June 13, 2024


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Judy Murray, Ama Agbeze and Denise Lewis talk sexism, quotas and women’s rightful place in sports


Judy Murray spoke out about how she has been stereotyped throughout her career at major diversity event in Birmingham.

The Scottish tennis coach and mother of Andy Murray was joined by Ama Agbeze, netball gold medallist, and Denise Lewis, Olympic gold medallist and sports presenter, as the star trio talked women’s quotas, barriers and how significant hair is for women of colour.

A star studded event where discussions of diversity and inclusion in sport took place, the two day summit was headed by major names including Azeem Rafiq and Anton Ferdinand.

Read more:Include Summit 2022: Thoughts & talks on tackling gender, race and disability in sport

Hard issues brought to the table on March 8-9 included LGBTQ+ rights, youth inclusion, racism, women’s sports and the Commonwealth Games.

Taking place in Centenary Square at Unique Venues Birmingham, the event opened with Agbeze and Murray who spoke of how vital women’s places are in the boardrooms of sports.

Donna Fraser, Halima Khan, Jaina Mistr and Lisa West discussed the topic of women in sport at the Include Summit
Donna Fraser, Halima Khan, Jaina Mistr and Lisa West discussed the topic of women in sport at the Include Summit

Murray said: “Through my journey I got pelted all the way through Andy’s career, everybody forgot I had been a national coach for Scotland for ten years. Suddenly I was Andy’s mum and I was pushy, overbearing and basically a nightmare.

“I have worked in sport for many many years and I remember being at a conference debate on having women on boards in sport by quota.

“I was for the quota because I understand how important it is to have women in decision making positions within sport.

“All major change comes from the top. If we don’t have representation then we are the afterthought or playing second fiddle.

“I remember a young woman spoke up saying she was completely against it and wanted to work her way up on merit and I said, well good luck with that. Because I have been trying for 35 years and it has changed a little but nowhere near enough.”

The Commonwealth Games will take place from Thursday, July 28 until Monday, August 8, 2022

Birmingham 2022 was also thrown around in talks on the day and as a sports competition, aims to address Murray’s concerns by holding more medal events for women than men in history.

Other diversity milestones at the Commonwealth Games include more Paralympic sports than ever as well as Pride House, a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community at the games.

Agbeze shared her thoughts on women of colour saying: “One phrase a woman used was ‘sometimes when you are the only woman in an industry you just gotta pull up your big girl pants and own that space’.

“I love that analogy because sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves, have the confidence and keep pursuing what you believe to be true.

“We want to get more people of colour into swimming, of course we can swim but it has to be at grassroots, school level.

Include Summit 2022: Professor Geoff Thompson Deputy Chair of Birmingham 2022 and Founder and Chair of Youth Charter

“It’s also understanding the challenges we face; on a logistical level how long will it take me to swim, then do my hair and be ready to go to my job?

“It’s about making it easier for women of colour to come into a swimming environment and know they belong, little things like posters or hair dryers that can do anything for your hair.”

Host Lewis shared that hair may seem a trivial topic for others but is significant for people of colour, adding the drop off for girls in sport at age 13.

When commenting on what keeps girls away, Lewis said: “I play Netball and we have to wear short dresses, some people don’t want to wear them but those are the rules so perhaps we can change that rule.

“It’s just breaking down barriers that are completely unnecessary.”

As the three women enjoyed applause from an invested audience, more talks followed including a passionate speech by Geoff Thompson, Deputy Chair of Birmingham 2022 about how young people can get engaged in sport.

Projects cashing in on diversity needs included Globocol, software where you can report sports safeguarding complaints such as racism efficiently.

Additional discussions took place on LGBTQ+ inclusion, mental health and even tackling toxic masculinity.

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