This week’s #FemaleFlashlight is a truly inspiring young woman, who took her dream to work in football and make a difference, and made it a reality. Hayley Bennett, Education Officer at Kick It Out, is backing the Eighth Wonder programme to create football’s future female leaders.
Hayley’s journey into football was certainly not what she expected. “I never in a million years thought that working in football was a thing. I had gone through quite a hard time as a teenager but late on in secondary school I really became obsessed with the game. “
“My dedication to football helped me become more focused on my studies so I left secondary school as someone who would probably be described as ‘academic’. As a result, when it came to applying for university I chose to do a politics degree! I was half way through that when I began looking for volunteering opportunities in football- mainly to give me a bit of inspiration to get through a degree I wasn't passionate about. At the beginning I just wanted to volunteer for the experience because I was completely unaware of the opportunities in the industry.”
Hayley’s ambition to create enjoyable opportunities for herself was matched with a work-rate and determination to succeed.
“I remember applying to over 150 part-time jobs and internships in my second year of university as I really needed some experience of working and money to be honest! I came across a voluntary position being advertised on Kick It Out's website by chance but it was absolutely perfect for me.”
“I had always been motivated to stand up for injustice which is why I had chosen to do politics but my real passion was football. I put all that passion into my cover letter and surprised myself by securing an interview.”
“I was offered a position as Voluntary Administration Assistant over the summer holidays and spent four months doing a wide range of tasks supporting different members of the team. It was during those months that I realised how much was going on behind the scenes in football and I learnt first-hand by meeting various people working across the game. One of the main jobs I did was assisting with Kick It Out's Mentoring and Leadership project which is actually all about creating opportunities for people wanting to work in football so it was a real eye opener. “
Volunteering is a key element to the Eighth Wonder programme with girls being match to bespoke opportunities to engage them with their interests. It is something Hayley strong feels can empower people who sign up.
“Volunteering for four months was a massive risk as I didn't have any money coming in but it really paid off because I was offered a part-time position at the end of summer which allowed me to work whilst finishing my degree. Even if I hadn't been offered anything paid by Kick It Out I still would have benefited from the volunteering as it had given me a foot in the door in an industry I didn’t really know existed.”
“If I had known the types of career pathways existing in football I would have known there was a possibility of working in something that was my passion rather than not knowing what I wanted to do and spending three years doing a degree I hated.”
Hayley added, “I think a lot of people who love football think you can only work in the game as a player or in coaching or management but there are so many roles. There are even degrees relating to football so if you want to study you can do something directly related to your ideal career.”
And Hayley believes the Eighth Wonder programme can offer girls an opportunity to consider that ideal career in more detail, with support, advice and a network to help them.
“I would advise anyone who is thinking of signing up to Eighth Wonder to just grab the opportunity with both hands. If you love football there's absolutely no reason why you can't love a job in football. We need people from all backgrounds to bring their different perspectives and experiences into this industry.”
“This programme will give someone the opportunity to gain a priceless insight into the types of roles available in football. Unfortunately, football is still quite a closed industry and you have to really put yourself out there to find out what opportunities exist, let alone how to get hold of them!”
“What I really like about the programme is the fact young women will be able to meet people who are doing roles they might aspire to do. On top of this, bringing everyone together gives everyone a chance to make friends who will be valuable to them as they progress through their careers. .”
To sign up for the Eighth Wonder programme please click here.