Feb 14, 2024

Trinity Host Women in Sport Campaign

On February 7th, Trinity hosted the launch event of Sport Ireland’s eagerly anticipated Women in Sport campaign. A star-studded panel and Trinity’s engaging Director of Sport, Michelle Tanner took to the floor to express key issues and demand the change that is needed to reduce the inequalities of women in sport.

Valentina Milne and Flossy Whittow
Photo via @tcdsports on X

Sport Ireland’s Women in Sport campaign was inaugurated last Wednesday with a panel discussion that welcomed four of Ireland’s key figures in the sporting world: Moira Flahive, President of Trinity Rugby and Chair of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Committee of The Bar of Ireland; former Olympic finalist and Manager of the Women in Sport Campaign, Hannah Craig; Cricket Ireland Women’s international team member and Trinity Sport Scholarship student, Leah Paul and Trinity Women’s Football coach Cameron Molloy Moule.

The evening kicked off with an engaging introduction from Michelle Tanner, Director of Sport who reflected that despite the successes of past campaigns that aimed to improve the inequity between men and women in sport, there is a pressing need to establish sustainable structures, to ensure continued growth in women’s sport . This new campaign will run until 2026, with the overarching goal to encourage student participation at all levels. The lasting effects of inequality in sport are extremely evident in the mindset of society. Tanner exposed the current challenges of exposure of women’s sport, as highlighted in research by Lidl, uncovering that “59 per cent of the population would rather watch a men’s sports event on TV than attend a female sports event”, while only “nine per cent would choose to attend a female sports event over an equivalent male sports event”. Tanner stressed that these shocking statistics are only the surface of what the current situation is looking like and thus a need for change is imminent. 

The first question to the panel was directed at Moira Flahive who gave us an insight into being a woman in a male-dominated sport. She said that her boarding school and co-ed education gave her a “fight or flight” mindset when it came to the world of sport. This enabled her to push through to the forefront of professional sport, where she could exist as a role model for further generations. Her key tag line was, “you know, if you can’t see me then you can’t be me”, as she stressed the need for more exposure of women in leadership positions to inspire younger generations. “It is incumbent upon us to step up and do it…” — it being walking into a room where you know you are going to be the only woman. Despite her call for change, she warned against the mindset that all men are the enemies. Teams are entering an “adapt or die” era, where change will happen, whether wanted or not. “Not all men are against us, there are male allies out there”, she urged. She ended by describing equality as a “two-way street”, saying that “the Sundays where the father heads off to play golf, and the mother is left behind to take the girls to ballet are over”. 


Hannah Craig then also reflected on her experience as a woman in a male-dominated sport, but only realised her isolation after leaving, highlighting the scarcity of female influence in her reflections. Craig emigrated when she was very young and was thrown into the sporting world. She took it for granted that having a performance mindset meant she just kept working. She was the “blueprint” for how female success in the sporting world would work. With no-one to follow, she had to keep finding her own solutions in order to move forward — there was a certain loneliness in onliness”, Craig said to the audience. It was only after retiring from her 20 years as a professional athlete that she felt the conversation shifting from emotional to productive. Her illuminating description of sport as a “product” was a refreshingly productive take. As soon as you realise it was designed for men, by men, to be played by men, you can appreciate that the future is about a systematic product change. Sport Ireland’s Women in Sport campaign, is set to be at the forefront of the change in this said “product”. She ended by agreeing with Moira that blame is only a hindrance to the cause: “We are past angry protest, and looking forward to real progress.” 

Third panellist, Female Youth International Cricket Player of the Year, and Trinity Student, Leah Paul, was pleased to be among some of her role models for the evening, saying the likes of Hannah and Moira were making great waves in the profession. However, despite this, the issue is that there are minimal female cricketers to aspire to, and it hard to see yourself making it in the career, if you are not shown that as a viable option. A key pillar to Leah’s sporting experience is the community it fosters. She fondly discussed the friendships you make for life. That kind of support system is essential, when leading the way, and calling for change, can be such an isolating movement. Events like these are essential in making women know they are not alone. 


Finally, the newly appointed Trinity’s Women’s Football coach, Cameron, could not stress enough how excited he was to begin his new role. He is treading uncharted waters here, and his employment is a monumental step for Trinity, who had neglected the women’s team for a while. This is a very hopeful step in the right direction. His main point was looking at the future of the Women’s 1st team. He seriously emphasised the importance for high pressure training, in order to achieve high performance results. This was a feature of his training with Bohemians that he took for granted as a male player. As a female footballer, there is minimal expectation from society to take the sport seriously, and this stigma attached is detrimental to the value the players can place on themselves. He said: “You quickly realise it’s a whole different culture, a whole different slot in culture, for what should be the same thing…” There is an idea that it’s less of an elite sport, more of a hobby for women, and this is what he seeks to change. He hopes to foster a high level mindset within the team, with high support, but also high pressure. He made the astute point that to hold his team to the best of their ability, is nothing less than a mark of respect. No accountability, or expectation will only achieve lower results. This was an incredibly exciting, and promising end to the panel discussion. 

The panel was an inspiring session that should figurehead some serious change in the Trinity sporting scene. However, despite this, it was not without its flaws. It was hard to ignore the little that was said about any actual, practical targets for the campaign, or the university, that might hold the new program accountable. Raising awareness is an essential, basic step, however there are real things that need to change. The women’s football team gave a disgruntled statement after reflecting on the lack of accountability from anyone on the Union for the fact that half the season has passed without a coach for the team, in comparison to the piles of resources afforded for the men’s teams, among them coaches, kits and a manager. They also commented on the location of the discussion, which took place in the basement of the business building, with little to no advertising outside, which was a shame. Refreshed motivation is fabulous, and the speakers were both friendly and inspirational, however to avoid this being branded as a publicity stunt, The University Times waits eagerly to see some real change! This is finally a step in the right direction for Trinity, in 2024. 

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