Sunday, March 7, 2021

International Women's Day

To celebrate #InternationalWomensDay, we want to highlight the success of women in our own organisation and how their journey through sport differs as a female. We spoke to Regional Development Support Manager for the West District Erin Cummins and People Development Officer Elaine Murdoch to discuss how sport has shaped their journey in life and what female influences have impacted them on the way.

1)  How do you feel as a women in your sport? And what is your inspiration going forward?


Erin - Being a woman in aquatics is amazing, there are so many inspirational athletes, coaches, colleagues and volunteers that you can learn from and strive to be like. I hope to continuing developing and learning from these individuals and then pass on some knowledge and inspire the future generations.

Elaine - I feel really fortunate to be immersed in sport, surrounded by brilliant people. As a volunteer coach, I take inspiration from the players I work with and their commitment to training despite their competing priorities as students. As I coach a women’s team, I feel a particular motivation/responsibility to demonstrate positive values and to keep turning up each week to create an environment where all players feel included and have a place to escape for a few hours. In the workplace, my inspiration comes from my colleagues from Scottish Swimming & the wider Coaching Network and the workforce we support. Their passion to drive sport at all levels forward really is something else and it is a pleasure to be part of the broader team. Bring on the return to sport!!



2)  Can you describe your journey as a women through your sport and what achievements have lead you to where you are now?


Erin - I started my swimming journey like most, at the local lessons where I then progressed through to the club. The positive environment created here and my love sport in general lead me to undertake a sports degree whilst continuing to swim at university. After deciding to hang up my goggles I got into swim teaching/coaching and fairly recently I was successful in becoming the SS RSDM for the West. It’s safe to say swimming has always been a part of my life! Juggling training and studying during school and university definitely taught me valuable life skills that have shaped me as a person, without these skills I wouldn’t be working in a job I love. 

Elaine - I absolutely owe my position in sport today to the opportunities and nurturing I received as a student at Heriot-Watt University. While studying, I took on a number of volunteer roles within my club and the Sports Union and was eventually elected to the position of Sports Union President – a full time sabbatical role – after graduation. Fulfilling such a visible leadership role was a massive achievement for me that not only opened doors to future employment opportunities but it was during this time that I really came to understand just how powerful a vehicle to personal and professional development, wellbeing and connectedness that involvement in sport in any shape or form is. It’s fitting that I can continue to realise this in my role as People Development Officer at Scottish Swimming.


3)  Do you have/had any female role models, and why are they so important?


Erin - I guess I didn’t really have a specific role model, I looked up to and admired any female sportswoman that had a drive and ambition to be the best they could be. It’s really important to have visible female role models as it highlights to young girls/women that anything is achievable, physically seeing successful female sportswomen helps them believe they can be successful too. Females tend to have a higher drop-out rate in sports which is why it’s so important we promote and celebrate these female role models as much as possible. 

Elaine - Perhaps a cliché answer, but I have always been inspired by Billie Jean King’s trailblazing efforts in pushing for gender equality in sport and her later efforts in LGBT social justice. I’m also huge fan of our national football and rugby teams and look up to the players, coaches and officials who are carving paths for future generations to follow. It’s just so important to see relatable representation; it fosters confidence, motivation and is important in helping you to visualise your own goals.

4) Are there barriers to women in your sport, If so then how do you overcome them? If not then what has been put in place to prevent them?


Erin - In my experience I have always found swimming to be accessible and inclusive as a female, it is very much a sport for all and definitely a key life skill. I suppose a barrier for women in swimming can be during their teenage years. Physical and social changes combined with increased schoolwork can become overwhelming, it is essential we support and guide young women through this time in order to maintain their passion and love for sport.

Elaine - I have been really privileged to have a positive experience to date however there have absolutely been occasions when - particularly as a young woman working in sport - it has been hard not to feel intimidated in some male-dominated settings. This can, unconsciously, promote a feeling of needing to prove your worth and ability that I’m not so sure my male counterparts experience to the same extent. That said, I have been really fortunate to work alongside fantastic people who have provided excellent support and opened up opportunities for me. Everyday leadership (something we can all commit to) that supports changing how ‘things have always been done’ encourages new female talent to come through and take their place in the sector.


5) What do you hope for future female generations?


Erin - I hope future generations continue to be inspired by the women that are leading the way, and that they are confident enough to create their own pathway to achieve their chosen goals.

Elaine -  I hope for equal visibility and respect for male and female athletes; I’d love for future generations of young girls to be able to rhyme off the names of female sports stars and role models as easily as they could male. Above all, I hope that future female generations can shake off old stereotypes and ‘boxes’ we have previously been put in to feel free to participate in sport throughout their entire lives, without inhibitions.