We like to think that men and women are on pretty equal footing when it comes to equestrian sports and equestrianism in general. But look a bit deeper and is this really the case?
There are plenty of female riders who prove that they are just as good as the men at dressage, eventing and show jumping but still, especially in show jumping, there are more men in the top ranks. And what about horse racing? When it comes down to finding investors, male trainers and jockeys still find it easier to get backing and with a sport that relies heavily on gambling, it's assumed, probably correctly, that most men prefer to put their money on a horse ridden by a man. We've also heard complaints from aspiring female jockeys who spend most of their time doing stable chores and get very little chance to ride, let alone compete. However, female jockeys are as good as men and it's even been proven by a study by Liverpool University!
Do men get taken more seriously than women?!!
Unfortunately grooms wages across the equestrian industry are still extremely low, taking advantage of the dreams of young women who are desperate to work with horses. If the majority of grooms were male, would this still be the case? We doubt many men would put up with being so poorly paid.
But it's not just men who are at fault, women are just as likely to discriminate against their own sex. We've encountered women owners saying that they don't want a female jockey riding their horse in a race as 'they're just not strong enough.' Even outside of sport, many women prefer to use a male vet or equine dentist and wouldn't dream of using a female farrier. There is even scientific evidence to show that women are biased against other women.
In a male dominated industry such as racing, when you hear female jockeys being interviewed on TV, and they're asked about sexism in their sport- they usually say that they've never encountered any. This may of course be true, especially for those who have come from racing families. But let's face it, would any female jockey who has fought hard to get rides, really want to rock the boat and risk losing the rides they do have.
And then there's the issue of sexual harassment. As we've seen from Hollywood's #MeToo movement, when the balance of power is so much in the employers favour, especially when the employee is desperate to pursue their dream, this can lead to the employer abusing their position. Also, depressingly women can't fail to notice that you don't have to be working in Hollywood to lose out on a job to someone better looking, even if you would be damn good at it.
When it comes to sexual harassment and bullying, again it can be difficult to speak up, can't it? Which is why we shouldn't judge those who feel afraid to speak out either. Some women feel powerless at the beginning of their careers and only feel much later on that they can speak out, as is the case with trainer and ex-jockey Gaye Kelleway.
The only way to bring about change however is for women to value themselves and support other women.
Have you encountered sexism in the equestrian industry?