Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Sexism in football, the real facts you need to know...

A survey conducted by the networking group Women In Football has produced some important figures with regards to the level of sexism still existing in the footballing industry. 661 women (60% of the full amount asked to participate) from all areas of football responded, including: coaches, match officials, media, physios, administrators, etc.

In a press release, WIF stated:

"The problems run throughout football with a female referee being told a men’s team did not want her to officiate because of her gender, to a respondent being slapped on her bum on her first day by a senior figure in the game.
Women in Football are a networking group supporting professional women working in football. We celebrate women’s achievement and offer mentoring opportunities to the next generation.
We have conducted this survey to:

·     Provide a ground-breaking study into the experiences of women working in the football industry.
·     Identify why women are not achieving their full potential in this sector and what could be done to address this.
·     Explore the prevalence of gender-based discrimination within football.
·     Look forward to the future: 90% of respondents told us they believe opportunities for women working within the football industry are increasing/improving"

Chair of The Fa's Inclusion and Advisory Board (IAB), Heather Rabbatts, made these comments in reaction to the survey results:

“Whilst we know there has been significant progress in women's participation in football and great strides made with the Women’s Super League, we know there is more to do. Women remain still significantly under-represented in executive and board positions in the sport industry. Surveys such as this help to focus all our attention and The FA alongside all of the football bodies are committed to tackling discrimination at all levels”.

Rabbatts was The FA's first female board member in it's 150 year history and this year she was named The Guardian's 9th 'Most Influential Woman in British Sport', a list composed to celebrate International Women's Day 2014

The IAB was set up in December 2013 as part of a The FA’s commitment to its Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Action Plan 2013-2017. The Action Plan aims to:
  • Widen football's talent by tackling under-representation and so increase the diversity of football's talent pool.
  • Clarify anti-discrimination regulations and sanctions, to create clarity and understanding around the regulations and sanctions related to discriminatory behaviour.
  • Instil confidence in reporting discrimination and to generate confidence in the reporting and subsequent handling of discrimination cases and to be transparent with the outcomes.
  • Increase knowledge, awareness and understanding of equality and inclusion-and what constitutes discriminatory behaviour within football, providing information, guidance and training.

The FA's IAB is a positive step forward on the road to eliminating discrimination and abuse within the game. It's still astonishing though to read that 66.4% of women have experienced sexism in the football workplace. This includes: sexual harassment, sexist banter, women being barred from certain areas, being told they can't do their job due to gender, discrimination against mothers and most shockingly, 1.41% have experienced physical abuse.

These are the environments most of us reading this now actually work in-football clubs, offices, pitches, press conferences, etc. The places where we share a passion for the beautiful game, the places we earn our living, the places we go to share our mutual interests and work alongside each other. These women have said they feel pressured, they are treat unfairly, paid unequally and overlooked for career progression in football. How would you feel going to work on a morning worrying about the day ahead due to discrimination like this? Knowing that on top of all the added job stress, you also have to constantly prove yourself in what is still regarded as a 'man's world'. 

Why are 54.3% of women still worried about their appearance in the football workplace? Why do 24.91% feel they need to look glamourous? Think back to grassroots football, it's all about muddy tracksuits, dishevelled hairstyles and your favourite pair of worn/tatty football boots. Admittedly, it has grown more aesthetically pleasing in recent years, with fancy new trends coming in, contemporary boardrooms and state of the art playing facilities.  But nevertheless, the origins of football remain the same. What does it matter on someone's appearance as to their knowledge of the game or their ability to carry out their job?

The Director of Football Governance and Regulation, Darren Bailey, responds to the survey:

“Women have a vital role to play in all aspects of the game. We are determined to eliminate negative attitudes towards women. We want those who see or are subject to harassment or discriminatory behaviour in football to report it to us directly, or via the Kick It Out app, which offers discreet reporting.” 

It will take time still for football and most other sports to become truly inclusive of participants regardless of gender, race, age and other factors. Remember, these are you mothers, girlfriends, wives, sisters, daughters, cousins, friends, who are experiencing this in the workplace. We are all responsible to make the stand against discrimination and abuse.

Listed below are statistics and quotes retrieved from the survey results, all of which are displayed on the Women In Football website:

On sexism in the workplace...
“I've pretty much experienced it all. I've been slapped on the backside by a colleague, and asked to 'get the tea'; you can imagine my response.”
“I experienced direct sexist and derogatory comments, and intimidation. I didn't report it as I was scared, I was told I would never work in the game again.”
“A men's football team did not want me to referee because of my gender.”
“On my first day at work a senior figure in football slapped my bum when walking past. I didn't want to make a complaint before I had even met the rest of my colleagues.”
“I was told in a job interview that it was an issue that I was female.”
“I don't want to rock the boat at work by complaining, I wouldn't want bad feeling. It is done to other women too. It isn't physically or mentally harmful but it is putting us in a different category from men - which is shameful.”
“You can't report it every time someone says something derogatory as it's so common place.”
"Women being talked over in meetings; being excluded from working groups or selection panels; having their qualifications and input trivialised."

What women in the game want...
“To have a female changing room!” [A number of women asked for this, from female medics to match officials, with even some of the biggest clubs not providing female changing facilities for staff or visiting professionals]
“More diversity in senior roles, the entire senior management is white, male and middle class.”
“More female representation on the FA Council and Board of Directors.”
“People to acknowledge that although I am a woman I do know what I am talking about with regard to my job.”
“Less sexist discrimination and prejudice. I have to work hard to gain the same amount of respect as male counterparts.”
“I would like not to have to prove that I know about football every time I come across someone who hasn't worked with me before.”
“More senior women - mainly for the balanced decision-making it would create at a senior management level but also so I knew I was being taken seriously as a candidate for senior roles. There aren't many opportunities to progress in my career here, women tend to leave rather than move up.”

Football needs to modernise...
“I didn't get invited to a dinner because it was a 'men and wives' dinner. It feels completely old-fashioned to have events like this - and football is littered with them!”
“I was turned down for a job in men's football because the club wanted to 'keep a male feel'.”
“It is a very sexist environment. Women tend to only be employed in administrative roles.”
“Stop the ‘jobs for the boys’ mentality which is not based on talent.”
“A greater acceptance that women in the industry are as knowledgeable about the game as men. My junior male colleagues are often sought out ahead of me to answer questions on the job.”
“To be taken seriously, and for men to not make inappropriate comments towards me such as commenting on my appearance, or thinking that I will tolerate sexually inappropriate comments.”
“Football has a highly active misogynistic wing. It's getting better but slowly. Other sports have profoundly improved.”
On discrimination against working mothers...
“I have been told by my employer that my job is incompatible with motherhood.”
“Since having my children my role has been totally marginalised and I have had no opportunities to progress.”
“I was demoted from my job on the birth of my first child. I lost my job after the birth of my second.”
“I don't see football as an environment which helps or encourages working mothers. Every working mother I see struggles (unless they have a nanny) and most drop out of the industry. How many senior women are there who are working mums? Not enough.”
Statistics and comments obtained from Women In Football and The FA.