Women caught offside by workplace obsession with football culture

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The Independent Online

Knowledge of the offside rule is as important for women in the workplace as their ability to perform in their job, a study has concluded.

"Football culture"- in which male bosses use sports terminology to motivate staff, and women are excluded from outings during which networks are built - is preventing women from being promoted, the study in the north-east of England found.

Sharon Mavin, of Northumbria University's Newcastle Business School, found that women still felt categorised by men by age, appearance and whether or not they fell into the "nappy brigade", "knitting club" or "sexy chicks" group.

The male-dominated culture in the workplace was so "embedded" that some women were joining in, she found. "Women encourage other women to 'know their place' in an organisation when they are perceived to be challenging the established gender order," Dr Mavin said.

"Male networks determine the hierarchy and one which is very dominant is the football culture, which in most cases alienates women.

"Chief executives will use metaphors of football to motivate their teams and construct their cultures. And increasingly, entertaining and corporate development revolves around the football world."

Recent TUC research has found that 5 per cent of women in the North-east hold higher managerial or professional jobs, compared to 13 per cent for men. Nationally, almost a third of companies in the FTSE 100 have no women directors and only one in 12 of all directors are women.

Dr Mavin's report brings reminders of remarks in the New Statesmen in 1998 by the former Labour think-tank chief Helen Wilkinson that there was a "New Lad" culture at the heart of the Labour Government.