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  • Writer's pictureSarah

Levelling the field

This year's London Marathon was held at the weekend and marks 40 years since it began in 1981. It was estimated that 80,000 people would take part in what would be the biggest marathon, and it has been confirmed so far, that 35,300 people ran the course from Blackheath to The Mall and thousands more ran the marathon virtually. Virtual attendance is becoming the modern way, but whilst we may feel a little dejected by the thought of this following countless Zoom and Teams meeting, it is a great way to create inclusion for all.

Hugh Brasher, the son of Chris Brasher, co-founder of the London Marathon with John Disley, said that the marathon was created to:

“show how the family of humankind can be united and ‘to have fun and provide some happiness and a sense of achievement in a troubled world."

We’ve really missed the togetherness after being more divided than ever,” said Hugh and “we are bringing people together one step at a time, both here today and globally."

The development of the Equality Act and it's implementation only eleven years ago, shows that there is still a need for progression in organisations and the wider communities in relation to treating individuals equally.

The Act provides protection for employees from discrimination in the workplace, and covers a range of protected characteristics, such as: gender, race, disability, religious beliefs and sexual orientation. Therefore it is important to ensure that you have clear policies in place to underpin your ethos and values as an organisation and to demonstrate your commitment to equality.

Even with these developments being in more recent times, it is still unbelievable to think that in the 1960s there was a notable segregation of women and men. Kathrine Switzer had dreams of running a marathon, but in the 1960s there was a belief that women were physically incapable of running such long distances and that it could even be dangerous to their health.

Kathrine signed up for the Boston Marathon using only her initials and whilst running the course, she was spotted by the race co-director, Jock Semple, who then attacked her because he was "outraged" that a woman was running in the men only event!

Image from BBC News

Following this momentous moment that was caught on camera, Kathrine went on to campaign for women's inclusion in the Boston Marathon, she created the first women's road race and was instrumental in the women's marathon becoming an official Olympic event, as late as the 1984 games.

On Sunday we saw the London Marathon men's race being won by Sisay Lemma, with a time of 02:04:01 and the women's race was won by Joyciline Jepkosgel, with a time of 02:17:43, so there was only 13 minutes and 42 seconds between the men's and women's race. These results clearly show that women can compete at an elite level and that the mindset in the 1960's was one of discrimination.

When you think about Kathrine and the battle she had for equality, it seems like this was such a different time, but in reality it was not that long ago. There has been progression in relation to gender equality, but has there been enough progression? Or is there still a gender divide? How inclusive is your organisation?

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