As part of our #ThisIsSurreyFootball campaign, we spoke to Women in Sport’s, Josie Jones about the progress towards equality and inclusion in the sport, and her role in our Inclusion Advisory Group [IAG].
In the last twelve months that Josie has been involved with our IAG she has supported us in capturing equality data across football in Surrey to ensure it is for all.
We spoke to Josie about her roles with Women in Sport and our Inclusion Advisory Group. We also discuss the strides that have been made to ensure equality and inclusion is a top priority across all levels of sport. Finally, Josie gives her advice to sports clubs and organisations on how to ensure women have the same opportunities as men, as well as advice to women thinking of getting involved in sport.
Tell us more about your role with Women in Sport?
“I’ve been with the charity for a little over 12 months and I started leading a project on workplace culture. The project is funded by Comic Relief and is a two-year study looking at how we can make the culture in organisations within sport really inclusive and welcoming to everybody, but specifically for Women in Sport it would be for women.
Women in Sport has done quite a lot of work on the number of women in sports organisations and there was a big piece we did back in 2017 which led to the governance code change where national governing bodies are required to have at least 30% of women on their boards. That was great and we achieved a lot through that but I think from that work came a sense that it was very well to put more women on boards and to make boards more diverse but actually what you have to do is create a culture within the wider organisation not just the board room, to make sure that everyone, particularly women (because that’s our slant) can thrive in that organisation and [feel] that they truly belong.”
What is the aim of Women in Sport?
“That’s a really good question. I think first of all in terms of the wider aim of the organisation or why it exists is to give every women and girl the opportunity to take part in sport.
If we take it back to its simplest form, ultimately for every girl from primary to teen, from every woman beyond menopause, nearing end of life, whatever it is everyone has the right to have access to sport and that hasn’t always been easy.. As a wider charity its mission really is to get everyone playing sport and to equal out the playing field if you like. We know how important sport is and we know that it transforms lives and brings so much joy to those who play. We really believe no one should be excluded. That’s the wider aim of the charity and for us is making sure that women and girls have access to sport but also making sure that the infrastructure is set up in such a way that it’s easy to get into sport.
From my perspective, if you have people working in these sports organisations that are women and not just men, then you’re much more likely to be able to think about the needs of girls and women and think about what you need in terms of the sports infrastructure to create an environment where those people feel that they are truly welcome and can see themselves playing the sport because they see themselves reflected in the organisation, volunteers and the management.”
What is your role within Surrey FA’s Inclusion Advisory Group?
“I’ve been a member for 12 months and what I like about the [IAG] is that it allows the individuals to help in areas where their strengths lie.
One of the things I got involved with pretty soon after I joined was the Equality and Diversity Monitoring Form, helping the Surrey FA staff to create the survey and think about how we would ask all the right questions and make sure we covered off all the protected characteristics in a way that wasn’t too clumsy or awkward for people to answer, because there are a lot of questions that need to be asked. We needed to be really sensitive of the fact that some of these people would’ve been filling this form out online or in person and some people would’ve been young, so it was hard to make that data capture comprehensive, but also simple. That was really important for the Association because without knowing the numbers, it’s really hard then to plan for the diversity and inclusion piece.
Unfortunately, Covid got in the way and scuppered the plans of collecting that data completely. But that is one of the things I’ve been able to get involved in and I’m sure I’ll stay involved in that going forward.
The other thing I’ve done is helped on some grant applications, so it’s really just [a case of supporting] wherever I can add value and where there’s a need. We meet every two months and it’s nice to hear what’s going on in the wider organisation [and to] think about how we can contribute.”
What progress, if any, has been made towards equality and inclusion in sport?
“I think a lot of progress has been made. When I think back to my own childhood, the only time I used to see women on TV playing sport was when the Olympics was on. It wasn’t easy to access women’s sport. When I was in my teens and in my early adulthood if I wanted to watch netball, which was the game that I played at the time, you had to look really hard to find a game of decent standard to watch on TV. They didn’t even have the correct way of filming netball games; it was just a static camera and the game was played. So, it was clunky and hard to access. It felt like girls were restricted to playing games like netball or gymnastics and I was never much of a gymnast.
When I look back, I think loads of progress has been made, even the fact there is an [IAG] at Surrey FA, the fact that were talking about getting more women on sports boards and the success of things like the Women’s Football World Cup, just so much has changed. I think most sports clubs recognise that increasing the pool of players is the right thing to do but also from a business and commercial side it’s attractive because you reach new target markets.
