Norwich City: Zoe Ward on the worth of women in football – and in the Canaries’ corridors of power
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For years Delia Smith was at the vanguard of women in football – and that isn't lost on Norwich City's business and project director, Zoe Ward.
City's majority shareholder and Karren Brady – formerly Birmingham managing director and current vice-chairman at West Ham – were for years the examples of a modicum of football progress in a man's world.
Now Susan Whelan at Leicester and Everton's Denise Barrett-Baxendale are the notable chief executives pushing the ceiling, along with Susanna Dinnage's appointment as Premier League chief executive this week.
'For me being a woman in football, I've tried not to be a man,' said Ward. 'I've always just thought you will earn respect from the job you do.
'I've worked with some tough, influential men in the game: Richard Scudamore, (lawyer) Peter McCormick, Mohamed Al-Fayed as well as Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool.
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'I don't think I've found it a challenge – maybe there have been challenges I haven't really been aware of, but I think more women now work in football and essentially, the demographic of a football audience is largely male.
'So there will probably always be more men working in football than women, just because more men want to.
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'But I certainly don't think there is a lack of opportunity for women – and we've just seen that with Susanna Dinnage's appointment.
'Fifteen years ago I would go to some clubs on a matchday, go into a boardroom and everyone from the club would sit on one table – and I would have to sit with the wives on another table.
'Delia and I have quite often spoken about that because she has also been in that position, where she couldn't sit with her counterpart owner – she had to sit with the wives.
'We've moved on a long way since then.
'Delia has been a massive inspiration to me because she is all about people. She really cares, she wants everyone to be the best they can be and always talks about none of us being as smart as all of us – and that's where her collaborative approach and vision has come in.'
Football enjoying a more equal relationship with gender is one goal for the game; simply appreciating what a female influence can bring should be far more simple to achieve.
'There are times when people do go, you're a woman – what do you know?' admitted Ward. 'But it's not just about who should play at left-back; it's how the club is run.
'Men and women do think differently. They bring different skill sets and that's why the relationship between Ben (Kensell), Stuart (Webber) and myself works really well – because we all bring something different, but all have massive respect for what each of us brings.
'In any organisation, you just want there to be different people and different ways of thinking.
'We have got quite a few women in the club now who are great influencers and delivers, and they will be great leaders in this football club – and it's really exciting to see.'
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