Women's Sport Week 2017
Ahead of Women's Sport Week – next week! – we're chatting to Sarah Daly, Campaigns Manager for Women in Sport, the charity empowering women and girls through sport.
We talk about working to improve the visibility of women's sport in the media, how to be a great advocate for sport, and what she's looking forward to watching this summer.
Tell me about your personal relationship to sport – did you play sport growing up, are you a regular spectator?
Yes, although it’s interesting to think about the fact that when I was growing up I would go swimming and dancing every single week and it wasn’t necessarily a ‘thing’. Today we talk about ensuring that girls can get into sport … actually, I feel very lucky that it was just part of life for me. So yes, I have been into sport, but I wasn’t necessarily particularly ‘sporty’. I just loved swimming and running around and carried on doing that as I grew up. I think that realising that that shouldn’t be a privilege, and appreciating that experience was what drew me towards Women in Sport. The power of sport and the power of movement and how I think women and girls should have equal access to that really – because it’s great.
That’s important, that it shouldn’t be a privilege – it’s easy to take it for granted sometimes when you love it. How long have you been working with Women in Sport?
I’m actually very new, I’m just coming up to three months at the charity. It’s been really good for me to learn about the sport sector because previously I was working in the charity sector doing [workers, human] rights based work. The gender rights element is my experience and then bringing it in to sport was a nice fusion of my personal interests.
I manage our project in partnership with some other European countries, including Sweden, Greece, Malta and Romania, into the visibility of women’s sport in the media. I also support the wider campaigning for the charity. Our European project is really exciting – at the moment we’re beginning the research and looking into the visibility of women in the media, so examining the amount of coverage that women’s sport gets. That varies from the hours and the pages of coverage to the actual quality of that coverage – what are the words being used? What’s the tone? This summer should be a really great time and it allows us to capture busy moments for women’s sport, and hopefully a lot more coverage than normal, but then we will also look to reflect ‘business as usual’ in the autumn. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to create a campaign around [our findings] and really raise awareness of these issues. It’s part of our role to celebrate progress in women’s sport but also always be pushing for improvement.
Are there goals that you’re working towards over the next couple of years as Campaign Manager?
Well the goals of the visibility project are quite vast because it’s aiming towards ending sexism in the media and I don’t think I’m going to be able to achieve that in two years! Really, we’re aiming for a time where business as usual is that you can switch on the T.V. or pick up a newspaper and see women’s sport just as equally as you can men’s sport. Unfortunately that is just so far from the case at the moment.
We also have another campaign called Beyond 30% which focuses on getting women into leadership roles in sport. We had a very successful launch of our Beyond 30% research on International Women’s Day this year. We’re working with the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) of sport and helping them to showcase where they are making progress towards 30% diversity on their board by next year. At the moment the campaign is focused on our research (which is on our website) but ongoing we’re helping people who are feeling unsure about how they can really progress. Lots of women, including peers in other sectors, tell us that it’s all very well saying you need to get women onto boards, but what’s the process that helps you to get there, what is the support available and what are the attitudinal barriers that women are experiencing? We hope to address these barriers and work with the NGBs to find solutions.
It’s very easy to come up against people who aren’t interested when campaigning. What challenges do you face?
I think that’s a general problem with campaigning whatever your issue is. It’s about trying to put yourself into the shoes of the person saying that and helping them to really see that some things are clearly unequal. Whilst Women in Sport’s mission is for a society where gender equality exists in every sphere, we are doing it with and through sport. I suppose it’s our job to give some really interesting case studies to highlight specific examples. I also think empowering people to see what they can actually do is important, because often people will look around and see a problem but aren’t really sure how it impacts them or how they can help. That’s quite disempowering. That’s something we want to develop, really helping people to know what they can do to support the cause - whether that be going to watch a women’s cricket game live, whether it’s tuning in on TV, or whether it’s tweeting about the fact that that you watched it, they’re quite easy things. Or even writing to your preferred TV channel and saying ‘I know this netball game was played yesterday but you didn’t show it, why not?’
What do you advise people to do that do want to see a change for women’s sport?
Women’s Sport Week is 19th – 25th June and it’s going to be brilliant! It’s a collective platform that we’re part of with the BBC, Sky Sports and the Department for Culture, Media & Sport. The Women in Sport element this year encourages people to fundraise, get active and promote women’s sport. We’d like people to do sponsored challenges – either run, cycle or swim or maybe just dress up in their favourite sports kit for work – hopefully with their colleagues too! There’s lots more information on our website.
I think for advocates of women’s sport, you need to let everyone else know that you are an advocate and do that in however suits you best. Lots of people use social media, so you can tweet @ a broadcaster or a newspaper and ask why a women’s sporting event wasn’t covered. It really can be as simple as boasting about your women’s sport tickets on Instagram! The more that we can collectively support one another and highlight those small things, the more momentum we will build behind women’s sport. And of course, follow Women in Sport and get involved with our work - we’re always looking for people to fundraise for us or to help us spread our message.
Finally, we'd love to know what game, match or event are you super excited about this summer?
Well I’m looking forward to the football because I think there’s a bit of a buzz around the Euros, which is great. I’m also quite excited about the Women’s World Cup Cricket – I’m going to watch England play in Bristol so hoping for a sunny day!