Out of the Proving Grounds

Out of the Proving Grounds

When I started writing this article I had a vision of exactly where I wanted it to go. Then Google happened and completely derailed my ideas.

I always like to add quotes to support my ideas so I innocently searched for “inspirational working women quotes”... Jaw left swinging in the wind at what I find I’m certainly “inspired” to write, but not about what I had initially planned. I have selected just a few quotes which I think highlight what is wrong in our society when it comes to women in the workplace;

“Women need to give their all to achieve success.”
“Money does not impress a hardworking woman.”
“Do not whine…do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.”

Quotes and attitudes like this are why we have the workplace proving grounds. I’ve written about perfectionism as a symptom of the systemic difficulties and pressures women face in the workplace and at home. But I’m wondering if it’s time to look a bit deeper.

Women have only truly been allowed to work for less than 100 years. Let that sink in. It’s important to understanding the nuances of how we navigate the workplace. We’ve been allowed work less than 60 years with safety nets like being able to continue working after marriage or childbirth. The culture surrounding women working has been, from the very start, about constantly proving ourselves capable to hold this right. That we have to earn it and continue to do so.

This is true in every Industry but I think it’s important to look at the equestrian industry, share our stories and look at how we can empower change within it.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been speaking to some fellow equestrians from around the world, with their permission and remaining anonymous, I will share just a few of the many stories I received.

“I felt I was constantly excluded because I wasn’t one of the boys. The Head lad always singled me out as not working hard enough even though I did everything I was told too, it was never good or fast enough” – F. UK
“Even though I was the most experienced at the barn and paid to do the same job (Breaking horses) The men I worked with constantly said I wasn’t strong or able enough. It wore my confidence down until I left.” – F. USA
“Previously worked in TBS had to go to Australia to be taken seriously as a women as in Ireland most trainers are men” – F. IRE
“When I started out many years ago I saw so many bright young women coming in, working hard in the hopes of making it. During my time not one woman had been given the opportunity that some of the men had been. It is changing but needs to change quicker.  – M. IRE

To be honest I think I could fill a book with the stories but I thought it best to just highlight some that show that things are changing but need to change quicker. Women across all workplaces still feel like the need to prove they belong in the workforce.

So how can we change this?

Again I asked the community.

“I want to be treated the same as everyone else on the yard” -F. FRA
“I think we need a support system for woman to feel safe to speak up. I’m afraid if I complain I’ll get sacked.” F. IRE
“ More incentives and opportunities to get to the top with more women in the leadership roles”  - F. USA
“Being able to speak openly about this” – F. IRE

Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences with me. As one lady said being able to speak openly about this is important.

Pretending these things don’t exist doesn’t change anything.

Being afraid to share them doesn’t change anything.

We’ve spent enough time in the proving grounds.

It’s evident that one thing above all else is needed.

To work together on this.

Change may indeed start with one voice but it is all of us working together as a community where we can really make a difference.

Heather Lemmon Kiely

Heather Lemmon Kiely

I'm a Grade 2 Paradressage Rider. My heart horse is Freya, a ConnieX. We've been together since she was a foal. We're navigating disability together and hopefully we can share this journey with you!