A ground-breaking new survey by Women in Football has revealed that 66.4% of women working in the sport have witnessed sexism in the workplace, with individuals being told they will “never work in the game again” if they reported it.

26.4% of the 661 respondents felt they were overlooked for promotion because of their gender – 67% are not being mentored at work and 94.7% are not on a leadership programme. One respondent was told in her interview it was an issue that she was female, another was simply told the club “wanted to keep a male feel” so they would not be getting the job.

“Women remain still significantly under-represented in executive and board positions in the sport industry.” Heather Rabbatts, Chair of The FA’s Inclusion and Advisory Board

The problems run throughout football with a female referee being told a men’s team did not want her to officiate because of her gender, to a respondent being slapped on her bum on her first day by a senior figure in the game.

Women in Football are a networking group supporting professional women working in football. We celebrate women’s achievement and offer mentoring opportunities to the next generation.

We have conducted this survey to:

  • Provide a ground-breaking study into the experiences of women working in the football industry.
  • Identify why women are not achieving their full potential in this sector and what could be done to address this.
  • Explore the prevalence of gender-based discrimination within football.
  • Look forward to the future: 90% of respondents told us they believe opportunities for women working within the football industry are increasing/improving


On sexism in the workplace:

66.4% of respondents said they had witnessed sexism in the workplace.
Of those who answered ‘yes’:

  • 10.3% have witnessed sexual harassment.
  • 59.5% have witnessed sexist banter.
  • 31.6% have witnessed women being told they are unable to do their job because of their gender.
  • 10.5% have witnessed women being barred from certain areas in the workplace.
  • 7.85% have witnessed discrimination against working mothers in football.
  • 1.41% have experienced physical abuse in the workplace.

57% of respondents said they had experienced sexism in the workplace.
Of those who answered ‘yes’:

  • 6.9% had experienced sexual harassment
  • 47.7% had experienced sexual ‘banter’ or jokes
  • 25.7% had experienced derogatory comments about a perceived inability to do work because of a person’s gender
  • 8.6% had experienced being barred from certain areas
  • 3.7% had experienced discrimination about a pregnant or working mother
  • 1.41% had experienced physical abuse

On equality in the workplace:

  • 34.9% of respondents felt they were not paid equally to men in their workplace performing a similar role.
  • 27.6% of respondents said that their organisation unfairly treats its female employees compared to its male employees.
  • 26.4% felt they had been overlooked for a promotion or opportunity because of their gender.

Women being judged on their appearance:

  • 54.3% felt there is an overemphasis on the way women look in the football workplace.
  • 53.9% worried that their appearance was judged ahead of their ability to do their job.
  • 24.91% felt they were expected to look glamorous at work.

On career progression:

  • 67% are not being mentored at work.
  • 94.7% are not on a leadership programme.
  • 77.8% wanted a Women in Football mentoring scheme.

On football and working mothers

  • 63.7% felt that football is less accommodating than other industries for working mothers.

Anonymous quotes

On sexism in the workplace…

  • “I’ve pretty much experienced it all. I’ve been slapped on the backside by a colleague, and asked to ‘get the tea’; you can imagine my response.”
  • “I experienced direct sexist and derogatory comments, and intimidation. I didn’t report it as I was scared, I was told I would never work in the game again.”
  • “A men’s football team did not want me to referee because of my gender.”
  • “On my first day at work a senior figure in football slapped my bum when walking past. I didn’t want to make a complaint before I had even met the rest of my colleagues.”
  • “I was told in a job interview that it was an issue that I was female.”
  • “I don’t want to rock the boat at work by complaining, I wouldn’t want bad feeling. It is done to other women too. It isn’t physically or mentally harmful but it is putting us in a different category from men – which is shameful.”
  • “You can’t report it every time someone says something derogatory as it’s so common place.”
  • “Women being talked over in meetings; being excluded from working groups or selection panels; having their qualifications and input trivialised.”
  • “A lot of comments are said tongue in cheek or naively with no ill meaning, so it’s difficult to act on. The damage is not as much from the comments, it’s the effects that are a result of an underlying attitude which really puts up barriers to women.”

