Women Working in Football - UCFB Wembley Lecturer and UEFA 'B' Coach Emily Hill (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.
Each interview 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 October’s feature, UEFA ‘B’ Licence Coach and UFCB Coaching and PE Lecturer Emily Hill reflected on the importance of mentors and role models in the game, as well as her desire to support the careers of the next generation of women working in football.
As a young girl passionate about football, Emily Hill found her opportunities to play the game restricted to the park and her back garden.
“It wasn’t until I was 14 or 15 that I played for a girls’ team in a club and was actually coached, so apart from that it was my mates who were mostly boys,” she explained. “At that time you’d hear comments like ‘oh she can’t play she’s a girl’ and you’d have to brush that off as a kid and learn that resilience quite early on.
“I was just really lucky that I had a supportive Dad who’d take me to everything and push to allow me to play.”
Football has changed considerably since then, becoming a far more inclusive sport for women and girls, and Emily emphasised how positive she found her experience of working in various roles in the industry.
“Nowadays, because I’m in a position where I’m working in the game day in, day out, I see a lot of the really good stuff and work with great people who are very supportive. It just comes down to surrounding myself with people who I know are going to help me out and I know are genuinely interested in me and my interests, and vice versa.
“I’m not saying challenges doesn’t exist anymore because there is a lot more to do, but there’s also a lot of great work going on. All we can do is try and encourage more women to work in the game, recognise where great work is happening, and challenge and question any negativities.”
Creating more pathways for women to participate in football is a subject Emily cares passionately about.
“Getting more women in prominent positions and in those roles of influence that are going to inspire other women is a major thing. That has a massive ripple effect which can’t be underestimated. And that’s across the board, so high up positions in management, governance, in coaching, at academies, in roles such as my own like tutoring.
“When I’m going out and speaking and working with all different grassroots coaches, I’m out there and I’m a face, they’re seeing women working in football and that’s a big thing. I think it takes time, but it’s about making sure that we’re helping those women through mentoring, upskilling and support so they’ve got the best opportunity to get new jobs.”
Back in May, Emily was invited to share these views on a panel discussion around opportunities for women in football at Kick It Out’s Women’s Raise Your Game conference.
She explained why she’s fully behind the work the organisation is doing to help more women secure a foothold in the industry: “Events like that are important and it was really good to meet so many people from different avenues with different aspirations within football. It shows you who is out there working in the game and what kind of support networks that are available to you.
“It’s also good to highlight the different roles – when I was little I didn’t know working in football or coaching was an option, so seeing women working in media, in Academies, it’s just inspirational for the young women. Speaking to a few of them, it was a great opportunity for them to ask questions as well.”
Emily is grateful for the support she received from mentors when she was making her way in football, and she is keen to do her bit to guide the next generation of women working in football.
She explained: “I feel like giving back is definitely something I want to do and I’ll always have conversations with people, help them and let them know I’m always there for a phone call, an email or to meet up for a chat.
“It’s those little things that are important as well – having chats with people who are doing things that you want to do, finding out how they got there and what they did. Asking those questions that you might not be able to otherwise answer yourself, or you might not know about.”
And going forward, how does she think the football industry can continue to ensure that women’s football develops?
“I think continuing to highlight the women’s game in a positive light has been important, even from just the Euros and the publicity that surrounded it. But organisations like Kick It Out and Women in Football just being there in the first place, and putting their message of equality out there is a massive thing.
Emily added: “Knowing that Kick It Out are there to challenge sexism in the game and be there to say ‘that’s not okay’ is really important. To change attitudes, the more people who see women’s football in a positive light, the more prominent it will become as well.”