History has been made at the World Athletics Indoor Championships after 3 female coaches have been selected for Team Coach roles with the GB Squad. Previous to this, there had never been a single female Team Coach on a GB International Team pre-2021 (1 female coach on the European Indoor Championships 2021), and only a handful on the GB Para Teams.
The FCN has been working tirelessly on the project: Achieving Gender Equity in High Performance Athletics Coaching in the U:K since January 2020, and worked closely with coaches and UKA to create change.
Our report, in partnership with Professor Leanne Norman was published in February 2021, showing the appalling statistics and lack of opportunities that female coaches were given within the sport. In addition, the report also revealed the experiences of a number of female performance coaches, who had been coaching in sexist and discriminatory environment within the sport for many years.
The history made at the World Athletics Indoor Championships is just one of the many progressions the sport has made since our work began. The FCN have guided UKA and the Home Countries in better practices for gender equality, supported a number of individuals across the sport with safeguarding concerns and also produced a Gender Equity in Coaching Action plan ready for UKA to roll out.
Whilst change is slowly being created, there is still a long way yet to go, many toxic cultures to break down and many discriminatory issues yet to address…but this weekend proves progress is being made.
Article originally appears in the Telegraph, written by Ben Bloom:
‘Jobs for the boys’ culture finally breaking down as British women coaches debut at World Indoor Championships
Changes come after report detailing accusations of sexual harassment and limited opportunities in athletics
One of the first female coaches at a world championships has described her inclusion as a significant step in breaking down athletics’s old boys network.
This week’s World Indoor Championships will mark the first time Britain has ever had female representation on the team coaching staff at an able-bodied global event. Laura Turner-Alleyne and Sarah Benson make up two of the six team coaches, while Paula Dunn is team leader.
Their inclusion comes a year after UK Athletics was rocked by accusations of sexual harassment, abuse and degrading comments in a report detailing the lack of opportunities for female coaches in the sport. It showed 207 men and no women had been chosen to lead the nation’s elite at world and European competition over the previous decade, while of the top 100 athletes across all disciplines in the British rankings for 2019, just eight per cent were coached by women.
Turner-Alleyne, British team coach for combined events and sprints at this week’s World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, said: “It is great that there are three of us. But is it great this is the first time this has ever happened? Not in my opinion, because it’s been a long time coming.
“I am in a reasonably prominent position where people can see me doing things with the senior team, and I do have more of a voice now. I realise now that I can be part of the change. The old boys network still exists, but there are chinks in it.”
Many of the 17 female coaches interviewed for last year’s Leeds Beckett University report described feeling marginalised by a culture of “jobs for the boys”.
Despite women making up 28 per cent of coaching staff on British teams at international para events and 20 per cent at Under-18 and Under-20 championships on the Olympic programme over the past decade, there was zero representation at senior level on the Olympic programme.
Former UK Athletics chief executive Joanna Coates responded by promising to “change the environment” female coaches work in, and the governing body has since overhauled its safeguarding process.
“I don’t think it’s been enough time to change an environment or a culture,” said Turner-Alleyne. “I do think now with people like Paula Dunn in team leader roles, the only way to influence the culture is to have women part of it.
“Now change can be driven from the inside. The only way to change a culture is to be in it. I’d like to think the ball has started rolling from that perspective.”
Dunn, who has been head coach of Britain’s Paralympic programme for almost a decade, said she has grown accustomed to being “one of very few women in those [senior leadership] rooms”.
She said: “Representation is key. I’ve always believed that you need diversity in your staff. We’ve got a diverse athlete group. We know we’ve got work to do but we’re starting that process now. It’s something that I’m invested in.
“We have recognised that there is an issue. We need to be reflecting the team make-up.
“You have to address these problems. It’s just a matter of making those changes bit by bit, and calling out behaviours if you see them. It is a long-term process.”