Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels sparked online fury in April when he claimed that women’s football teams concede more goals because “women are more emotional than men”. But from those who spoke up, we saw allyship in action.
Former Arsenal men’s striker Ian Wright was quick off the mark, writing on Twitter: “Kenny Shiels talking foolishness! Talking about emotional women! Didn’t that man see how many times I was crying on the PITCH!’”
Women in Football’s Chief Executive, Yvonne Harrison, commented: “It’s something women have had to face for years and years right across society, not just sport, and the comments are very unhelpful and not particularly inspiring to young girls and boys.”
Shiels has since apologised, but the toxic effect of gender-based norms – what ‘femininity’ or ‘masculinity’ should look and feel like – persists on the pitch and in the workplace.
I recently had the privilege of sitting in on a coaching session between our founder René and a business leader called George, who was being carefully invited to let go of what he had been conditioned to bottle up for his whole life – his emotions.
He couldn’t stop crying, and it was clear that this was the first time George had opened up whilst at work.