Women Working in Football - Queens Park Rangers HR Professional Carol Fleming (Part Two)
Whilst coverage of women’s football has increased in recent years, what often goes unnoticed are the hundreds of women who play a vital role in the day-to-day functions of professional clubs, the grassroots game and national and community-based football organisations.
In a feature series, Kick It Out has been speaking to women who work within football – in a number of roles including coaching, club executives, photographers, administrators, matchday staff and more – to celebrate and gain an insight into their contributions to the professional game.
The feature discusses their experiences of the game, how they reached where they are today and any challenges they may have faced along the way.
In part two of the July entry, Carol Fleming, a Human Resources (HR) professional working at Queens Park Rangers, discussed the need for female role models in the football industry, encouraging more diversity in the game and Kick It Out’s role in promoting equality.
Despite spending most of her career outside of football, when Carol Fleming joined QPR back in 2011, she never felt as though she experienced the challenges you might expect a woman to face in such a male-dominated industry.
“I haven’t largely because of my character – I’m not easily fazed,” she explained. “I’m not easily intimidated by the male environment. Having an older brother and raising boys, I had to be built of ‘sterner stuff’ so to speak. So personally I haven’t experienced it.”
However, Carol is quick to point out that being ‘resilient’ or ‘tough’ should not be a prerequisite for anyone to succeed in the industry.
“Women should be able to work in the football environment without having to be made of ‘sterner stuff’, without having to face those challenges – they should be able to come into the workplace and do their job respectfully like anybody else, and be treated fairly like anybody else.”
Whilst Carol’s personal qualities may have helped her make the transition into football with relative ease, she recognises the importance of the support provided by her then-manager when she took on the role at QPR.
“I was fortunate that when I joined the club in 2011, my line manager was Rebecca Caplehorn, who has now gone on to be Director of Football Operations at Tottenham,” she recalled. “She’s somebody I found to be a great mentor, great to work for and somebody that I found inspirational – to be in football for as long as she had been and to rise through the ranks as she has done.
“And I know from working with her, she probably faced more challenges of being in a male-dominated environment attending those board meetings, arguing with men as to what’s right and wrong in terms of how to do things. So at my level I haven’t experienced it but I am aware that there are women that do.”
Inspired by her own experience, Carol believes it’s important for her to offer similar guidance and support to women starting out in the game.
“I think it’s very important,” she asserted. “Especially now with young women coming out of college and university and the diversity of roles they can go into in football.
“I work closely with the finance team, a group of three women, and we all get on famously. I tend to be the big sister of the group, so I try to mentor them, I try to encourage them and try to help them in terms of how they can better themselves and be more effective in their roles.”
Carol is enthusiastic about the increased role women are having in football, but still feels that more needs to be done to ensure the game is more diverse all the way through to the top.
“I think it’s great to see that there are more women coming into football, especially at a coaching level,” she said. “In terms of support staff and background staff, you’re always going to have women in the offices but it would be good to see more women at board level.
“It needs to start higher up and on a bigger scale. The boards at FA level need to be a bit more diverse than they are currently, not only in terms of ethnic mixes but their gender mix too. If there’s more diversity higher up, then I think it filters through down to the lower levels.”
She continued: “If you look at grassroots football, there are so many women at secretary level, at the treasurer level etc. So if we can replicate what’s going on in grassroots in the professional game, then I think we’re on the right journey.”
Carol believes women in football can amplify their influence by working together and would like to see them make their voices heard by The FA.
“What I think would be good is if an organisation like Kick It Out can get some of the women of football together to have a roundtable discussion and maybe present something to The FA to say ‘there are women in football, they want to see a change in the game, this is what they’re saying – how can we go about affecting change?’”