UK: The Power Of Sport – Confidence Building And Empowerment For Women And For All

Last Updated: 18 July 2019
Article by Lana Neil

Most Read Contributor in UK, July 2019

#WomenWinning

'I always enjoy when the supermarket delivery man or woman comes to my door and spots my swords,' laughs Georgina Usher, ten-time British Senior Fencing Champion, Commonwealth gold medallist and current CEO of British Fencing (BF). We sit down to discuss her remarkable career and how now, as CEO, she hopes to tackle the wider responsibility she feels sports have to society and the wider benefits of participating in sport.

When discussing the challenges and opportunities in women's sport, Georgina quickly acknowledges the strides that have been made over the years, looking back on her early career in stark contrast to female professional fencing today. 'I remember when I was 15 women weren't allowed to do épée [one of the three types of fencing sword] because épée was considered too heavy and girls too weak – thankfully the world has moved on!' She credits the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Fencing Federation (FIE) with doing their part to promote parity among men and women in fencing. Since 2004 women have been able to compete in all three weapons at the Olympics, and finally in 2020 there will be enough medals available across teams and individuals to allow for the full complement of Olympic events – for both men and women. Georgina feels there is 'genuine equal opportunity at the top...the next question however is how do we get more women on that pathway?'

Female participation in sport does continue to be an issue, not just in fencing but in a broader sense. Despite various initiatives and investment made in recent years to encourage young girls to take up sport and engage with the sports industry, Sport England statistics still show that men are more likely than women to play sport. Why aren't more women playing sport and what can campaigners do to redress the balance? Education, coaching and training plays a part, but it is the quality of these sessions that can make all the difference in Georgina's view. British Fencing have been looking at how they can improve engagement by challenging the traditional approaches and using insight from young women to drive changes to the content of the sessions and the skills of the coaches that deliver them. 'A lot of logistical planning and effort goes into that. Our coaches and leaders have to be able to step into the shoes of the 15 year old girl standing opposite them. What are her hopes and fears for the session? How can she come away feeling really engaged and that she has achieved something positive?' The efforts appear to be paying off as British Fencing has seen some phenomenal statistics in their Sport England funded programmes, with retention rates as high as 70% among 14 and 15 year olds girls in these targeted sessions.

One thing Georgina was keen to do when taking on the role of CEO was to reach out to underrepresented groups, and in particular young Muslim women. Usher was able to partner with non-profit organisation Maslaha to create Muslim Girls Fence, a collaboration that is multifaceted in its purpose: to challenge the misconceptions of and raise aspirations among young Muslim women, while simultaneously breaking down the preconception of fencing as a white-dominated, elite sport.

It is here that Georgina is most passionate, highlighting that diversity in sport goes far beyond the opportunities and challenges faced by women. 'I wanted to see how we could use fencing to help minorities and disenfranchised groups challenge stereotypes and gain self-confidence.' Although some typically associate fencing with male-dominated private schools, fencing actually makes perfect sense as an option for young Muslim girls. In terms of clothing there is no logistical issue, and breakout fencing stars like Ibtijhaj Muhammad – the first Muslim-American to wear a hijab and win a medal at the Olympics – have helped draw attention to and interest in the sport.

Georgina, however, is less concerned with using this project to nurture the next generation of champions and more determined to help girls in socio-economically deprived areas expand their skill set and boost their self-belief. 'We are creating a project that uses fencing, yes, but the power lies in the co-facilitation of the sessions which create a meaningful mindset shift, both in the young girls and in the community leaders and coaches being trained to support the sessions. Ultimately it is about giving young girls the confidence to make positive choices, whether that is about saying 'yes' or 'no', and to seize opportunities in front of them.' The transformative effect that such sessions can have on these young women and their future is something Georgina feels the sport of fencing has a responsibility to engage in.

Georgina is also focused on creating a truly diverse sport and organisation. 'If you look at the top 20 athletes in elite fencing, they are not all identikit. They are completely different. That is what is fantastic about our sport – the highest level embraces individuality.' Within the organisation Georgina has not sought to rely on quotas to achieve a more balanced workforce but has actively gone out to attract candidates from a wide range of backgrounds. She feels that this has delivered better quality candidates overall and that the organisation is better off for it, benefiting from a long term effect rather than just a short term fix.

Creating this welcoming, inclusive and safe space within the sport is also crucial. Georgina identifies safeguarding as a key focus area for the sport internationally over the next few years. The FIE, the world governing body of fencing, has only recently started focussing on this area: adopting and approving a safeguarding policy, appointing Safeguarding Officers (of which Usher was one) for major championships and rolling out training on the subject. By the end of 2019, it is estimated there will be more than 20 international sport federations with some form of safeguarding structure in place to help protect athletes. 'When it comes to abuse and harassment, we have a responsibility to do everything we can. We have quite an advanced framework in the UK but we are always striving to do better. I'm not particularly interested if your child can do a fantastic sixte riposte [a move in fencing], I want to know first and foremost that your child is safe and happy participating in our sport.' Creating these safe, happy and inclusive environments will clearly assist in giving more parents and young people the confidence to engage in the sport, which is important to both recruiting women and other currently underrepresented groups – but also retaining them in the long term. In a sport like fencing which can take years of hard work to perfect, this is key: 'with the average age of an athlete in the top 50 in the world currently around 28, getting retention right is critical to future medal success.'

Igniting that interest in the sport takes us back to Georgina and the person delivering her grocery order, who typically eyes the swords in her hallway with surprise and curiosity. 'When they spot the swords I always ask, 'would you like to hold one?' It doesn't matter what age they are – when they pick up a sword for the first time, their shoulders go back, their body stands that little bit straighter and there is a real sense of excitement and challenge. If you could bottle that self-confidence and sense of physical empowerment, now wouldn't that be an amazing thing?'

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions