9 January 2019
When you think of a boxer, what do you think of? Or a successful footballer? Most would answer with the description of a man of some form.
It’s unsurprising, most people do. We have these unconscious biases that have been ingrained throughout generations. But what about the people bucking these stereotypes and breaking down that gender barrier?
I was privileged to chat to Stacey Copeland for the latest episode of my Mind Your Own Business podcast. Stacey was the first ever British female boxer to win a Commonwealth title. However, despite boxing since the age of 6, she has only boxed professionally for a few years. Why? It was only in 1997 that women were able to become professional boxers in Britain.
Stacey is a prime example of both the change that has already happened in gender equality in Britain, and of just how much still needs to happen.
Some of the anecdotes she shared in the podcast left me dumbfounded. For example, when discussing the price of having a championship belt made, it was suggested that she would need a ‘sugar daddy’ to afford it. This comment was made by someone in a senior position within the sport of boxing. Equally, she has spent years having her sexuality questioned because of her choices in sport.
These areas of the conversation were particularly eye-opening for me. When you’ve not experienced it yourself, it’s astonishing to hear just how prevalent the imbalance still is in even in the top levels of sport.
The pace of change
Women have only been ‘allowed’ to run marathons for less than 50 years. It’s astounding. As Stacey notes in the podcast, when you speak to young women now, the idea that they would not be allowed to run a marathon now because of their gender would cause outrage. That so clearly shows the pace of change. However, assumptions and stereotypes highlight that some areas of society do need to catch up with that change.
We all know how big a role school and education play in our upbringing. In a world where the focus is placed on academia rather than sport, Stacey plays a support role for young people needing an alternative. In her role at Parrs Wood School in Manchester, she works with young people who are struggling academically, who aren’t passionate about school, to make education work for them. There is absolutely no replacement for showing young people what they can achieve. There is something magic about role models like Stacey working with young people to show them that anything is possible when they work hard and focus.
When many people would see the male-dominated worlds of boxing and football as impossible to break through, Stacey has never stayed boxed in. She says that she wants to be an example to young women of what can happen; to pave the way for women in sport in the future. I have no doubt in my mind that she is already achieving this every single day.