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“If you can’t see me, you can’t be me” on International Women's Day

International Women’s Day 2021 campaign theme is #ChooseToChallenge. Today, our Marketing and Communications Manager, Sarah Brown-Fraser, talks about her experiences and hopes for a fairer future for disabled women.

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"A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.”

International Women's Day 2021 campaign theme: #ChooseToChallenge

Sarah Brown-Fraser profileIf you can’t see me, you can’t be me. You may have heard that phrase in many places but today of all days it matters more. It matters to me as a woman. And even more so as one of the few disabled women within sports marketing, and indeed marketing, in a leadership role. I choose to challenge the sector I work in and my profession to raise its game. We need to be as diverse in the workforce as the people we serve.

I remember starting out in marketing after graduating. It didn’t ring too many alarm bells back then, that I wasn’t seeing ‘people like me’. I wanted a career in marketing and being disabled had nothing to do with it.

Only when I moved into sports marketing, was I shocked how few disabled people were actively seeking to work or working in our profession. And in a profession that depends on market insight, it continues to feel like a missed opportunity for businesses and organisations alike. Internal market insight through a more diverse workforce and leadership makes total business sense.

I also joined GreaterSport in Manchester’s board in 2018 and it is one of the most exciting roles I have engaged in. They and I flex and learn as we go. As a wheelchair user, it has involved changing the board meeting venues to be more accessible and holding virtual meetings. But nothing to the GreaterSport executive or board is ever awkward because accessibility and flexibility works for everyone.

But the statistics for disabled people on sports boards are devastatingly low. There is a lot to share from my and colleagues’ experiences to ensure we can attract a diverse mix around the board table.

Our society remains an unequal playing field. If we are to have fairness for disabled people, it means changing attitudes at every level. It means disabled people feel they are welcome however they wish to be involved – whether as a participant, a coach and of course, in marketing.

Activity Alliance is above most in attracting and retaining talented disabled employees. Our workplace thrives on diversity, accessibility and celebrating difference.

With more than 20 years in the field, this year has impacted me most. That’s personally and professionally. In the workplace, we have all battled a year like no other. Turning your lounge into an office, juggling school timetables and managing screen overload - it has been blooming hard. We all need a pat on the back for getting through the day.

We’re all missing loved ones and as a wheelchair user, I feel it with extra layers. When you rely on others to support you to be independent, COVID-19 has truly taken a lot of the choice and control out of my hands.

But I remain hopeful that the fears around getting back into the workplace also create new, exciting opportunities for everyone. Especially disabled women to take up a career in sports marketing.

So today, I choose to challenge. I want to see more disabled women around the leadership table and in all our diverse glory. It hurts to think that there are young disabled women out there, or women who become disabled later in their career, who may never bring their talent to our sector. Because they don’t see themselves reflected within the workforce, they don’t feel they belong in sport and leisure.

If we are to be a sector that is truly welcoming and inclusive, that must be in every way possible. I look forward to seeing more disabled women leaders. I hope they see me today and want to be me tomorrow.

The International Women's Day campaign is inviting individuals and organisations to send in their #ChooseToChallenge images. Visit the International Women's Day website.