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International Women's Day with UKA - Laura Turner-Alleyne

Category: testimonial, Women in athletics, UK Athletics, Careers in sport, Sports, International Women’s Day, Staff Testimonial, Athletics, athletes, sportswomen, UKA, Inclusive Sport, Diverse Sport, Female Athletes, International Women’s Day 2022

Gender Focus

On the 8th March, it was International Women’s Day, and to celebrate, our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion advocates at UKA have spoken to several stakeholders in the sport about this year’s theme, #BreakTheBias.

The theme for this year is encouraging people to think about what they can do to do create a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive. Where difference is valued and celebrated to forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias. More information can be found here.

From Tuesday, we have been showcasing stories from across the sport. Today we hear from former GB sprinter & Olympian and Team Leader for the GB & NI Juniors team at Mannheim 2022, Laura Turner-Alleyne.

Role(s) / involvement in athletes (now and in the past):

Former GB sprinter & Olympian. Now coaching sprints, hurdles and combined events. Head Coach at West London Track & Field. British Athletics Futures Programme Point of Contact (Speed). Team Leader GB Juniors – Mannheim 2022.

Have you experienced bias during your time in the sport? 

Of course, although if you had asked me a few years ago I would have said no; because I couldn’t see it, not because it wasn’t there. High performance sport is a tough place to operate, made even tougher by certain biases (some unconscious) that exist within the environment (these extend far beyond gender). A couple of examples that spring to mind are people addressing male colleagues rather than myself,  assuming they are the lead coach; being labelled for speaking up and having an opinion in meetings when male colleagues exhibit the exact same behaviours with no such label; allocated room sharing with a female colleague when all the male colleagues have their own room. These are some very low level bias I have experienced, if you haven’t already, please read the recent report “Achieving Gender Equity in High Performance Athletics Coaching in the UK” published by Leeds Beckett University, to understand a little more about what other female coaches have experienced.

How have you dealt with this / how to you ‘Break the Bias’? 

I feel I am constantly battling between being competent (doing a good job with the athletes I coach and within my pathway role) and coming across as “nice”. Too soft, too tough, never quite right. I know I am not the only female out there who has this struggle. Carrying myself as a professional coach can often lead to male colleagues feeling threatened and challenged. Not to be deterred, I continue to conduct myself professionally and develop strong relationships with those who I work closely with. Having male allies also really helps; I am fortunate to work with lots of amazing male colleagues who respect and appreciate what I bring to the table. I am now more confident to call out any behaviours I feel are biased towards my gender. Many times people are unaware they have acted this way.

Which female(s) inspire you?

I was in the first UK Sport Female Coach Leadership Programme, where Paula Dunn and Tracy Whittaker-Smith were mentors. Paula has been Head Coach and is now Team Leader, this has inspired me to believe that females can excel in top coaching roles within Athletics. Tracy has set up her own successful business and is also Head Coach at British Gymnastics (Trampoline). Her story resonates so much with me, demonstrating both are possible.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s a reminder to highlight all the successful women who are out there already, and a chance to inspire the next generation of successful females. It is also a chance to open discussions with our male colleagues to point out certain bias that exists. Without involving men into the conversation, we will not change a thing.

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