Andy Murray has never been shy of expressing his feelings. Whether that be voicing his support for Scottish Independence via Twitter or failing to contain his emotions after his 2012 Wimbledon final loss.
At only 18 years of age, Murray was not afraid to raise the point that he wasn’t happy with then coach, Mark Petchley. Nine years later he is once again found voicing his opinions, however this time, it is in defence of his female coach, Amelie Mauresmo. Following his win against Tomas Berdych in the Australian Open semi-final, he came out and said, “there’s no reason for her to be criticised for anything. So far this week, we have shown that women can be very good coaches as well”.
Commenting in 2014 on having a female coach, male Australian tennis player Marinko Matosevic said, “for me, I couldn’t do it, since I don’t think that highly of the Women’s game”. It appears that, in some corners, being a former World Number One, winning an Olympic Silver medal and two Grand Slam titles isn’t seen to be such a remarkable achievement, that is, if you are a woman. (Ironically, Murray beat Matosevic on his way to this year’s Australian Open final).
It seems that Murray has needed to speak out, not because Mauresmo is his coach, but because she is a women. Unfortunately, he is not alone. The topical UN, “He for She” campaign, has recognised that supporting women used to be seen as something done by women for women. More recently, men have begun to stand-up in addressing issues of inequality and discrimination faced by women and girls.
This unfortunate incident is just one example of the criticism that the duo have faced since Murray appointed Mauresmo in June 2014. Whilst Murray’s performances haven’t been equal to those which secured his first Grand Slam Title at Wimbledon in 2013, there have been reasons for this. Immediately, cynics have jumped to the conclusion it’s to do with his female coach, and nothing, of course, to do with the fact that in late 2013 Murray underwent back surgery and was suffering from chronic ankle pain.
Sadly, these opinions and lack of female presence in high level coaching positions aren’t just saved for the sport of tennis. In August, 2014, Corinne Diacre took charge of Clermont football team and is the only female coach of a men's professional team in a major European country. This appointment only followed the controversial resignation of Helena Costa as Head Coach at the same club, after claims that players had been signed without her consultancy, matches had been arranged without her knowing and the club secretary had refused to respond to any of her emails.
Unfortunately, this distinct lack of female head coaches is not only evident in the world of male sports. In the top 20 Women’s hockey teams in the World, not one woman features as a Head Coach and I only know of two or three that have female assistant coaches.
If we look to draw a comparison from sport to the business world, sadly a lot of what we see is the same. Very few women are currently in senior or board level positions, with Grant Thornton’s International Business Report identifying the proportion of women in senior roles being stuck at 24%. We have to wonder why this is the case,when frequently these women have come out of university with the same qualifications as their male counterparts and have equal experience in their respective roles.We have to wonder why this is the case, when frequently these women have come out of university with the same qualifications as their male counterparts and have equal experience in their respective roles.
While Murray didn’t win the Australian Open on Sunday, he has won in the eyes of many. I can only hope that he has initiated a step-change in the perception of female coaches, in what is consistently a male dominated world and has started to turn the tide for female representation at the top level of coaching in world sport.
Maybe it is time for more large organisations to start taking a leaf out of Murray’s book and appoint more women in senior positions. As Murray and Mauresmo have demonstrated during the Australian Open, if the individual is good enough for a position then they are good enough, regardless of gender!