For the past 110 years, the 8th March has marked International Women’s Day. A Day to celebrate the many achievements of women across the globe, as well as highlight and continue to fight for complete gender equality. Women make up 51% of the population yet according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) women occupy only 37.9% of managerial positions and the gender pay gap still stands at 15.5%. We should be fighting for this cause everyday and tackling it head on in our day to day activities until it becomes the norm, but today’s the day to shout just that little bit louder.

In honour of International Women’s Day, some of the women at Dallaglio RugbyWorks have decided to share their stories and views on the topic.


Zenna Hopson – Deputy Chairperson

What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?

I wish I had seen more progress on gender equality during my career. Of course in some areas there has been progress, but I am not sure how much has really changed.

After working my way up through a brilliant company, founded by a woman, I started and sold my own company before taking on a chief officer role within a local authority. At the authority, I was the only woman in the top tier and when I got pregnant (out of wedlock!) I was berated for it by the leader of the council, who thought that by being public about my single mum status, I was bringing the council into disrepute. This was in the mid 1990’s!

From a Western perspective, whether you look at the pension issue, the gender pay gap, the fact that we are celebrating that we have 30% of women on FTSE 100 companies and not complaining that it isn’t 50% all reflect that there is much to do to tackle equality. However, if you take a global perspective the equality gap is even bigger, with barriers to education, health care, decent child care and early years support, non-existing access to finance, and much more. There really is a very very long way to go.”

Holly Hayne – Events Officer

What woman has positively impacted you in your life?

The woman who has positively impacted my life the most is definitely my Mum. She is a woman who’s taught me values, right from wrong, how to treat people, and she is the biggest influence in my life. Most importantly, she always lets me believe I can do anything I put my mind to, something that I’ll always be grateful for.

Claudia Carrington-King – Head of Central Operations 

Why is it important to celebrate women in sport?

Rounders and Netball are the only sports I really remember playing at school, alongside the occasional javelin throw. Despite attending a mixed school, when it came to PE, the genders were split, which I always found confusing.

In the current sporting world, women and girls often report feeling like second class citizens or get abuse for commentating on male sports. This is why it’s so important to celebrate this day and share the stories of women in sport; from those going out and winning medals, to those in the back office.

We can change the game and the perceptions of women in sport by having more women in leadership roles setting the agenda, more women in sport in the media, and by ensuring interventions like RugbyWorks are available to young girls.

I hope that we can show young girls that the sporting world is a place for them, be it as participants, as fans, or as their future careers.

Taylor Mullaney-Downer – Social Media and Organisation Support Intern

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

To me, International Women’s Day is one of the most crucial awareness days to celebrate in the annual calendar. Mainly because there is still a lot of work to do to achieve full gender equality, but also because people tend to focus on the small amounts of progress that has been made as opposed to the lengths we still have to go to for full equality, and that can mean this is seen as a minor issue.

I feel extremely lucky to have grown up in a family dominated by strong women, who really have taught me to go after any dream that I want to, but what about the young girls who do not have these crucial role models in their lives? Who do they look to for inspiration? This is why we need an equal society, to give the next generation more role models in high level positions, they can aspire to be like; whether that be as a Manager, CEO, or the Prime Minister!

That’s why International Women’s Day is important to me; it’s a day where we can inspire the next generation by shouting as loudly and proudly as we want to and people have to listen.

Grace Kane – Apprentice Mentor

As a female Mentor and Coach in the rugby world, what advice would you give to young women wanting to get involved in a male-dominated career?

Male-dominated careers and sports can be intimidating for young women to join, but it’s important for us as young women to still pursue our passions and reach our goals. Being a strong character and believing in yourself will always help you feel more confident in any environment. If more young women pursued male-dominated careers, then even more young women would feel comfortable doing the same. Just always remember who you are as a young woman.

Mary Matthews – Fundraising Manager

Is there a woman’s story who stands out most to you?

There are many women I find inspirational. Whilst considering this, I realised that all the women I admire advocate kindness and understanding. They advocate that we show each other support, not try to tear each other down, and look to understand, not criticize. 

There was one person whose words expressed this so beautifully. Her poem 'The Hill We Climb' at the inauguration moved me to tears and gave me hope. So, my inspirational women for 2021 is Amanda Gorman.

"For there is always light, 
if only we're brave enough to see it 
if only we're brave enough to be it "

Sarah Mortiboys – Managing Director

Why do we need more women in leadership? What are your personal experiences and how did you get to where you are today?

Women have a key role to play to create a meaningful and dynamic leadership culture; they bring an insight that is both different and complementary. I believe that as a female leader I have a role to play in raising the aspirations of all future leaders, not just women, to build that representative culture.

As soon as I stepped into my first role as a youth worker I knew I wanted to help and support disadvantaged young people. Through working in PE teaching and education, I would sit on corridor floors talking through complex problems with numerous young people who refused to enter the maths classroom and this really taught me about the type of leader that I wanted to be; both caring and resilient, strong and focused. At 32, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As I entered 2 years of pretty intensive treatment including allowing a year 11 student to shave my head I knew that when I came out the other side I would hopefully have the ability to face any challenge ahead of me, and as I enter my 11th year of remission I can safely say that this has come to pass.

So in answer to your question – “how did I get to where I am today?” Three simple words: Belief; both in myself and others believing in me. Bravery; never ever giving up even when the mountain seems just too high. Kindness; being kind to both myself and others as ultimately I just want this world to be a little better as a result on the contribution I make.

Vikki Bentley – Digital Innovation Manager

How has participation in women’s sport changed over the years?

More women are definitely getting active as much as they can in more recent years. According to Strava’s 2020 Year in Sport Data Report, “between April and September 2020, women aged 18-29 uploaded 45.2% more activities than during the same period last year”. This is incredible but more conversations are needed in order to give women the same opportunities, training, money, and platforms that men have had for much longer.

I am an Affiliate for ‘She Flies’ which is a social enterprise whose mission is to GROW and STRENGTHEN the global wave of women in Extreme Sports. Women’s minds are full of emotional intelligence, are analytical and less risk taking than men, so their minds need to be coached and supported more when pushing boundaries in extreme sports. They also succeed more if they are learning in a community and receive support from fellow women learners.

Femininity is also proving to be more and more important in progressing women’s development in sports. For instance, the designing of equipment and clothing specifically for women is of the upmost importance. Take wetsuits for example, our bodies are shaped differently to men and we need flexibility and cushioning in different places.

More of these techniques need to be used across all sports and all levels in order to completely break down the barriers of accessibility and ensure that women are the default in sport not just the exception.