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Women in Football survey: 89 per cent of women in football experience discrimination at work

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Eighty-nine per cent of women responding to the survey have experienced discrimination in the workplace; gender-based discrimination is seldom reported – and when reported, no action is taken in a majority of cases

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A vast majority of women and men working and volunteering in football are optimistic about progress towards gender equality in the industry, new findings from Women in Football [WIF] revealed on Wednesday (June 19) – but sexism remains commonplace and complaints often result in no action.

The results of the newest WIF survey, conducted in May 2024, show that 89 per cent of women have experienced discrimination at work. However, 85 per cent of female respondents and 91 per cent of male respondents believe opportunities for women in the football industry will get better.

Despite the public outcry following the Luis Rubiales incident in 2023, the survey also suggests that women reporting discrimination in football are often still not taken seriously. More than 60 per cent of those who reported an incident said no action was taken as a result – and among those, 16 per cent say they were not even listened to.

According to the survey data, both the prevalence of gender-based discrimination and the shortcomings of the reporting process are worse for women who work in football and belong to an ethnic group that is underrepresented in the industry.

Key points: 89% of women in football experience discrimination at work

  • Overall 89% of women responding to the survey have experienced discrimination in the workplace
  • Gender-based discrimination is seldom reported – and when reported, no action is taken in a majority of cases
  • Sexism, bullying and harassment disproportionately affect women in football from underrepresented ethnic groups, both online and face to face
  • Vast majority of women and men are optimistic about gender equality in football industry

Online hate is perceived to be on the rise by survey participants, with 44 per cent saying they have witnessed an increase in discriminatory social media posts and 18 per cent being directly subjected to more such abuse.

In another eyebrow-raising revelation, 88 per cent of women working in football believe women have to work harder than men to achieve the same recognition and benefits – and 74 per cent of men agree with them.

The 88 per cent figure for women is unchanged since last year, but only 65 per cent of men agreed in 2023 – suggesting that while progress towards gender equality in football remains slow, the industry’s male workforce is at least becoming more aware of the barriers faced by their female colleagues.

The survey also asked respondents to identify the biggest challenges for women in football. Last year conscious and unconscious bias came out on top, identified by more than 75 per cent of those who answered – but in 2024 conscious bias has dropped to 37 per cent. The largest hurdle in 2024 is male dominance of the industry (identified by 71 per cent), followed by unconscious bias (66 per cent).

After previous surveys in 2016, 2020 and 2023, this year’s is the fourth and largest yet undertaken by Women in Football – the professional network of more than 9,000 members of all genders working in and around the football industry who support gender equality in the gam

It’s quite scary – Women in Football chief concerned about discrimination report

Women in Football chief Yvonne Harrison says she is deeply concerned by a new report revealing that discrimination against women remains an overwhelming problem even after a year of reckoning across the game.

“I think if you were trying to use these stats to convince women to come into this industry they would be running the other way at a very swift pace,” Harrison said.

“That (16 per cent) is deeply depressing because you think we’re working so hard to build people’s confidence to say, ‘these things are not OK’ and you should expect action to be taken.

“How do we keep encouraging women to push if they’re not getting that response? If you’re telling me that nothing happened then why on earth am I going to make a point and risk it?

“I’ve spoken to members who have gone, ‘I’m done. I’m not even willing to have the fight anymore’, and that’s desperately sad.

“In 10 years’ time we could have less women in the senior leadership roles. It’s quite scary, really.”

Women in Football CEO Yvonne Harrison said: “Everyone knows that gender discrimination happens in football, but the problem isn’t just that it happens – there’s an even bigger problem around how football deals with it. When gender discrimination happens, many women don’t feel they can report it, and when they do report it, too often no action is taken. Women deserve better.

“We know there is willingness in the football industry to work for gender equality and we appreciate the contribution of our male allies in achieving it. For real progress to be achieved at this point, the message of our survey is clear: listen to women, and act on what they tell you.”

Women in Football director Lungi Macebo added: “Racism, sexism and all forms of discrimination usually do not exist in isolation. The ongoing fight for gender equality in football is inseparable from the wider battle for a fairer society, and the results of the Women in Football survey show that organisations need to approach equality, diversity and inclusion in an intersectional way. There needs to be an intentional effort to ensuring equity in all aspects of our game.

More than 1,100 people responded to the survey during May 2024, providing data which was analysed by IRIS Sport, the international sports research agency based in Germany.

‘A telling stat’ | ‘More change needed’

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More from Women in Football CEO Yvonne Harrison, speaking to Sky Sports News:

“I don’t think people realise how widespread the issue of gender discrimination is.

“It’s been so normalised in society that people have just almost come to expect it, and I think what the survey is showing is that women are recognising that this actually not okay and we are going to call it out for what it is.

“That is a big part of what we do at Women in Football, to give people the confidence to know that you don’t have to accept.

“There are varying scales of what we’d class as discrimination around gender, but this is a really telling stat and it signifies that there is a lot of change needed in the industry.”

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