Not a single online avenue has let me forget that today is International Women’s Day. This year is themed make it happen, pushing for genuine change, rather than just awareness-based solutions. Having procrastinated my way through today, reading article upon article celebrating women, I thought I would offer my own contribution. Being President of the University of York Hockey Club, along with Tiarnan Cotter, today represented a fantastic opportunity to write a few words on how UYHC as a whole is one step ahead of the game when it comes to equality.
Equal Membership: For the first time in UYHC’s history, we can boast three men’s teams and three ladies’ teams. This alone is an amazing achievement, but we also have equal membership, with 50 female members and 50 male members. The ladies side of the club has continued to grow over the years, with UYHC putting the same funding, time and energy into the ladies side as the mens. The ladies side of the club also happens to be the most successful in the BUCS league this year, but now I am just boasting. YES LADIES.
Equal Leadership: Unlike pretty much every other club on campus (and probably the world, but I’ll try to avoid sweeping, un-researched statements like that) UYHC has one male and one female President, rather than being represented by one gender. Tiarnan and I oversee the whole club, rather than just being responsible for our own sex. This creates a truly mixed club (although Wednesday nights help with that too) and a leadership that promotes gender neutrality. Tiarnan and I handle different areas within the club, depending on our strengths, and so when members come to us, they come to us because we are involved in that sector, rather than because we are male or female. I have led committee meetings, delivered presentations and made speeches to the club, and never once have felt my gender come into question.
Equal Representation: UYHC also boasts equal representation within our committee. Well, actually, we boast 12 female committee members to 11 male members this year. Having had our elections on Friday, I can also confirm that next year 56% of our committee members are female (comparatively, 80% of our MP’s are male, so UYHC should probably think of running the country soon too).
Equal Opportunity: To get the scale of this next paragraph, I shall introduce to you the highlight of UYHC’s calendar, the pinnacle of our members hockey careers, and the most competitive, closely fought battle of the year: ROSES. Roses is the largest inter-university competition in Europe, but trust me, it is even bigger than that. UYHC play six outdoor fixtures and four indoor fixtures, which amounts to the most competitive, sweaty, intense, knackering 70 minutes of your life (and that is just the spectators). Traditionally, our Mens 1XI matches has been the last match of the day. Come 17.30 on Saturday, the whole club deliriously (from sun or alcohol, it’s never clear) crowds on the side line, anticipating the fastest, most skilful match of the weekend. This year, however, YUSU have thrown a curve ball. They have put our Ladies 1XI match at 17.30. This is because YUSU are celebrating women in sport. Having praised the equality of the club thus far, the decision for the Ladies to take top spot on saturday did bring out the chauvinism in some male members. This I could understand, people don't like change. However, what baffled me was their inability to articulate a good reason as to why they didn't like this change. Saying, ‘we have always played then’ just did not quite cut it for me. We as a club cannot change YUSU’s decision, and so, here are a few reasons why we need to celebrate it:
1.By the Ladies 1XI going last, we are in no way claiming to be the best hockey team in the club. Men are stronger and faster than us, and as a result, play a more exciting game of hockey. However, as the Ladies 1XI and Mens 1XI are in the same BUCS leagues, this highlights that UYHC understands equality. We are highlighting the implementation of equal opportunity.
2. We are bloody good at hockey. Those of you who are still conscious by the time 17.30 comes around, you will not be disappointed. We are fast, skilful, tactical and intelligent on the pitch.
3.Tradition is fantastic, we all love tradition. But then I also love being able to vote, drive and work. So, just sometimes, tradition needs to change.
Although UYHC is run equally, with all members being given an equal opportunity, I am aware that sports clubs, especially at universities, are full of lad culture and misogyny. I am in no way saying UYHC is void of this. We dealt with a very difficult situation last year regarding inappropriate and offensive tweets being posted on social media by members. This incident has propelled UYHC to make significant changes and to encourage everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity to feel welcome and equal. Our next step is to ensure that the equality of the leadership is echoed in the culture of the club. Just today, our members attended the GoodLad Workshop, which is one step closer to achieving an equal club on all levels. I appreciate that culture change does not happen over night, but for now, lets celebrate the equality UYHC does have.
Equality will always be a battle in mixed sports clubs. Men are physically stronger than women, and historically, sport has always favoured men, whether that is the salary difference, the media coverage or the time and location of matches. Female athletes are yet to be represented to the same degree as male athletes. By UYHC representing both genders equally, and promoting a mixed club, our members (if they know it or not), will go into the wider world accustomed to being led by both male and female, have equal respect for both genders and be aware and respectful of both sexes.
Reading about the equality of one small sports society may not be breaking news, but I promise you it is important. Our members will spend three years of their life in an environment which celebrates, drives and promotes women just as much as much as we do men. This will have a lasting effect on the respect, attitude and trust these members have towards both genders. I am in an incredibly fortunate position to be able to sit down and write about the positive equality in our club. I do not always feel this in my personal life, but as far as the running of UYHC is concerned, our set up, our committee, our pitch time, our leadership and our funding all focus on being equal between the sexes.