Providing opportunities and developing young girls is a core part of the Foundation’s community output, so with this year’s International Women’s Day being themed around ‘embracing equity’ it was the perfect opportunity to celebrate this.
On the day itself, two events were held – one at Old Trafford and one at partner school Great Academy Ashton – that showcased two different ways in which the Foundation inspires its female participants.
At the Theatre of Dreams, students from our network of primary and secondary schools attended a very special Girls Get Goals event. There, the girls had the opportunity to interact with female leaders from the Foundation, the club and a whole host of other industries including representatives from adidas Football, the National Football Museum, sports physiotherapists, Greater Manchester Police and more.
The girls then listened to United’s Head of Women’s Football Polly Bancroft, who encouraged those in attendance to celebrate and encourage one another. She was also joined by women’s football commentator and radio presenter Helen Hardy.
“Today is a great day to celebrate what wonderful women we have in our lives and, more specifically, this event is an amazing opportunity to come together, support each other and hear one another’s stories,” Polly said.
“International Women’s Day belongs to everyone,” she added. “We all have women in our lives that we can champion, and we can support.
“There is nothing better than women supporting women. There is talk of male allies, but it’s also so important for us girls to be female allies, allowing us to help each other to move forward and become the leaders of tomorrow.”
Through our work in the girls’ development space, the Foundation works hard to afford chances for its female participants to step out of their comfort zone, sample new experiences and speak with inspirational figures to show them the way forward.
Claire Harrop, Female Development Officer, said: “There is so much power in bringing people together and we wanted the girls to see that there are a team of people, both here at Manchester United, but also in the wider community.
“It was so lovely to see Polly and Helen, two really successful women, still bigging each other up, something that is so important for our young girls to see as it fosters a strong feeling of togetherness.”
Participant Ella added: “I loved listening to Greater Manchester Police and hearing about crime scene investigation. I would like to go on to be a solicitor and then, later on, a coroner, so I found that talk one of the most interesting – it was really cool!
“Today was really inspirational and it’s left me feeling empowered and encouraged to continue to pursue my goals.”
Over at Great Academy Ashton, the school hosted a Lionesses-themed festival of football for over 200 girls as part of the FA’s Let Girls Play campaign, paying homage to the England team’s incredible success in the Women’s Euro last year.
“We centred the day around building leadership and teamwork skills,” Ryan Monk, School Partnership Officer, said. “We want our girls to take inspiration from the team that did so brilliantly in the tournament last summer, and encourage them to play the game too and show that there are opportunities for them.
“It’s been great to do this event on International Women’s Day, but we want to embrace the enthusiasm from the girls and make these events regular things, as it’s very clear that the women’s game is growing in popularity by the year, something you can see by the amount of girls that attended today.”
Despite the wintery conditions, the young players were not deterred and thoroughly enjoyed showing what they can do.
Participant Sienna said: “It was really fun! Sometimes girls might feel excluded from football as it’s mostly boys that play, but this makes us feel included and able to show our passion too. If girls want to play, it gives them the confidence to go and do it!”