BREAKING: Two-thirds of women working in football have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, according to Women in Football’s biggest survey (Not this one; this is a sports blog called ‘Women In Football: The Glass Ceiling’). Anyway, in collaboration with Sports Marketing Surveys, questions were sent to the 4,200 members of Women in Football (WiF) and the organisation’s chair, Ebru Köksal, said the results were “heartbreaking and devastating”.
“In this day and age, it’s no longer acceptable,” she said, “Inherent sexism in the game has been continuing for decades.”
The findings were that only 12% of incidents were reported and Köksal said there was “still a lot of fear” of speaking out.
“A lot of women have got to where they are on hard work and, a lot of the time, much more merit than their male counterparts and they don’t want to lose that hard-earned position and status,” she said.
WiF’s members are a network of professionals who work in every area of the game, on and off the pitch. The survey showed that when problems were reported they were “brushed under the carpet”, with the most common form of discrimination labelled “banter”.
Janie Frampton, the WiF ambassador and former referee who reached an out-of-court settlement with the Football Association in 2013 after she took the governing body to a tribunal following a dispute over her dismissal, said:
“Myself and Wendy Toms were the first two women [referees] that came through the men’s professional game in the 90s.”
“Both of us have said so many times since that we probably had too high a tolerance level at the time because we just wanted to fit in. Now, we’ve come on 30 years and we are still experiencing the same issues… Wendy and I were treated as a circus; I don’t want that to still be the case now.”
In response to the findings, WiF is launching a corporate membership scheme to work with governing bodies, clubs and other football stakeholders eradicate the issue. It is also starting a youth council and has expanded its Vikki Orvice’s directorship scheme, which provides boardroom experience to two candidates a year rather than one. Bringing male allies on board is a key part of the strategy.
“Throughout my 30-year career, whether it was in finance or in football, I had some great male allies and supporters who basically protected me from all this banter and chatter and those trying to tackle me,” Köksal said.
Finally, by creating a youth council, WiF hopes to harness the “different mind-frame” of its younger members.
“There’s an opportunity to get some great ideas and also have them reverse mentor us,” Kökal said, “I would love it if we had to shut down and disappear in 10 years, because there’s no more discrimination, right? That means we’ve done our work really well. So making ourselves obsolete would be the ultimate goal.”