Ahead of International Women’s Day, we caught up with Tottenham’s Rehanne Skinner to find out about being a woman in football and who inspires her.
What it means to you to be a strong woman?
That’s a good question. I mean, it’s probably going to be a long answer because I think the biggest thing for me is, in the time that I’ve been involved in the game, it started off at a time where women’s and girls’ Development Officers were coming into the forefront of football in the community schemes. The acknowledgement of raising opportunities available for girls to play football was just starting to have loads of money thrown at it from the FA. So, we’re going back – unfortunately, I’m showing my age – quite a way.
When you look at what that’s looked like – the way that my own career has been able to evolve; the amount of girls that are playing; the amount of role models that are within the game now in senior football in the FAWSL; and obviously the way that England have performed – I just think as a collective, we’re now in a position where we have female role models, whether that be in the position that I am in or players across the game, which is so important for society.
It’s not just about girls knowing that they can aspire to be a referee, or coach, or a professional player. It’s also about boys being aware of the fact that there are strong women in the world that are able to drive things forward. That the respect and equality aspect that we need to keep striving for should be high on everybody’s agenda, and they can see people that are actually doing a very good job. So, I think it’s something that I take pride in. It’s something that I want to make sure I always portray from within the game, because I’ve always been a massive advocate for trying to drive it forward.
Everything I have done on a day-to-day basis for 20 years has been to try and grow the game in whatever role I was in. I think it’s great that we’ve got this International Women’s Day. It’s becoming bigger and bigger year on year. We’re obviously seeing different people advocating for that and fantastic stories of people who have done amazing things, women that have really pioneered the way forward. It’s just a fantastic opportunity to celebrate that, to be honest.
Do you feel the pressure of being a role model? Or is that a privilege of the job you’re in?
It’s 100% a privilege. I think the opportunity to show what it is that we’re trying to do and how to help to grow the game and grow the visibility of women in general, I just think is a privilege for me to be involved in and to have that platform from which to be able to do that.
It’s something that as a collective – we’ve spoken about it as a team as well – we take seriously as to the way that we want to grow, what that looks like from an individual perspective, but also from a club perspective, and from the game…It’s something that is a hot topic for us on a day-to-day basis. It’s absolutely a privilege to be in that position. I’m doing a job that I love, and I’ve been able to do that all of my professional career. That’s something that I’m incredibly grateful for and fortunate to be able to do now.
The only other thing to say on that is, there weren’t full time jobs in the Women’s Professional gateway. It wasn’t fully professional, and I went to the States to be on the grass for three years and that was because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do here fully, because there just wasn’t that capacity to do it for female teams. Now, that’s obviously available. The game has change completely; it is something that I’ve always worked towards and bolstered everything around what I’ve done in order to be in the right position when this became available. So yeah, I am really glad to be on the path that I’m on at the moment.
Who inspires you?
There are loads. I mean, I’ve got members of my family who have worked in a lot of different jobs. People in nursing, like my Nana was a nurse in the war; my sister leads the way in terms of equestrian; and my mum has been incredibly hard working throughout her career to try and set the tone for things that we should be doing. I just think that having those people in your life that overcome adversity and keep sort of pushing things forward is definitely something that I’ve tried to emulate. Within the game you see a cluster of people that have been in it for so long and have worked so hard to try and drive things forward. There’s a lot of people to mention that are just prepared to go outside their comfort zone to drive things forward, prepared to stick their neck on the line when other people think it’s a little bit outrageous. All those things that people have done over the course of the years in football have just paved the way for me to be doing what I’m doing now. I’ve got huge respect for those that have obviously created the opportunity for the players and people like me to do what we’re doing now.
International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us to help those people recognise the size of their shadow and the size of their influence. To actually kind of stop every once in a while and talk about it for those people to recognise the impact they have.
Absolutely. A fantastic example of that is Mo Marley. I worked closely with her at England when I was there the last time around. I just think when you look at the number of players whose career she’s influenced, and as a support network for those people going through different stages of paying to play to semi-professional to becoming professional. Then from a club perspective and from an England perspective, there is not one player in the seniors that’s not been influenced by Mo at some point or another throughout the course of their career. She’s obviously been a massive support to a lot of coaching staff and the ultimate professional throughout all of that. She has set the standard and the benchmark for what that should look like. I think when she retired, it spoke volumes because the amount of people that made those kinds of statements on social media and everything, it was like a catalogue of things. It’s so good that was acknowledged in that moment. She’s obviously jumped back on the horse again now and is working with the under 23’s; she can’t stay away. But she’s had such a passion and such a drive for the game, that you’re right, that shadow in a positive way is significant. She’s one of many that springs to mind.