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Where did all the girls go?’
Gender, Education and Work in the Horseracing Industry

Boden, Eleanor (2021) Where did all the girls go?’
Gender, Education and Work in the Horseracing Industry.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Currently only 6.2% of all professional jockeys competing in the United Kingdom and Ireland are female (British Horseracing Authority (BHA), 2015). This is further broken down into flat racing where, in 2016, 12.3% of professional flat jockeys were female and National Hunt racing had only 4% of female jockeys. In contrast, the racing school recruitment figures from both of the British “jockey schools” show that the ratio of applicants is 8:1, female to male (Butler, 2016, Personal Communication). The rationale for this PhD is to understand why there is such a low conversion of aspirational female trainees to jockeys.
This PhD research explored the lived experiences of young aspirational, female jockeys throughout their mandatory training and into early employment, using a Bourdieusian lens to analyse their experiences across these interconnected fields. I have also utilised intersectionality as a feminist theory to describe how gender intersects with other social relations of difference, such as race and age.
I used this approach to answer my two research questions:
RQ1. How do female recruits, within the different entry points, construct their racing habitus in preparation for the real working environments?
RQ2. Why have female trainees been less successful at converting their skills (cultural capital) into career opportunities (economic capital)?
I undertook a micro-longitudinal study, undertaking nine focus groups at three points across one year (n=112). This was followed by 28 semi-structured interviews with women who work in the industry. These interviews focused on their lived experiences, as a woman in horseracing, and how they negotiated their gendered identities within the different social fields.
The main findings from the research were firstly, that young women in this study accepted their position within the racing industry, but recognised they had to work hard or make changes to their body to maintain their position, which symbolised acceptance. Secondly, the increased awareness of the prioritisation of males and masculine traits in most of the roles in the horseracing industry indicates the different expectations of women in the development of their racing habitus. Thirdly, some young women have felt alienated out of the racing industry, especially with reference to pregnancy and maternity. Not only did the body dictate how young women experienced the racing industry it was clear that they had an awareness of the ”rules” in relation to the sex-appropriate roles in the racing yard, and this hierarchy of position dictated the way capital is distributed. And, finally the unchallenged sexual harassment which has been shown to be accepted, and sometimes expected by the majority of respondents regardless of age or position within the sport.
In conclusion, most young women in the racing industry feel “othered” due to gendered norms, often without knowing of this themselves. This state of not knowing highlights the power of the unconscious element of the racing habitus in governing practice.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Horseracing, sexual harrassment, Bourdieu, Gender
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Sport and Exercise Sciences, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:13 Dec 2023 13:36

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