Back l-r: Will Fuller, Scott Simpson, Madeleine Sims, Daisie Mayes, Dan Clements, Jo Westwood, Rosie Eccles, Manon Carpenter, Caroline Spanton
Front l-r: Richard Tong, Rhian Gibson, Cara Aitchison, Michaela Breeze MBE, Kevin Moggridge
Cardiff Metropolitan University Students’ Union recently held a student led question and answer session with elite female athletes and pioneers of the women’s game.
The event gathered staff and students from across the university in front of a panel of notable sports people to discuss female sport and the action needed to tackle inequalities facing women in sport at all levels.
Student Vice President, Will Fuller and Sport and Physical Education student, Daisie Mayes hosted the event and prompted discussions surrounding the panel’s own experiences of women in sport, the barriers they have faced and practical ideas to help overcome the challenges that women in sport face today.
The panel highlighted the need for more funding, sponsorship and better salaries in female sport to help develop and support players and lessen the gap in opportunities between male and female equivalent sports, as well as discussing media coverage of female sport and the need for equal representation of women on sports boards.
Highlights from the event included Michaela Breeze’s discussion of the cultural barriers she overcame to compete professionally in weightlifting, including the fight to be respected in the gym and to overcome discrimination. Michaela reiterated that there needs to be more funding and support for rising talent to progress professionally in sport and that there are still too many men on boards potentially holding the women’s game back.
Welsh Rugby Union National Women’s Rugby Manager, Caroline Spanton said: “We have seen a huge positive change in media coverage of Women's rugby, with the Women's Six Nations Championship being broadcast live at each fixture for the first time ever and its impact has been significant. We saw approx 83,000 watch our England game on BBC alone plus a live audience of 4,500 bigger than we have ever had previously.
“Our elite players still have to balance a successful sports career with work which is challenging when we are competing against teams with full time professionals. We need to continue to do more to ensure women's voices are heard at all levels of sport and ensure our structures suit and support women to not only take part in Rugby in my instance, but also for them to take on different roles within sport such as Committee positions, refereeing and coaching.”
Both Scott Simpson and Rhian Gibson also emphasised the issue of diversity and the need for more business-minded individuals in sport, to help develop and drive the game further for women from a business aspect.
Cardiff Met Student Vice President, Will Fuller said: “The Women in Sport event was a fantastic opportunity for students and staff to hear from world class athletes and coaches who are at the forefront of women's sport. The panel brought to life some of the barriers they have faced during their careers and the ways that as athletes and members of governing bodies they're trying to improve women's sport.
“The panel were incredibly open and honest about their personal journeys which included sneaking out in the early hours to avoid questions from family and wider social perceptions of their involvement in sport. It was fantastic to host such a prestigious event in the Students' Union and we hope to continue to promote both women's sport and similar events in the future."
Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff Metropolitan University, Professor Cara Aitchison said: “Cardiff Met has a long and established track record for sport performance, sport education and sport research and this event celebrated these successes whilst also exploring the challenges that women in sport continue to face.
“I was delighted to play a role in introducing this student-led event with its impressive list of invited guest speakers and role models including World, Commonwealth, British and Wales champions, head coaches, managers and chief executives of national teams, and professionals from the world of sport media. By agreeing to speak with students and answer their questions from the floor, the event served to inspire our student athletes about the success that they too can achieve and, where support is available, ensure that they can be the very best versions of themselves in sport.”