Jacqui Oatley talks Women In Football after latest survey reveals troubling statistics

By Jessy Parker Humphreys

Women in Football ambassador Jacqui Oatley admits that the numbers look bleak; but the survey also reports that the majority of women in football feel supported & celebrated by their employer.

More than two-thirds of women working in football have experienced gender discrimination.

That is according to a new survey published by Women in Football. Yet only 12% of instances get reported.

“I think you’d be hard pushed to find any woman working in football who hasn’t experienced some form of discrimination,” said Women in Football ambassador Jacqui Oatley, speaking to The Offside Rule.

“Whether it’s stereotyping or negativity. Whether it’s blatant or more subliminal. Everybody will have experienced it to some extent.”

Jacqui Oatley, Women In Football Ambassador

Women in Football’s survey indicated that subliminal problems can be more of the problem, with 52% of respondents reporting that they had either experienced or witnessed complaints being ‘brushed under the carpet’ as ‘banter’.

“There’s a level where you have to say: ‘That probably crossed a boundary’”, says Oatley.

“We’re encouraging people not to internalise something that they feel is offensive… and there are certainly ways to get round these issues and deal with them that doesn’t make the woman stand out and look as if she can’t hack it. That’s really not acceptable.”

“We have to enjoy our workplaces whatever that workplace is. We have to work together and be considerate.”

The good news is that the majority (66%) of women working in football feel supported by their employer, with over half (55%) believing that their employer celebrates female talent.

“It’s not just a case of knocking on the door and going ‘Hey men’s football, can we come in and share the fun please because we’re fans too?’”

“Football isn’t just for men.”

“There’s a theory that diversity on boards can break up the group-think. A more diverse board in terms of gender, culture and background broadens the mix of ideas and creativity.

“It is really important for football that women are bringing their talent, their skills, their diversity, and this is what we are all striving for.”

The organisation Women in Football works towards practical solutions to help women working in the game fulfill their potential through leadership courses, mentoring, and networking to help upskill and support members.

“Things are going to be the way they’ve always been unless people change their minds. The best way to diversify thinking is to have diverse people in the decision-making process.

Rather than just talking about it, it’s a case of actually making it happen.”

“That’s where [Women in Football] are really impressive and proactive, because they’re not just talking about it every so often. No: they’re actually doing something about it, and that’s what I love about them.”

The headline picture might seem bleak for women looking to get into the football industry, but Oatley still believes there are jobs worth fighting for.

“There’s no point in sugar-coating it. It really is an excruciatingly difficult industry.”

“You have to have that work ethic. You have to have the right attitude towards it.”

“There are always ways in. So cast your net as far as possible in terms of research and contacting people and finding out what it takes, then upskill yourself and practise and get feedback.”.

“And be persistent.”

It is a message echoed by Chair of Women in Football, Ebru Köksal.

“It is our intention to drive the agenda forward together and to harness the power of our joint expertise, knowledge, skills, and experience to create improvements for all in the industry now, and for every person who will join in the future.”

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