8 March is International Women’s Day 2021 – a day for celebrating the achievements of women and raise wider awareness around gender equality.

At CAFE, we want to celebrate disabled women and the women who work to improve access and inclusion for all.

Disabled women still face many environmental, communication, institutional and attitudinal barriers in their everyday lives. The disparity between the experiences of men and women still exists, and as a society we must do all that we can to treat everybody equally, in an inclusive, accessible and welcoming environment.

Ahead of International Women’s Day 2021, we spoke with Pilar Castillo Cid, Disability Access Officer at Real Betis, and Jo McNicol, the Chair of SpursAbility (the disabled supporters association (DSA) at Tottenham Hotspur) about their thoughts and experiences.

“Men and women both continue to face different barriers, particularly when it comes to accessible facilities”, explained Jo. “Particularly for me as a disabled woman, I find it unpleasant when we have to sit apart from our fellow fans at away matches. This still happens a lot both at domestic matches and in Europe, and I hope that more stadiums will take this into account in the future”.

Pilar said, “In addition to the access barriers faced by both men and women, women can effectively face double discrimination. Although the concept is slowly changing, football has traditionally been seen as a man’s sport with women only playing a secondary role”.

“Being a fan of your club is an equally passionate experience for both men and women. Following your team, going to games and supporting your club as a volunteer are all hugely rewarding activities that every woman can do, and you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to your club”, added Pilar.

On opportunities for disabled women to work within the sports industry, Jo explained, “It is important for everyone to have the opportunity to do a job that they love without the prospect of discrimination. Many disabled women, as with many disabled men, have a lot to offer and can advise on how to make improvements”.

“Women should be present in all areas and levels”, said Pilar. “Leadership positions are currently occupied by very few women, especially disabled women. Inclusive employment of women is a step which has still not been achieved, and many companies dimply do not comply with the laws that have been enacted. A company free from discrimination not only has a good image with its employees, but also with customers and the general public”.

When asked about what advice she would offer to disabled women who want to get involved in football, Jo said, “My advice to anyone would always be to go along to a game when we can. Clubs are taking diversity importantly, and although there is still work to be done within society you will have great fun at the match. Go for it and be proud of what you can achieve as a disabled woman – anything is possible!”.

Pilar said, “Your attitude and commitment will help you to achieve your goals – even if the road is complicated, your constant pursuit will get you there. Sport in general needs more women. Women with a different vision, women who fight and women with the intention of changing and improving the situation”.

We would like to thank both Pilar and Jo for sharing their thoughts with us on International Women’s Day 2021. When we talk of #TotalAccess, we mean total access for everybody. Disabled women have a hugely important role to play within our society and within our sporting industry, and we hope that many more disabled women will be able to take their rightful places within our game going forwards.

International Women’s Day 2021 coincides with the CAFE Week of Action, which runs from 6-14 March. It is not too late to get involved – download our information pack and find out more about how you can celebrate #TotalAccess during the CAFE Week of Action.

In England and Wales, the CAFE Week of Action runs parallel to the Weeks of Action hosted by our partners at Level Playing Field. Visit the Level Playing Field website, and find out more about the tremendous activities taking place across England and Wales.

Published 8/3/2021