We asked women in the game what they want…

  • “To have a female changing room!” [A number of women asked for this, from female medics to match officials, with even some of the biggest clubs not providing female changing facilities for staff or visiting professionals]
  • “More diversity in senior roles, the entire senior management is white, male and middle class.”
  • “More female representation on the FA Council and Board of Directors.”
  • “People to acknowledge that although I am a woman I do know what I am talking about with regard to my job.”
  • “Less sexist discrimination and prejudice. I have to work hard to gain the same amount of respect as male counterparts.”
  • “I would like not to have to prove that I know about football every time I come across someone who hasn’t worked with me before.”
  • “More senior women – mainly for the balanced decision-making it would create at a senior management level but also so I knew I was being taken seriously as a candidate for senior roles. There aren’t many opportunities to progress in my career here, women tend to leave rather than move up.”

They told us football needs to modernise…

  • “I didn’t get invited to a dinner because it was a ‘men and wives’ dinner. It feels completely old-fashioned to have events like this – and football is littered with them!”
  • “I was turned down for a job in men’s football because the club wanted to ‘keep a male feel’.”
  • “It is a very sexist environment. Women tend to only be employed in administrative roles.”
  • “Stop the ‘jobs for the boys’ mentality which is not based on talent.”
  • “A greater acceptance that women in the industry are as knowledgeable about the game as men. My junior male colleagues are often sought out ahead of me to answer questions on the job.”
  • “To be taken seriously, and for men to not make inappropriate comments towards me such as commenting on my appearance, or thinking that I will tolerate sexually inappropriate comments.”
  • “Football has a highly active misogynistic wing. It’s getting better but slowly. Other sports have profoundly improved.”

On discrimination against working mothers…

  • “I have been told by my employer that my job is incompatible with motherhood.”
  • “Since having my children my role has been totally marginalised and I have had no opportunities to progress.”
  • “I was demoted from my job on the birth of my first child. I lost my job after the birth of my second.”
  • “I don’t see football as an environment which helps or encourages working mothers. Every working mother I see struggles (unless they have a nanny) and most drop out of the industry. How many senior women are there who are working mums? Not enough.”

Reaction to our survey

“Whilst we know there has been significant progress in women’s participation in football and great strides made with the Women’s Super League, we know there is more to do. Women remain still significantly under-represented in executive and board positions in the sport industry. Surveys such as this help to focus all our attention and The FA alongside all of the football bodies are committed to tackling discrimination at all levels”.Heather Rabbatts, Chair of The FA’s Inclusion and Advisory Board

“The Women in Football findings highlight some of the difficulties still faced by women working in football. We are making progress and new initiatives such as the UEFA leadership programme for women will undoubtably play an important part but it’s clear that we still have more work to do to ensure that women are best able to reach their full potential within our game.” Karen Espelund, Uefa Executive Committee

“I’m very pleased the survey has been done, to highlight where the issues are and to shine a light on how we can make football better by more inclusive. There is no doubt that women do face special challenges working in football, because football was a man’s world for so long that it takes time to change. Football needs to be pro-active in helping that change to occur – not only because it is fair and right, but also because it will make football better and stronger to have more women involved across the spectrum of the game. I’m encouraged by the progress I see, and on International Women’s Day I want to pay tribute to the many wonderful women around the world who are making fantastic contributions every day in both women’s and men’s football. But this survey reminds us that there is much to be done.” Moya Dodd, ex footballer and FIFA ExCo

“Women in Football was formed seven years ago as a support network for women working in all aspects of the football industry. Anecdotally, we knew there were far too many shocking experiences of sexism in our national game, so we wanted to capture this information anonymously via a survey. Sadly, the survey has confirmed that sexism is part of many women’s daily working lives – yet their passion for the game remains undimmed. So the survey information will now be used to engage with football’s stakeholders to effect change from the top while we work hard to secure the funding we need to roll out mentoring and leadership programmes for women throughout the industry.” Anna Kessel, Chair of Women In Football

“The Women in Football survey highlights that there is more to do in key areas such as widening the talent pool of diverse women in all roles across the game, raising awareness and changing attitudes towards women and instilling confidence in reporting discriminatory behaviour and abuse when it is experienced or witnessed. These are all key goals within English Football’s Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination plan and we welcome the survey to help shape further specific actions such as shadowing, mentoring and leadership programmes. Four out of ten of The FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board (IAB) members are female and the IAB is already focused on this agenda.” Sue Ravenlaw, Head of Equality and Child Protection

“Women have a vital role to play in all aspects of the game. We are determined to eliminate negative attitudes towards women. We want those who see or are subject to harassment or discriminatory behaviour in football to report it to us directly, or via the Kick It Out app, which offers discreet reporting.” Darren Bailey, Director of Football Governance and Regulation