Tag Archives: gender equality

Halftime London’s goal is empowering women in sport

It has been a long time since sport was considered just a ‘men’s thing’. However, there is still a lot to do in terms of giving voice to women and respecting them as athletes, without having to talk about sexism or gender inequality.

Kelly Mackay is one of co-founders of Halftime London, a community built by women in sport for women in sport with the intention of empowering females to become and remain active.

“The name Halftime came about because it’s a moment for reflection in a game, and that’s essentially what we want to be known for – a project that makes you think.”

Since meeting Kelly for the first time some years ago, she has always shown me how important it is to speak up and demonstrate the importance of females in our society and, even more, in sport.

So why create a platform about women in sport? She explains: “As a children’s football coach I’ve watched kids from as young as two playing football together, boys and girls.

“They have no problems with a mixed-gendered game until around the age of five. At this point, the girls get shyer and the boys get more confident. Why is that? Is this their education? Is this their environment?”

“I wanted to find out what was the true reason behind the sudden slip in confidence, which is why I started Halftime and why I believe that by empowering women and girls we will level the playing field across all sports.”

Beginnings

The idea was well thought-through and analysed before being realised.  “I was sitting having a cigarette with my friend Marissa in her kitchen in Glasgow. We were talking about the importance of confidence when it comes to trying something new.

“This triggered a question for me about why women and girls feel held back from trying new sports. Fast forward a few months, I was sitting in a pub with Cari, Halftime’s other founder, and we were discussing who are the real women of sport.

“We realised that the everyday sportswomen – whether that’s someone running for the first time or a committed footballer – are the real women of sport.”

Halftime London began as a way of showcasing the women and girls they know and respect through their commitment to a sport.

“We started by taking photographs of them in a studio environment and interviewing them. It has now grown into a project which is entirely dedicated to empowering as many women and girls to become and remain active in any way that interests them through many different mediums.”

Empowering women

Although empowering females was the main intention why this platform and community was built, Mackay emphasizes that the real fight is against inequality. Empowering females in sport is as important as it is empowering men, being equality the outcome and only achievement Halftime London is after.

‘I still remember when the 17-year-old girl living in me some years ago was asked to share my relationship with sport to help them start this project’

Consequently, she tells me that “sexism is a strong place to start, but it shouldn’t be the only thing discussed. Yes, we all face challenges, but the most important topic is discussing and sharing the way we overcome them.”

A look through their Instagram account highlights loads of different types of women and stories.

Mackay says: “The difficulty is not in finding the stories, it’s in finding the time to cover them all. I find stories everywhere I go, so I usually have a pen and notebook on me to try and write them all down. Most females are very open with their experiences because they believe in the mission of our project.”

And that is absolutely true. I still remember when the 17-year-old girl living in me some years ago was asked to share my relationship with sport to help them start this project.

Every time I have met her since then, she has been with the notebook or paying attention to every single story surrounding her. When meeting her, I have sometimes doubted if it was me or her the journalist there, as she keeps asking questions and seeking stories.

Sportswomen’s success

“It’s incredibly important to acknowledge the difference between work and play. We all have our passions which are external to our business, and it’s important to feed both sides of our lives.”

Empowering women through their successes in sport, and not their personal lives, is what makes the difference. Why do we consider the personal aspects of successful women’s lives when they are not considered in men? Here, the media has a lot to do.

“Now that women are slowly entering the limelight, the media is trying to figure out the best way to cover these stories. So, unfortunately, pro-athletes get asked to twerk on stage, or articles are written which refer to a sportswoman as the wife of someone rather than giving them their own autonomy.

“This is changing, but it only exists because the media has been built with the tools of the patriarchy. We’ll get there, we’ve just got to grit our teeth and keep fighting.

“Acknowledging the irrelevance of someone’s personal life with regards to their successes is something that allows us to take success at face value, rather than looking for deeper meaning into why it happened.”

Personal challenge

On Halftime’s Instagram account we can see posts from a solo-motorcycle road trip Kelly did from London to Lisbon, via Spain’s northern coast. She tells me it was a way to prove herself that she could do it.

“Many people told me that a 125cc motorcycle wouldn’t make it, but it did and so did I.  Many problems faced, but overcome just as efficiently. That trip proved to me and everyone I know that anything is possible, regardless of doubt and fear.”

Moreover, this perfectly reflects Halftime’s principles. As one of the project’s co-creators, Mackay says she would love this trip to be an example for other women who don’t think they can achieve things through sport.

“I want Halftime to be a place to find stories, to feel both inspired and challenged to do something you’ve always wanted to try.

