England hockey star Jo Hunter says players should use each other as ‘allies’ in fight for equal pay
England hockey striker Jo Hunter believes that female players should act as ‘allies’ to one another in order to fight for equal pay from clubs and sponsors.
The 29 year-old, who has earned over 30 caps for her country and who currently plays for Buckingham in the Premier Division, has said now is the time to make a change.
It comes after the Dutch hockey league’s top sponsor ABN AMRO announced last month their plans to push for gender equality by 2025.
They have called for clubs, whose sponsorship contracts are up for extension, to give the male and female players equal salaries and opportunities, and if they do so, their sponsorship will be renewed.
Hunter told NewsChain: "It’s absolutely brilliant and the first thing that struck me when I read about it, is it really shows how culturally it’s changing. It’s all well and good saying ‘yeah women aren’t paid as well’, but until you actually see something being done about it, nothing changes.
“It’s a really positive step and I’m sure it aligns with what they as a company are trying to achieve. It’s definitely been a long time coming but is definitely a step forward.”
However, the English top-flight league doesn’t have an ‘umbrella sponsor’ to turn to which means that it’s near impossible to compare the two leagues.
The star has played at several clubs in the domestic league including Surbiton and Beeston, and they have certainly been different experiences for her.
She said: "I play for Buckingham, but I pay to play because as a club we don’t have the money. But I’ve also been at clubs where I’ve been fortunate to get travel expenses and free kit.
“Even within the league in England, there’s such disparity between the money which clubs have even before you include sponsors.”
As a result, this means players may have to think about their choice of club a bit more depending on what they are after.
Hunter added: "It definitely depends on a personal drive I think, if your drive is to get as much money as possible, go to a club where you think you can achieve that. With that comes a sacrifice for something else, say quality coaching or the number of minutes you can play, that’s for the individual to way up.
"I think this is where women in the workplace, in hockey and in sport in general sometimes go a bit wrong.
"We are probably guilty of undervaluing ourselves. Say you are in a position to go to a club where there is some money there, are we undervaluing ourselves in the first instance say ‘well maybe I’m not even worth that much so why should I get that’.
"I don’t think we negotiate because of that reason and I think that immediately puts you in a tricky position. I also think that we are quite loyal, so let’s say you had the option to move to another club for money, I think the loyalties in us would make us stay put.
“I think men just think ‘right I’m worth this and I’m going to go and if I can’t I will go somewhere else,’ they are quite straightforward, very matter of fact, where we (women) probably think about it a little bit more.”
Hunter, who won a bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, is aware there is an obvious barrier in place but knows it’s a ‘two-way relationship’ between the club and the player.
“First and foremost you do have to be worth it and that is sometimes difficult to quantify in sport I think, like the value of a hockey player, how on earth do you do that,” she added.
"The aim in the AMRO approach is ‘right we are going to make this change,’ that’s one way of doing it, or as women can we initiate that change ourselves by negotiating, by speaking to each other and elevating each other.
“It’s quite a sensitive subject but if we can use ourselves as allies, I think it would give each other confidence to then value ourselves and to ask for money where it’s available.”
This issue also drips into player sponsorship which is an area Hunter believes needs to be the same for men and women.
"In terms of sponsorship, that is something that 100% needs to level up. In simple terms, I would expect to be paid the same as my male counterpart.
"Again, it’s subjective of how the sponsorship company views the player, but some of it is factual for example the number of caps, the number of major tournaments and the number of goals scored.
"I have heard incidents in the past where people have found that hasn’t been the case where the woman has been paid less than their male counterpart from the same sponsorship brand, which is just unbelievable. In the 21st Century, how is that still happening?
"I think maybe we become a bit afraid to give the ultimatum. We need to do more and give each other that confidence.
"If the sponsors’ desired outcome was a number of medals, you know the women’s team have won a lot of medals in the past couple of years, I’m not saying we should be paid more but we certainly shouldn’t be paid less.
"It’s only in the past year where I’ve spoken more to my (GB and England) teammates about it and they’ve been really transparent with me.
"Whereas before I was going into the negotiations blind or I thought ‘oh why do they want to pay me’, it was almost a surprise that they wanted to pay me and that’s exactly what is wrong, my attitude in that situation.
"We do discuss equal pay when it comes to the domestic game and sticks sponsorship, it’s always at the back of people’s minds.
“We should keep striving for that but it is definitely a battle worth fighting.”