Females under-represented across leading roles says report
Women are meeting a glass ceiling leading to under-representation in leading roles across all sectors of British racing according to the first report on gender diversity within the sport which was unveiled at York racecourse on Wednesday.
The most immediate recommendation to emerge from the report, published by the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice at Oxford Brookes University and Women in Racing (WiR), was the establishment of an independent steering body to develop a deeper understanding of the issue followed by industry-wide voluntary diversity targets.
In response the BHA said it would consult across the sport to consider the report's recommendations and to consider what other action might be needed.
The report said that while progress was being made on gender diversity in racing, a number of issues had been identified.
They included the lack of career development opportunities, with low numbers of professional female jockeys "a key area for concern" despite the ratio of women to men entering the sport from college standing at 70:30.
The BHA said women accounted for 12 per cent of all licensed jockeys but just six per cent of all rides and only one per cent of rides in the top races.
The report said there were examples of discriminative, prejudice and bullying behaviour with several of the 394 participants in the survey reporting a 'banter' culture, particularly in yards, including ageist, sexist, racist and homophobic abuse.
Barriers and lack of representation at senior and board level were also reported.
While 34 per cent of trustees on charitable boards in racing were female, that dropped to 16 per cent on other boards including those integral to governance, with five boards having no women at all.
The report said a number of women had been made to feel unwelcome when considering applying for more senior roles with some specifically told that women "would not be promoted".
Negative experiences of work-life balance and pastoral care were also reported.
Kate Clayton-Hathway, who researched the report along with Professor Simonetta Manfredi, said racing had been slower than other sports and industries to address the issue of gender diversity.
She said: "Certainly sports that have any government funding definitely are slightly ahead of the curve on this.
"Everybody in racing who I spoke to said yes, we are slow in coming to the table here but now that this has been raised as an issue it is something that we want to get cracking on."
Clayton-Hathway said the stereotyping of gender roles in racing, with women seen as more caring and men as strong, had surprised her.
"I have to say I have done a lot of research in this area and it is the only industry I have ever worked with where women were repeatedly called girls regardless of their age, which really stood out to me," she added.
Founder and honorary president of WiR Sally Rowley-Williams said the report was a "ground-breaking" piece of research for British horseracing.
She added: "British horseracing has within it some excellent people but we need to all work together to ensure existing and future talent is attracted to and able to thrive within our sport."
He added: "Today, we’re re-stating our commitment to improve diversity in our sport.
"As the survey report highlights, to be successful, this requires a cross-industry effort, so we will now consult with racecourses and horsemen on additional actions we need to take, including the recommendations contained in this report."
Women In Racing committee member Susannah Gill on why diversity is important to British racing
The research illustrates something those of us lucky enough to work in the sport already know – namely that British horseracing offers exciting and varied career opportunities.
But the team at Oxford Brookes have also pinpointed some issues that have not been so widely acknowledged and discussed which specifically help to address the central issue of why, when we have more women than men entering the sport, are the top positions still male dominated?
The research starts to provide some answers to the fundamental issues about diversity. Plenty of the findings in the research will not come as a great surprise to many people, especially to the thousands of women working in the sport.
Diversity is an issue that should matter to everyone in the sport, whatever their background and whatever their role.
It helps boost organisational and financial performance, along with customer retention and innovation which I think we can all agree are things that can benefit British horseracing.
Let’s be clear: the publication of the research is just the start.
Crucial now is how the sport responds to these findings. As the governing body the BHA can lead, and its initial response has been heartening, but it is for all organisations and individuals to play their part.
With the publication of this research anecdotal feedback has become fact and now words must become action. Only by doing this will British horseracing ensure it attracts, supports and promotes talent in the years ahead. In the words of Women in Racing’s Founder Sally Rowley-Williams at the launch of the research: "Be brave - I dare you!"
Lastly, on behalf of Women in Racing I would like to thank everyone who has made the research possible, and the team at York racecourse for making the launch of the research and our sixth AGM such a success.