‘Talking about sport at work excludes women and leads to laddish behaviour,’ warns management body

‘If you permit that kind of banter, you are excluding people,’ says Ann Francke

Olivia Petter
Monday 27 January 2020 14:45 GMT

Talking about sport in the workplace should be limited because it can leave women feeling excluded, a management body has warned.

According to Ann Francke, head of the Chartered Management Institute, discussing activities such as football or cricket in the office could also lead to “laddish behaviour” or harmful banter between colleagues.

“A lot of women, in particular, feel left out,” Francke told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“They don’t follow those sports and they don’t like either being forced to talk about them or not being included in the conversation.”

Francke clarified that she has “nothing against” sports fans, describing them as “great”.

“But the issue is many people aren’t cricket fans,” she added.

“If you permit that kind of banter, you are excluding people and your job as a leader is to include them.”

Francke said discussions surrounding the merits of video assistant refereeing (VAR) could be particularly exclusionary if people don’t know what that is.

“It’s a gateway to more laddish behaviour and – if it just goes unchecked – it’s a signal of a more laddish culture,” she continued.

“It’s very easy for it to escalate from VAR talk and chat to slapping each other on the back and talking about their conquests at the weekend.”

Sports broadcaster Jacqui Oatley argued the opposite and said that curtailing sports chatter at work would be a “terrible idea”.

“If you ban football chat or banter of any description, then all you’re going to do is alienate the people who actually want to communicate with each other,” she said.

“It would be so, so negative to tell people not to talk about sport because girls don’t like it or women don’t like it, that’s far more divisive.”

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