“Anything which involves travelling and meeting new people is beneficial to Halftime. It challenges me to ask questions and get out there, and it makes people feel heard and valued. Both important factors indeed.”

Next step

Moving on to the wave of feminism that has impacted our society, there is hope in Kelly’s eyes.

“Certainly in the past year or so, projects like This Girl Can and initiatives such as Women In Sport have had a huge impact on how we see and interact with women’s sport. The challenge now is to keep it all going until we see a completely equal outcome- financially and socially.”

Moreover, she claims that the most important thing for women is to realise that improving confidence is the best way to reach an active lifestyle.

“It’s all about showing people that they’re capable of any sport the minute they set their mind to it.”

On her future objectives for Halftime, she concludes: “Halftime is currently having a bit of a makeover. We’re looking at what we want to physically provide this year and how we can be as present in the world of female sport as possible.”

Halftime London is on InstagramAll photos used by kind permission of Halftime London.

 

Why is it still so tough for women to succeed in sport?

Will women ever be equally respected as men in the sports world? Will they ever be paid equally?

Years ago, women were forbidden from playing, watching and supporting any kind of sport. They were expected to get married and look after their families.

Women were always classified as “weaker” than men, and therefore sports was considered too strenuous an activity for them.

Men developed most sports for themselves and this is why sport has always been extremely male dominated.

Unladylike sports

In the 1920s we saw the beginning of high level competitive sports and skilled athletes began emerging.

However, during those years it wasn’t considered fitting for women to play any contact sports or those which involved any type of jumping. Women were encouraged to play more ‘ladylike’ sports such as field hockey, swimming, golf and tennis.

As the years went by, they were allowed to participate in more sports, but it was never as competitive as the men’s game.

Women’s sport failed to gain as much popularity as men’s.

In some countries women, myths persisted such as the one about playing sports is a potential impairment to female fertility.

There are also still a lot of practical barriers stopping women participating in sport,  including poverty and scarcity of economic means.

For women this means lack of time, a lack of appropriate, safe and accessible infrastructure and adequate clothing.

Today, we live in a world where women are taught to stand up for themselves, and over the years every industry has become more accepting regardless of gender.

But women still face a lot of criticism on a daily basis, whether it’s at home or at work. For years, the sports industry has been reserved for men with the justification of “Well, women aren’t into sports that much.”

Paid less

The challenge that female athletes still face today is that they are often being paid half or less of the sums paid to their male counterparts. There are gross discrepancies between the incomes of male and female athletes.

8 out of 10 of the highest paid female athletes are tennis players. There has always been an ongoing battle for equal pay, as in most walks in life there has been a long divide between the earnings of male and female.

But when you have successful athletes and worldwide role models with amazing talent like Serena Williams who fought for equal pay and is extremely passionate about equality on and off the court, you can’t stay quiet for long.

This year marks a decade since women won the right to equal prize money at the oldest and most famous tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon. However, many associations have been trying for years to raise the pay for women athletes, but they haven’t succeeded as much as they would like to.

The England women’s cricket team

Many fans can proudly identify every male athlete, their families, family history, what position they play in and how successful they are. But what about the female counterparts?

Not only do people not recognise them, a lot of sports fans are unaware when women’s games even take place. However, as the years go by, the growth of sport has benefitted for women too.

A lot more media coverage for women’s football and different sports is available, however it is still not as much as the men’s side.

They also use more marketing to promote women’s games globally. An amazing support system you see in the industry is women supporting women, you have top female sports journalists such as Seema Jaswal who promote women as much as they can, because being a female, they all face the same challenges.

With more women entering the industry in different fields, it looks like it can only get better for them in the coming years with the right encouragement and support.

But instead of dealing with these persistent issues, society tries to publicly shame these aspiring athletes.

Female athletes are still objectified on the field as much as they are on the streets.

Whether you are a coach, a commentator or in the audience, women are looked as commodities showcasing themselves for men’s pleasure, not as athletes of potential and talent.

Even though women are breaking records and winning trophies for their countries they still can’t seem to live up to the men’s level in the male dominated sport.

She shoots, she scores

Women are a growing fan base and the sports industry is responding to it. The sports media has stated to adapt to more women in the industry. We are seeing more media coverage of women’s sport than ever before.

Women are finally starting to have their own say, the difference before was the criticism would force women to give up their passion.

But today even with others questioning females in the sports industry, they still continue to pursue a career in what makes them happy.

Encouraging women to play sport has not only helped women have fewer health problems and land better jobs, it is also good for countries to promote stronger women, stronger communities and stronger economies.

Overall, it is impressive what’s being done to support women in sport now, different campaigns and associations are marketing new trending hash tags and products to help women and supporting impressive programs designed to support getting girls and women into sport globally.