This time last year I was data collecting for a UEFA funded project looking into the role men can play in facilitating gender equity in football leadership. Having travelled across Europe and conducted numerous interviews with men and women in decision making positions and having spent hours analysing the data, I have the answer. I know why women are invisible in football, I know how to level the playing field, I know how to make football an equitable place to work.
I’ve spent decades telling organisations that there isn’t a magic matrix type pill that we can take to make inequality better but you know what I was wrong! Equality isn’t a mind-blowing puzzle that us mere mortals are incapable of solving. It’s really quite simple, it’s just that we choose to over complicate it. And I for one am done with over complication. I’m impatient and I want to solve this issue so we can move on to the next one, because let’s face it there’s a long line of them.
So here it is my friends….here’s the answer to the million dollar question of how can we make football (but you can insert any other industry / sector into this space in the sentence) equitable…..
We simply have to make equitable choices. Don’t role your eyes at me, I told you it was simple and it is. Whatever decision you make next today ask yourself ‘have I considered all my options?’, ‘is this fare?’ and just for good measure don’t forget to consider ‘when I make this decision am I only thinking about white, straight, able-bodied men?’
So just to summaries, before you make any decision today, be that what you are choosing to wear, what you are ordering for lunch, who you invite to the meeting, who you short list for the next promotion….ask yourself these three questions.
Inequality is the culmination of 100 decisions made over 100s of years. Decisions that in football for example lead to women being banned from even playing the sport, or from spectating the sport. At some point, somewhere, someone, decided that the World Cup for men didn’t need a gendered label but the women’s did (for the mens game we just say the FIFA World Cup but we need to let you know when the women are playing Women’s World Cup, just incase you are expecting the ‘real’ thing!). Someone decided that the league trophy for women should be half the size of the mens. Someone decided that the women who played for their national side didn’t deserve to have their own shirts with their names on. Someone decided that the version of the game played by men was worth investing in. Someone decided that the coach education material should only include male players. Someone decided not to invest in the science behind women’s physiology and sport science research. Someone decided that new board members should receive a gift bag with aftershave because who could imagine a woman board member.
Whilst it isn’t the same someone who made each of these decisions, in each of these cases that someone was a man. And whilst some of these decisions were made 100s of years ago, some were made yesterday.
Men have been making the decisions about football since football was invented. And of course those decisions were made in the best interest of…….men! The result of these 100s of decisions made over 100s of years is that the playing field is unquestionably tipped in the favour of men. So if we want to level the playing field we have to start making a concerted effort to tip it back the other way – we have to start making different decisions.
You see it really isn’t that difficult. Maybe I should go a step further and simply say whatever decision you are about to make don’t! Henry Ford once said “If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done, You’ll Always Get What You’ve Always Got.”