Why feminism is still needed? The sports industry is not a man’s world

PUBLISHED: 09:20 17 August 2020 | UPDATED: 09:20 17 August 2020

Norwich City Ladies Picture: Ian Burt

Norwich City Ladies Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2012

In 2020, sports organisations are still dominated by men, despite the rise in success of women’s sport and gender targets.

Women's Rugby Photo: Ellena JansenWomen's Rugby Photo: Ellena Jansen

It’s the F word that usually makes people roll their eyes: feminism.

I already know what many of you reading this are thinking: “feminism is for women who hate men”. If by now, you still think this is what feminism is then strap yourself in for a non-male hating opinion piece. I think a lot of people have forgotten about feminism or think that it isn’t needed any more. “It was a 2018 issue”. You couldn’t be more wrong.

I saw an article by The Telegraph on August 11, 2020 that read: “Quarter of taxpayer-funded sports organisations fail government gender target for board diversity”. This didn’t just happen for one year, not two but for more than three years.

I’ve played rugby now for more than 10 years. I started right at the beginning as a five-year-old and have continued to the point of university. There were many times that I considered to try and push for a career in it. That might sound unrealistic to you, but I can tackle pretty hard.

To see that the Rugby Football Union was listed as one of those sports organisations which did not achieve the gender target is so disappointing.

A lot of people, like myself, look to rugby as a sport that is beginning to drive women’s rugby into the spotlight. Seeing the developments women’s rugby has made over the last couple of years was one of the reasons I considered pursuing it further. I realise that there are so many factors that go into getting women’s rugby to a similar level as men’s rugby. I’m not naïve but I am expecting that women are given the same opportunities to be seen and heard within sport. It angers me so much that we are not seeing women in key, power-holding positions.

The gender gap isn’t there just to please women and keep them at bay. It is there to be abided by because how do we expect to see a growth in women’s sport, not just rugby, if women cannot even be represented fully on the governing boards which make vital decisions for the development of sport.

Men cannot fully relate to a woman’s experience within sport, as much as some like to think they know everything about women. My first experiences within sport were exclusion. Boys would not pass to me in rugby because, they assumed, I couldn’t catch or tackle because I was a girl. Boys would deliberately not throw the ball to me or assume I couldn’t throw it in cricket because I was a girl. We didn’t play rugby at secondary school because it was an all-girls school. Rugby is a sport only for boys apparently and that was instilled in so many girls from a young age.

This isn’t something that happens just as junior level. I am sure many women like myself experience these cases of microaggressions throughout their sporting careers regardless of whether that be professional or not.

Professional sports clubs in England are dominated by men. In 2019 more than half of professional sports clubs in England had no women on their boards. Also, only a tiny 8pc of board members at professional England sports clubs are female. With gender targets not being adhered to for three consecutive years without anyone calling them out, I don’t expect those numbers to improve any time soon.

Women do not claim to know how to organise men in sport. I bet there would be uproar if a board of mainly women tried to tell men how to organise their sports.

All I want is for those young girls who love sport and aspire to compete to be able to see themselves represented all the way through sports organisations from bottom to top, just like little boys do now.

Georgina Taylor is an Archant digital reporter.

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