“RACING HOME” – a report highlighting the challenges faced by working mothers in the horseracing industry

“Racing Home: Working mothers in the horseracing industry” is the outcome of a year-long project undertaken by Women in Racing, Oxford Brookes University and Simply Racing funded by The Racing Foundation and Kindred Group. The project was launched in November 2019 at a symposium which was attended by 65+ key industry stakeholders. The event kick-started further discussion about what it feels like to be a working mother in the horseracing industry at a series of workshops/webinars with participants from across the sport.

The resulting research by Oxford Brookes University on motherhood is the first of its type in horseracing and its ground breaking findings could benefit employers and employees. It not only highlights the impact of returning to work and the challenges working mothers face, such as juggling to achieve work/life balance, feelings of guilt and isolation; but also looks at working practices and provides clear recommendations based on interviews with men and women from racing yards, studs, colleges, racing administration, trainers, jockeys, the betting industry, education and welfare advisors and vets.

Women in Racing Chair, Tallulah Lewis said: “Women in Racing is extremely proud to be bringing our second piece of academic research to the industry. It is a testament to all those involved that we have been able to deliver this report despite the impacts of COVID, with special thanks going to The Racing Foundation and Kindred Group for their sponsorship and to the teams at Oxford Brookes University and Simply Racing who ensured that the research could continue and the report be produced. The findings of the report offer a valuable insight into the challenges faced by working mothers, or those considering becoming mothers, but also highlights the opportunity we have to collaborate on the solutions and to improve our industry for all participants. With over 50% of our industry workforce being women it is important for us to all to understand the issues and collaborate on the solutions presented so we can attract and maintain a dynamic and diverse workforce which is essential if the industry is to grow and thrive. Women in Racing looks forward to working with organisations across the industry to help make this happen.”

This research also recognises a number of all-important points including the fact that women are forming an increasing proportion of the horseracing workforce, though this shift has not been widely acknowledged or catered for. Both attitudinal barriers and structural barriers have been causing many women either to leave the industry prematurely, or to simply decide not to join in the first place, creating a drain on talent and resources with cost implications, often for employers operating under tight margins.

It has been well-documented, the importance of maintaining flow of new talent through our colleges, equally how keeping experienced staff is essential for the ongoing success of the industry and the retention of expertise and organisational memory.

Rob Hezel, Racing Foundation Chief Executive said: “The Racing Foundation is delighted to have supported such a thorough and informative piece of work that provides a cross-industry perspective of the challenges faced by working mothers and those returning from maternity leave. At a time when the importance of diversity in the workplace has never been better understood, efforts to secure mothers within the workforce are vitally important. We very much hope the findings will be used by industry stakeholders to implement meaningful change that will both develop and modernise employment practices within British racing.

Dr Anne Laure Humbert, Director for the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice at Oxford Brookes Business School said: “Motherhood and family life are at the heart of employee well-being, and we all felt strongly that those working in the horseracing industry should be given a voice on this subject. Although we have identified pockets of good practice across the industry, there is still much to do. We have recommended a series of short, medium and long-term steps for action that can be taken across the industry to ensure talent is not lost. These steps include creating better support for employees and employers, in particular, better support for mothers around childcare and mentoring. We’d also encourage those working in horseracing to challenge existing inflexibilities in working practices, in order to create more family-friendly environments”


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