WiR calls to progress gender diversity in horseracing

19 May 2017

Research into diversity in British horseracing, entitled ‘Women’s representation and diversity in the horseracing industry’, has been published by the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice at Oxford Brookes University and Women in Racing (WiR).

It demonstrates the requirement to develop a diversity agenda within the sport.  The research was unveiled at the sixth annual WiR AGM held at York Racecourse, with the research supported by The Racing Foundation.

Issues for women working and involved within the sport are identified within the research, which include; a lack of career development opportunities (at all levels including jockeys), progression and support; some examples of discriminative, prejudice and bullying behaviour; barriers and lack of representation at senior and board level; and negative experiences of work-life balance and pastoral care.

The research’s most immediate recommendation is to establish an independent diversity steering body to support British horseracing in developing a deeper understanding of its diversity.  With the longer-term target of such a steering group to set industry-wide voluntary diversity targets and developing an effective monitoring mechanism. Furthermore, the research addresses how these recommendations could be achieved within existing structures and organisations within British horseracing.

Additionally, the research sets out further actions to help improve gender diversity in leadership roles and addressing some of the career barriers women face within the sport at all levels including mentoring and the positive impact of visible role models.    

Sally Rowley-Williams, founder and honorary president of WiR, said “This is a ground-breaking piece of research for British horseracing. It sets out clear recommendations which the sport needs to act on. As the sport’s governing body, the BHA is best placed to lead on progressing the diversity agenda but it is for all in the sport to play their part. Women in Racing will do all it can to facilitate change and make sure this research is just the starting point for taking forward the diversity agenda within British horseracing.

“On behalf of Women in Racing I would like to thank The Racing Foundation for their financial support which made this research possible, and to the team at Oxford Brookes University for undertaking and delivering such an excellent piece of work.

“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.”

Rob Hezel, chief executive of the Racing Foundation, said “By supporting research and the establishment of evidence the Racing Foundation hopes to be able to "make a difference". We are, therefore, pleased to have supported this work which provides the evidence needed to establish and understand issues associated with diversity in British horseracing. The research has produced some very rich findings and a set of recommendations that we hope will inform policy making in this area."​

The requirement for the research to be undertaken was recognised by WiR and research was carried out by professor Simonetta Manfredi, professor of equality and diversity management, and Kate Clayton-Hathway, PhD researcher and research assistant, and was the brainchild of Sally Rowley-Williams, founder, and honorary president of WiR. The project was led on behalf of WiR by a steering group made up of committee members Susannah Gill and Harriet Rochester, and Chair Julie Deadman. The research has been made possible with funding from The Racing Foundation. 

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