The women accelerating gender parity in hockey

March 8, 2016
Pledge your support for gender parity below...

March 8 marks International Women's Day, an annual event which aims to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women whilst also draw awareness to the fact that progress in gender equality has slowed. As a result, urgent action is needed to accelerate gender parity - something that the hockey world is working hard to achieve.

This year the FIH makes our #PledgeForParity as we call for gender balanced leadership. One of the areas we are targeting is top level coaching where we are introducing a Women in Elite Coaching Project, which will run during the Women’s Hockey Champions Trophy in London, England in June this year.

The project’s long-term aim is to increase the number of females coaching within the top 12 nations. This is a key part of the FIH's 10 year-year strategy - the Hockey Revolution, of which one key area of focus is to increase the degree of professionalism throughout all areas of the sport.

Whilst this aims to help others reach such levels, we heard from four women who already hold high profile positions within hockey and get their thoughts on why there aren’t more females following their lead.

Great Britain's Karen Brown, Netherlands Janneke Schopman and Australian Alyson Annan are all Olympians who have successfully made the transition from elite player to elite coach within a top 10-ranked international team. While all three recognise there is gender disparity, their viewpoints about why and how to address it are very different.

As Assistant Coach to Great Britain and England, Brown’s attitude is unbiased. She said: “Sport is slightly behind other industries when it comes to gender equality, but it is catching up. However, you have to be realistic - you cannot just flood the market with female coaches, they have to have the right qualities and the right skill sets.”

Annan, who is Head Coach of world number one ranked Netherlands, has a slightly different opinion. She said: “I think there may be reasons to run women-only coaching courses, but there are already some very good female coaches out there in some of the lower-ranked national sides. A little support via FIH coaching courses will help to break down some barriers to female coaches.”

Janneke Schopmann is now Assistant Coach to the USA national women’s team. She said: “I can only reflect on my own experiences in the Netherlands and now working here in the US. I think it has to do with culture.

“In the USA there are a lot of female coaches, the majority of the D1 college coaches are female, you also see a lot of female coaches in the female sports. In the Netherlands, coaching is more male dominated and not just in hockey. 

“Some players said to me they didn’t want a female coach and when I asked ‘why?’ they just shrugged their shoulders and said that’s what they were used to and how they liked it. I do think that is changing though.

“If I look at myself and think about the choices I have made too, I don’t necessarily think that women want to pursue a coaching career full-time. Pursuing a career as a high level coach needs a full time commitment and comes with a lot of demands and responsibilities. In that respect I don’t see many differences with women in high positions in business. Although the numbers are increasing, there aren’t nearly as many women at that level as men.”

Over in the UK, one woman who successfully challenges male dominance on a daily basis is Chief Executive Officer of England Hockey, Sally Munday. The highly driven CEO has been in post for more than 10 years and in that time has turned England Hockey into a professional, leading force. 

FIH regard Great Britain, of which England Hockey is the responsible governing body, as a hockey role model in their Hockey Revolution strategy which aims to make hockey a global game that inspires the next generation.

As was demonstrated by the packed house at the final of the women’s EuroHockey event last August, England Hockey, led by Munday, sees the women’s game as having total parity with the men’s.

“I am a strong believer in the best person for the job irrelevant of gender,” says Munday. “In the UK at the moment there are a number of brilliant leaders in key positions – UK Sport and Sport England for example – that are women. We just need to get to a time where it is not necessary to point out that these brilliant leaders also happen to be women – why wouldn’t they be women?”

Whilst those working behind the scenes are playing a hugely important role in improving gender parity, athletes are also key to shaping perceptions. Speaking exclusively to Australia Hockey, Hockeyroos star Anna Flanagan highlights the influence that athletes can have. She said: "Female sports people offer society positive role models for the next generation.

"We need girls to be in the media, sharing their healthy, happy, and positive lifestyle that sport has provided them with. I am lucky that hockey has the equality that some sports sorely lack, but females across all sports codes have a powerful message for young girls and this should be shared. I pledge for parity in female sport in the media, but know just how lucky I am as a hockey player in Australia." To read her full interview, click here.

The FIH are asking people to join them in pledging their support for gender parity. We’ve created an exclusive free hockey Twibbon to add to your social media profiles for the day which you can add easily. More info here.

You can also pledge your support for parity by heading over to the International Women's Day website.


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