Lisa-Jane Graffard proudly poses with the memento presented for PRINCE BISHOP's victory of the Prix du Prince d'Orange at Longhamp in 2010.
Although originally from Ireland Lisa-Jane Graffard now lives and works in France as racing representative for Darley and Godolphin – but she is no stranger to Newmarket and UK racing.
Lisa-Jane is lucky in that she has been able to base herself from her home, in Chantilly, but as anyone in the racing industry knows, the hours can be long and irregular. She attends race-meetings across France and Europe at least four days a week, including most Sundays, and travels regularly back to Newmarket, as well as visiting Godolphin’s trainers in France to see the progress of the horses-in-training. As well as a racecourse representative, she is also responsible for the administration of the Darley and Godolphin operations in France.
She always knew she would end up with a career in racing. Horses are ‘in the blood’ having been born in to an Irish family of horse breeders – her mother also competed at international level in three-day eventing and her father’s uncle was a racehorse trainer in Kenya. Every day as a child she would read the results and breeding details from the Racing Post to her mother, soaking up pedigree information as she did so.
At age 16 Lisa-Jane worked at a stud in France, which was to prove valuable experience to her. As was, on a year out between school and university, working for the Greek Shipping and racehorse-owning Niarchos family in their London racing office as a part-time racing assistant.
Hooked from day one Lisa-Jane, after much deliberation and debate with her family, abandoned academic studies to continue working for the Niarchos family for a further three years.
Darley Flying Start
Maria Niarchos-Gouazé and her team, headed by Alan Cooper, became Lisa-Jane’s racing family and they supported her application, and she was accepted, to the inaugural Darley Flying Start programme, a life-changing opportunity that not only offered experience of the racing industry on a global scale but also introduced Lisa-Jane to her future husband )trainer, Francis-Henri Graffard).
“Globally and locally the horseracing industry is constantly evolving,” Lisa-Jane says, “but my experience has been a very positive one in terms of female role models. Most of the people I have worked for have been female.
“Names like Criquette Head-Maarek, Gai Waterhouse, Jenny Pitman, owner Miss Pat O’Kelly, French breeder Madame Couturié, Chryss Goulandris (Lady O'Reilly), Maria Niarchos-Gouazé and Kirsten Rausing [also a WiR member] were all familiar to me from a very young age. My mother was a successful breeder as was my Godmother Gillian McCalmot and her mother Jane Moore.”
According to research available to Lisa-Jane it’s clear that men and women are equal on the ability scale but it appears that women who run their own businesses are able to perform on an equal footing. In contrast, the model within company structures needs to adapt to better fit in to modern family scenarios.
The research continues to suggest that, outside of racing over the last 30 years, statistics illustrate that girls have outperformed boys. In the last 10 years or so (certainly in Europe) female university graduates have outnumbered male graduates yet, by the age of 35 a huge pay gap appears. Changes are taking place in some areas. In Scandinavian countries for example the pay gap is smaller and working regulations allow for more flexibility between parents.
Lisa-Jane concludes: “The racing industry should always look to entice the best and the brightest employees at all levels. Industry leaders have an obligation to show the way and to ensure employment practices reflect this, and to be forward thinking when promoting the sport.
“I’m determined that my children (two girls) grow up believing they are capable of achieving anything, and my husband, who is a trainer here in Chantilly, feels the same way. We share parenting as much as possible and support each others’ careers in the same way.”