports will allow generational change of this being normal practice. Women need to keep pursuing their dreams and not be disheartened by setbacks, as they will occur but please don’t give up.
International Women's Day Webinar with Portobello Institute
Portobello Institute is delighted to celebrate International Women's Day 2023 and support this year's theme of #EmbraceEquity
The webinar, led by Dr Danielle Prescott, will take place on Wednesday, 8th March '23 from 7 pm - 8.30 pm. You can registerfor the webinar here.
We invite you to this webinar with three industry practitioners from the world of elite sports who will discuss their experiences and the importance of embracing equity when it came to being successful in their chosen careers.