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Net gains: How women in football, finance and property are opening doors to opportunity.

08 Mar 2024 | 6 min

From the office, to the pitch, the boot room to the boardroom. Our new video, above, explores the parallel experiences of women in business and sports, two fields notoriously dominated by men.

As International Women’s Day 2024 (IWD) is celebrated around the world on 8th March, it’s a good time to reflect on the state of play for gender equity in the UK. The successes and achievements but also the challenges, and the distance still to go.

In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in the recognition of women in sport, spearheaded by our fearless Lionesses and, in business, more organisations are focusing on evening up the gender balance of their hierarchies. But many women still face a variety of challenges which hold them back from fulfilling their potential, especially in fields that have previously been the preserve of men.

This year’s International Women’s Day holds the mantra that ‘IWD belongs to everyone, everywhere’, and aims to #InspireInclusion by helping others to understand and value women's inclusion, fostering a collective sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment.

Here, we run through four factors influencing the inclusion of women, and the parallels across sport and finance.

Representation

When it comes to inspiring a generation of UK youngsters, it doesn’t get much bigger than England’s Euro 2022 win. The Lionesses took the profile of Women’s football to new heights in the UK, making the likes of Mary Earps, Beth Mead and Alessia Russo household names. Young girls up and down the country have been grabbing their shin pads and lacing up their boots with the goal of emulating their sporting heroes - with the BBC estimating that there are now double the number of female teams playing when compared to seven years ago. 1,500 new teams were formed in the 2022 / 23 season alone, highlighting the effect of the historic Euros win.

We chatted to Stockport County Ladies’ defender, Fran Davies, who starred in our new video, Different Worlds, Same Goal: IWD 2024, and asked her about the importance of role models in sport for young women.

“It’s been amazing to see the growth of the women’s game in England, especially since Euro 2022. One of the best ways to encourage girls to take up sport, or anything really, is to see women succeeding.”

“Women’s football hasn’t been an overnight success. It’s taken a long time to get where we are, with loads of really positive role models along the way that have pushed attitudes forward and not necessarily felt the spotlight they deserved.”

“Growing up, women’s matches were rarely shown on the TV, so it wasn’t until much older I began watching women’s football. Therefore, my footballing role models were mostly males. There were definitely some stand out female footballers though, such as Karen Carney and Alex Scott.”

“Now, we’ve got WSL matches on TV most weekends and so many people watched the Euros and World Cup. Our attendances have improved considerably too – we’ve got the start of our own fan base at County now and it’s lovely, especially to see the young girls cheering us on. Hopefully we can inspire some of them to join a local team. Who knows? They might even play for us one day.”

Accessibility

The change in the way that we use technology has also allowed more women to find and take advantage of a diverse range of opportunities – from education to careers and beyond.

In the property space, Together has seen a significant increase in the number of women coming to us for auction finance, up from 28% in 2021 to 33% in 2023. Kirsty Rogers, Auction Sales Director at Together, credits this, in part, to the increased accessibility that comes with online auction access.

“The auction market has changed massively in recent years, as we are seeing a more diverse customer base with female buyers in particular becoming more and more prominent.”

“On one hand, seeing more women participate in auction and renovation shows, like The Great House Giveaway, has definitely helped inspire others to try it for themselves. There are a lot of positive female personalities associated with property now, on TV and social media, sharing their knowledge and experience.”

Plus, an increase in women entering the auction space is massively down to the flexibility of more auctions operating online. It makes bidding easier and more convenient, fitting in around every day modern lives. It’s leading to more people, and women in particular, pursuing a career in property by making Buy to Let and redevelopment opportunities more open to all.”

Allyship

Of course, IWD isn’t just the business of one person, gender or group; it’s for everybody. Allyship is crucial for bringing about change, and the IWD campaign often quotes Gloria Steinem, well-known feminist, journalist and activist, "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."

For this reason, allyship – in finance, the workplace, in sports, and beyond – is extremely powerful.

“At Together, we acknowledge that representation and allyship are important factors in pushing the agenda forward for gender equity. We’re proud to support our customers and colleagues in their ambitions for both access to finance and fulfilling careers, and we’re passionate about marking events such as International Women’s Day to reflect on the journey ahead to ensure that doors are opened to all irrespective of gender.” Says Marc Goldberg, CEO Sales & Distribution at Together.

Together is a signatory of the Women in Finance Charter, supports the ‘Women at Together’ group which welcomes all genders, and is based upon the concept of allyship and acknowledgement that the equity of women isn’t just a problem for women.

When it comes to allyship in football, Fran agreed with the need for positive male voices to champion the women’s game too, especially on TV and social media. “There was definitely a time when the conversation was toxic. You couldn’t see a social media post about women’s football without seeing a lot of negativity. Whilst it’s not gone completely, the vast majority of comments are now positive. Seeing really well respected players from the men’s game, like Ian Wright, being such vocal, prominent supporters has also helped change the narrative.”

Investment

Currently in the UK, 34% of all small and medium enterprises are female led, in comparison to the 66% led by men – no doubt a symptom of the fact that women find external funding to be a barrier for growing and scaling their business.

Female-fronted businesses are routinely undervalued at the funding stage, depriving them of the capital needed to scale up. To make up the shortfall, it’s reported that more female start-ups are being funded by personal savings and credit cards.

But support for women navigating the finance and funding landscape has started to be much more accessible too. Take Female Founder Finance, for example; a company providing women entrepreneurs with access to the first wholly female circle of commercial and investment financiers in the UK. Roxanne Goodman set up Female Founder Finance with the aim of building a bespoke, specialist female finance boutique to provide access to finance for female entrepreneurs in the UK – providing a much-needed support in the quest for parity in business.

“Female-led businesses have been historically disadvantaged when it comes to obtaining finance and this can make starting and running a business significantly more challenging for women entrepreneurs. Luckily, times are changing and lenders and investors are now taking notice of the opportunity to back women in business. We need to keep the momentum going but the journey is very much underway.”

On the football pitch, investment throughout the football pyramid is key to continuing the growth of the game, and unearthing the next generation of Lionesses. In 2022, the FA Women’s National League plan, in partnership with the Premier League, made a £3m pledge to invest in the third and fourth tiers of the league system to provide burgeoning talent with more opportunities to develop and, ultimately, break into the Women’s Super League, Women’s Championship and the national team.

Fran celebrated the investment coming into the game, saying “It can be really difficult to get investment when you aren’t in one of the top leagues. You see it in the men’s game too. But, lower league teams are really important to the survival of the sport. They give players more opportunities to develop, gain experience and play the game that we all love. More investment and sponsorships at this level, and at grass roots, will lead to even better players coming through.”

Maintain the momentum

Though celebrated for one day in the year, gaining parity between the genders is a journey that we are on every day. From education, to technology, to the role models and allies, only a joint effort can ensure progress is made. Although great strides have been made on the pitch, in the property field and generally in business, there are still huge steps to still be made to correct existing failings and short comings.

Although no industry is identical, we can all rally behind the common threads that run across the boardroom, the workplace, the pitch and beyond. If you missed it above, click here to watch our video collab with Stockport County LFC on the similarities and differences of women in finance and women in football.

Follow us on social for more International Women’s Day updates – you can find us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

 

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