A recent survey from Women in Football (WiF) exposed a rise in sexism in the football workplace. The findings showed that:
- nearly half (46%) of women working in football had experienced sexism in the workplace
- the number of women in football who had suffered from sexism had doubled in the last two years from 7 to 15%
- 90% of women in football believe that more could be done to increase the chances of women breaking into the sport and gaining further opportunities once in it.
Prospect deputy general secretary Sue Ferns was one of the speakers at a seminar organised by WiF and the TUC to discuss the issue and identify how trade unions can help resolve the problem.
Prospect represents 160 sports professionals, most of whom work in football as referees or assistant referees and was able to share its experience of dealing with sexism in football.
Prospect negotiator Alan Leighton said: "It was heartening to hear keynote speaker, TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady praise Prospect for its work in organising in the sector.
"Frances also praised other unions such as the Professional Footballers’ Association and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists for raising the number of women trade unionists in the sector.
"However she challenged the unions to do more to encourage women in the football industry to join unions and challenge the rise in sexism."
Frances also called for more women to be appointed to leading positions in football and for a zero tolerance attitude to sexism in the workplace.
Following the keynote speech, participants engaged in a useful networking session before a panel discussion, chaired by executive producer Jo Tongue and involving Sue Ferns, Simone Pound from the PFA, Sue Unerman, author of The Glass Wall and Richard Bevan of the League Managers Association.
Ferns explained how Prospect had tackled sexism in male-dominated industries. In science, technology, engineering and mathematics the union promoted the use of role models, unconscious bias training, mentoring and networking.
Some broad conclusions arising from the discussion were that unions needed to explain more about what they are, what they do and what they can do for women members in the football workplace.
Clear guidance for members and prospective members about how sexism can and should be challenged and a willingness to deal with the matter as a collective issue is needed.
Prospect encourages all members working in football, and sport more widely, to talk to women colleagues about joining Prospect and ensure that Prospect is an attractive and welcoming organisation for women.