A packed room from sport and business listened to a distinguished panel of speakers express their personal perspectives on the importance of continuing to keep pressing and harrying for a greater sense of equality and fairness at every level of sport regardless of gender.
Fairness was all that Dublin Ladies Football Manager Mick Bohan wanted when he went asking for food for the team after a long hard training session.
“The women and girls are putting in huge effort to be as good as they can be,” he told us. “They deserve to be treated with respect regardless of gender.”
“We took the idea of them being ‘women’ off the bus very early on.”
“I asked then when I took over did they want to be treated as Women or as Footballers and the answer was straightforward. They are a strong bunch and they deserve to be credited for what they have achieved at the highest level of sport.”
Key to that credit being achieved is the work being undertaken across multiple sports and funded in part by Sport Ireland whose Women in Sport lead was also on stage.
“We are looking to change attitudes that have been in place for a long time and that will not happen overnight but there is real energy and imagination in the programmes which sports bringing forward and we will get there,” she told us.
Energy is key for professional triathlete Carolyn Hayes who despite telling us that she does not like change, took the plunge and switched from being a doctor to pursue her triathlon dream in 2018.
“She is well placed for qualification for Tokyo but needs to keep completing and keep finishing ahead of her European rivals for a spot at the games.”
The lessons she learned from always wanting to play every sport from football to Waterpolo have moulded here into the character she is and we will be featuring an interview with Carolyn in the coming weeks. It will be worth it.
Another powerful character is Vera Pauw who has brought a gilt-edged pedigree as an international manager to lead the Republic of Ireland to what will hopefully be our first major finals in Euro 2021 when it is staged in England next year.
She took the job because she was impressed with the honesty and the ambition of the FAI in facing the challenges which, at the time of her appointment, were already becoming obvious.
Wins over Ukraine and Montenegro have put is with our destiny in our own hands and Pauw was inspiring in terms of the undoubted fire she has for bringing the team to their full potential.
We spoke with William Fry trainee solicitor and part-time FIFA World Cup co-commentator on the importance of media in terms of allowing young girls to see that there is a place at the table and on the pitch for them.
It was a great night and we will be following up with more from it over the coming weeks. It was also notable in terms of the audience makeup which was very much gender-balanced in its own right, a point made by Marie Kinsella, Chair of the Women’s Gaelic Players Association who was our guest.
Too often men self select themselves out of a gathering on Women in Sport, and yet it is a debate with outcomes that need to be implemented not only as a ‘women’s issue’ but as a sporting and a societal one.
Bringing the conversation into new groups of business leaders is important. Full credit to William Fry for doing that last night and for allowing us to challenge everyone there and everyone reading this, to make their own difference, and to go watch, go play, go support sport blind to whether it is men’s or women’s.
Image Credit: Madison Duffy, William Fry