Hearts Women

Hearts Women speak on #BreakTheBias

8th March 2022

In celebration of International Women’s Day, and in association with Hearts Women’s principal shirt sponsor, Scottish Women in Technology, we asked four first-team players at Hearts Women to answer a question being asked around the world today: How can we continue to break the bias against women in sport?

Addie Handley: 
"How can we continue to break the bias in women’s sport? We do. Every day. Every moment we are on the pitch, off the pitch, on social media, on the highlights show. We are in a fortunate position that we are more highly visible than ever before through more media and television attention. We need to use this to educate. To show we are just as worthy athletes and competitors as any of our counterparts. 

We need to focus on empowering each other rather than bringing others down for the betterment of ourselves. Most importantly, we have a duty to inspire a new generation of athletes. Not just young girls but everyone into striving for a level playing field. A defining moment for me was the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. When in the stands I saw the magnitude of what women’s football could and will become. I saw what my life could look like if I were to pursue a career in football. And that is what we can do to break the bias. We can play at Tynecastle and show girls coming to watch that it is possible to be a footballer. 

it is a reality. Something that couldn’t be done without the support we have from the club, fans, fellow teams and players. Sport looks different for everyone. whether playing to become professional or play simply for fun, we need to continue to provide opportunities for all. This is a fight for everyone. From the top athletes to grassroots, everyone should have the right to play. So how to break the bias? Simple, together."

Beth McKay:
"Breaking the bias to me is quite simple. It begins with small steps. I want my nephew to grow up in a world where it doesn’t matter it’s a woman or a man that’s wearing a Hearts shirt, all he sees is a Hearts player and that’s who his hero is, that’s my vision for women in sport. To be seen as a sportsperson on an equal footing, not as a woman in sport." 

Charlotte Parker-Smith:
"I think breaking the bias begins with equal opportunities for girls and boys at an early age. It’s about creating academy structures where women’s and girls’ teams are not disadvantaged or subject to a hierarchy. It’s about looking at every detail, from coaching methods to how facilities are designed, in a way that focuses on the needs of women and girls and allows that to shape the way we do things. It’s also about understanding issues that face women and girls in sport, understanding why girls are more likely to drop out of sport at a particular age and understanding the barriers women face in being successful and bringing these down.   

It’s about understanding the history of women’s sport and women’s football in particular and realising that has an impact on the game in the present day, such as the 50-year ban on the women’s game imposed by the influential English Football Association which affected the ability of women to play football all around the world. It’s about visibility, which has vastly improved in recent years with Scottish women’s games being televised and games being held at large stadiums with tickets being accessible to individuals and families from all walks of life.   

It’s about recruiting women to senior roles, including coaching roles in both men’s and women’s sports. It’s not making assumptions about the ability of women to do a particular job because of their gender.   Ultimately, it’s about striving to achieve a result where when we talk about ‘sport’ or ‘football’ in particular, we mean both men's and women’s football instead of men’s football being the default position. Sport comes with an inherent male bias. It reflects wider society. It’s about getting away from that. It’s challenging prejudices and cultures which have been firmly set for centuries. We can break the bias because we are doing it right now. "

Mariel Kaney, captain: 
"Let’s strive to create a culture of dignity for all. Everyone is worthy of respect but sadly, respect for women’s sport has lacked for a long time. Now is the time for that to change. As a female athlete, I know how much the women around me sacrifice and suffer as they strive to be better in their sport.

One of my favourite quotes is: “Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become, and the hours of practice, and the coaches who have pushed you, is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back. Play for her.” 

And that’s the point. Female athletes fall in love with their sport, just the same as male athletes. There is no difference in heart, in the dreams, in the love of the game. There is no difference in the heartbreaks and setbacks that we have to overcome as athletes. The things that make sport magical are not different for different genders. The product may be different but the game is the same - and the players should be treated so. 

No longer are we simply playing “for her” and speaking of our younger selves. We are playing for the future generations of all athletes, who dare to cross the white line and are brave enough to play. It is for them now. Inspiring them to achieve what even five years ago, we wouldn’t have thought possible. I have been on this journey for a long time now and one thing is for sure. Women can be athletes, managers, coaches, physios, directors, chairwomen, or whatever they choose to be in sport. And sport, on the whole, will be better off for it."