Women in Racing AGM – Words from our Founder and Honorary President Sally Rowley-Williams

Women in Racing AGM – Words from our Founder and Honorary President Sally Rowley-Williams

Tallulah Lewis | May 17, 2017 | In the News

Those of us luckily enough to be at our AGM yesterday for the publication of the diversity research by Oxford Brookes University heard from our Founder and Honorary President Sally Rowley-Williams. Her words were so wise and relevant to all women working in racing (and further afield) that we wanted to share so everyone could have the chance to read.

As many of you know, this study has been years in the making. Within 18 months of founding Women in Racing in 2009, I raised this initiative with the committee of our network and we discussed the possibility of executing the research. It became even more of a critical imperative as I read so many other studies examining gender diversity which dissected the corporate world, the public sector and most other sports in the UK. But horse racing was neglected. It was clear from my experience on the ROA Council and the opportunity to serve in numerous cross industry groups that our sport needed to be put under the microscope to then judge objectively, with data in hand, what is working well and what needs improvement across British horseracing.

We recognized the need to partner with an academic institution with the experience, skills and resources to be able to provide the disciplined framework required for this research to be undertaken professionally. Having worked for several years with Professor Simonetta Manfredi and her Centre for Diversity at Oxford Brookes University, it was natural for me to approach her and engage her interest to work with us for this project. We are so delighted and thankful that the Racing Foundation agreed to support the research and believe that the work done by Simonetta and her team provides a good return on the Foundation’s investment. All my thanks are listed in the Foreword to the research so I won’t repeat them here but encourage you to take a moment to read those words and express your own thanks to all parties engaged in this project. However, I must single out all those individuals in the industry who participated in the study, either through the online survey or interviews as without their help, we would not have obtained the robust data that we now possess.

Going forward, I am delighted that the BHA fully supports this study and has detailed some initial actions to follow up. I see this as a call to arms to encourage all aspects of the industry to step up and get with the program! I am asking that as with the corporate and public sectors, that the BHA will set clear deliverables and targets and monitor the progress against a specific timeline with a deadline to achieve those targets, perhaps by 2021. Lord Davies, the eponymous author of “The Davies Reports” which examined the UK corporate sector, encouraged me to “name and shame” those who do not act to improve gender diversity on their boards and in their groups. I leave that as a thought for all to digest, but as an optimist, I invite the whole industry to embrace this research and use it as a basis for action to improve gender and all diversity across the sport.

So before handing over to Simonetta and Kate to present the research, I would like to close with three thoughts. The first is Franklin Delano Roosevelt who said, “We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely.” Secondly, let us follow in deed the words by Sir Walter Scott who called for “The will to do, the soul to dare.” 

And the third from me in 2017—

Be brave, I dare you!

Thank you for your support and interest.

Sally Rowley-Williams