Video: Clare Balding inspires Newham’s schoolgirls to consider sporting career

PUBLISHED: 16:53 25 February 2015 | UPDATED: 07:46 04 March 2015

Clare Balding chats to a pupil

Clare Balding chats to a pupil

Carol Glover

A career in sport doesn’t necessarily have to mean being a talented athlete.

That’s the message a careers networking event at the London Aquatics Centre tried to get across to 300 schoolgirls this morning

Women from across the sporting spectrum gathered to talk to secondary school pupils from all over east London about the work they do.

The Inspiring Women in Sport speed networkingwas one of several similar events being held across the UK, encouraging girls to consider a variety of career options in a traditionally male-dominated environment.

Janine Harriman and Claire Davenport, who work for British Swimming, explained that they came into their roles from two very different backgrounds.

The speed networking event featured 300 pupilsThe speed networking event featured 300 pupils

“There was a vacancy in the area and it was just a job, I didn’t look at doing it specifically because it was sport,” said Janine, who works as a HR manager.

For Claire, choosing to become the director of events there was influenced by her background.

“Swimming was my sport and it was a chance to do something I really enjoyed,” she said.

Joice Norton-Cruz and Vanessa Katonia were among 20 Year 9 pupils from Eastlea School attending the event.

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez founded the Inspiring Women campaignMiriam Gonzalez Durantez founded the Inspiring Women campaign

They spoke to representatives from the FA, netball and Saracens rugby club during the morning’s session, which saw the pupils sat on small tables and the sports workers moving round.

“We’ve learnt that people have gradually made their way up to do the things they’re doing now,” said Joice, 13.

“We asked the rugby players if they get any bad things happen because they do rugby

Men said that girls shouldn’t play rugby but they carried on doing it.”

The traditionally male-dominated motorsport industry was representedThe traditionally male-dominated motorsport industry was represented

Vanessa, 13, added. “Nothing can stop you from doing your dreams, even the people that get in your way.”

Inspiring Women in Sport, which is backed by BT Sport, is part of the Inspiring Women campaign aiming to get 15,000 women to volunteer one hour of their time to talk to girls about careers in male-dominated industries.

The day was championed by Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, who founded the Inspiring Women campaign, and broadcaster Clare Balding.

Clare said: “I love my job and am determined to do as much as I can to help girls and young women aware of the opportunities available in sport for a fulfilling and enjoyable career.

Pupils could grill women who work in all areas of sportPupils could grill women who work in all areas of sport

“There are so many options across the board - whether it be in event management, coaching, marketing, sports science, journalism or governance and I know that when you are in your teens deciding which path to take, it can make all the difference to have access to worlds you may not have considered.”

Among the 55 women circling around the swimming pool was 19-year-old motocross rider Catherine King.

Only a few years older than the girls she was speaking to, she came third in the Scott Nationals series last year, and has competed in both women only and mixed gender events.

“I thought it was really inspiring. I spoke to four or five tables and they asked a lot about what I do,” she said.

Girls were encouraged to consider new career optionsGirls were encouraged to consider new career options

“I grew up on a farm in Wiltshire and my dad bought me a bike when I was 13.

“I used to ride it around my field and when I realised I was good at it, I started entering competitions.

“In London it’s not so easy to find a field, but I told them how to get into it if they wanted to.”

In a typically male-dominated sport, it could be easy to feel marginalised, but Catherine said she did not find that to be the case.

The London Aquatics Centre played hostThe London Aquatics Centre played host

“Sometimes I’m the only girl on the starting line with 39 men but they treat me like their little sister, they look out for me and hope I do well,” she said.

“If girls see another girl taking part it will let them think that they can do it too.”

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