As part of International Women’s Day 2022 we speak to leaders within the NSFA organisation to discuss the #BreakTheBias campaign. Our first interview is with NSFA CEO Ed Ferguson.
This year’s theme for IWD is break the bias, what does that mean to you?
Breaking the bias means consciously challenging the thoughts of myself, our organisation and those in our community to ensure we look at decisions and processes with a new lens. Just because it’s always been done a certain way does not mean it is correct, inclusive or right. In my position, if I can challenge the way we perceive things and execute things then I hope to create a more inclusive and accessible environment for everyone to be involved and engaged.
In your role as CEO how do you celebrate women’s successes?
Recognition primarily. Football is a male dominated environment whether you look at the player landscape, coaching landscape or administration and volunteer landscape. I try to highlight those females in our game that are breaking the glass ceiling, taking on leadership roles and being our communities role models. I think with increased support, awareness and recognition this makes it easier for the next female leader to step into those shoes, growing our pool and allowing football, the world game, to become more gender inclusive.
As leaders in NSFA/Northern Tigers football community Why is it important and how can you raise awareness of bias? What actions have you taken/can take to strive for equality?
First of all is being aware of what the negative biases are and how they are impacting individuals involved and the reason for individuals becoming involved would be the first step. A few years ago I learnt an important phrase that will help us push towards equality and have a mindset that aims to re-level the playing field before we can progress forward as a whole. It is ironic as the phrase itself calls for bias, however to positively discriminate towards female participation. To me this means challenging the processes, seeking out the barriers for inclusion and listening to our female football community to understand how we can create an environment that is more conducive for their engagement. It is a short-term bias approach to increase female representation and begin to rewrite negative bias that have come before.
This does not only apply for female football but to many inclusive strains within our community including gender, athletes with disability, ethnicity and age.
Recognising as we strive for equality women may not have had the same opportunities as men previously. What have you done or will do to ensure we close the gap and provide women with opportunities to take up leadership positions in football?
The first thing I believed we needed was a role model. Someone to lead the charge. Someone with passion, experience and an immense skillset to be brave enough to stand up and create bold ambitions, inspire females to take on leadership roles and change the narrative within our ecosystem that football is a sport for girls and women.
With Eilidh Mackay as our Head of Female Football, we have step one complete. We are now in execution mode with a clearly defined strategy, goals and network that will allow us to ensure discussion is had around female football and no longer an afterthought within our ecosystem. Our strategy and ambitions are our guiding light which has allowed the pool of influential individuals, both male and female, to help us on our journey.
NSFA/Northern Tigers identify the need for more females to take up leadership positions within football. Currently we lack representation as club technical directors, WAA Premier League coaches, Super League and Diamond League coaches, and Club Coaching Coordinators. What would your message be to encourage existing leaders in football to identify, develop and promote female football leaders?
I encourage leaders to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of their role and reflect on their time involved in football and how they came to take those steps into leadership positions. Who encouraged you? Who supported you? Who was your role model? In my experience I had a diverse array of males, females, older age wisdom and inspiring stories of hardship from strong individuals. As someone now in a leadership position you have the ability to create this for the next generation, the next leader to pass on your baton towards. Bring people up, give people a voice and allow others to experience the journey that you have been so lucky enough to travel. Empowering others is one of the greatest, caring and selfless things we can do as human beings.
Click here for more information about International Women’s Day and the #BreakTheBias campaign.