I think most people agree that it’s something to aim for, but I do think the change is frustratingly slow. One of the reasons why I joined the [IAG] as because I couldn’t find sport ,and football specifically, for my daughters. They were five and seven at the time when we moved back here from Australia.. I tried so many clubs, I rang, and I was relentless, but I couldn’t find anything. I thought I can either moan about it or I can try and help to be part of the solution.
I’ve grown up knowing how important sport is, it was really important to me to trying to figure out how this could change because I just didn’t think it was right that they would walk past a field full of boys of the same age playing competitive football and yet they weren’t able to play competitive football because they were a girl. It was a hard thing to realise that what I had been used to in Sydney wasn’t available here. Apathy and lack of motivation to change stops a lot of things from changing and lot of times [the excuses might be] ‘We don’t have the pitch space’ or ‘We don’t have the coaches’. Yes, a lot has changed but [more can be done] and I really think we could do a lot more and we could work a lot harder.
We can always do more to make sure there are girls playing sport and I honestly really believe if we get them playing sport from an early age then we can keep them playing sport and that’s really important.”
How can leading sports organisations ensure women have the same opportunities as men?
“I’m obviously leading this programme with Women in Sport that I mentioned but my background is in insights - work around consumer behaviour, consumer psychology and marketing. In my career I look at why people do the things that they do and collect data to make sure we have a robust understanding of what’s going on.
The first thing I would say is [that you should] understand the demographics of your area. Don’t just look around you and say, ‘all the people look like me so that must be the demographic’. Get to know the demographics of your area and once you understand [those] try work out how you can make your football club representative of the demographics of that local area. You can’t hide and you can’t escape from facts and numbers.
I think it’s about making sure you’ve got robustness and understanding of the data around you, think more laterally and work that little bit harder to capture people when they aren’t necessarily there immediately.
Marketing always talk about ‘what’s the low hanging fruit’. The low handing fruit is really obvious, easy and attractive because you don’t have to work very hard to get. But sometimes, we just have to work a little bit harder and ultimately that pays off.
If you’re an association or a bigger club then do an audit of how much pitch time male teams get compared to women’s teams. Make sure it’s representative and that the coaching allocation or the spend on the team is the same. Audit the volunteer roles in the club, think about whether all your volunteers are men and think about how to attract more female volunteers to the club. It’s really thinking through and doing a bit of diligence in terms of the demographics but your structure and how you allocate resources.
I think also the other thing that people don’t really talk about much is the cost of playing your sport. When my son started playing cricket, he started playing milo cricket in Australia and it was all fairly [casual]you turned up and you didn’t have to wear uniform. He turned 9 or 10, started hard ball cricket and all of a sudden [there was] a list of things they needed, and it was endless. You start to think ‘Who can afford that?’ and if everyone must have that for themselves then that’s pretty exclusive. It comes down to asking those [kind of] questions and being really honest about whether you are happy to listen to the answer as well because if that means you have to change then you have to take that on.”
What advice would you give to women wanting to get involved in sport?
“Advice to my younger self would be just get out and do it! Find something that you really love because sport is the most amazing thing if you find the right one for you. I have met some of the most amazing friends through sport, people that will be friends for life. I changed sports here and there and have competed individually and as a team, but you’ve got to figure out what motivates you. For me team sport is a great motivator because I am so easy to talk out of going to the gym or for a run. I’m one of those people that will find any excuse not to go but team sports are really good for me because it means I’m committed to something, so I will turn up. I try very hard for the sake of the team and if that’s what motivates you, find something. It could be netball, football or rugby. It can be anything, there isn’t an excuse anymore not to take up sport because there are so many reasons to take up.
I think just do it, give it a go and talk to people to find out what works for them. Make sure if you’re a parent you role model playing sport to your children, make sure it’s not always dad who takes the son to football and rugby. I’m really big on that, [I like to be a]role model to my boys [in showing] what women and girls can do. I do the scoring at cricket because I want him to know that I’m as interested in his cricket as his dad. In the same way I want my husband to take the girls to netball, football or dance because we believe it’s really important for them to understand their dad is just as interested in them. I think there’s a really big job in terms of parenting and being good role models. Coaches can be great role models too. Don’t always assign the male coach to the male team. Why can’t the female coach be in charge of the boys’ team or the other way around.
No one regrets playing sport or being active, I’ve only ever regretted not doing it. Covid is a really good example because I haven’t been out to play team sport and I have missed it. Give it a go and you won’t be disappointed."