Women in the turfcare industry = adaptation

James Kimmingsin Cricket

In this quick-fire Q and A, we spoke to Meg Lay at Gloucestershire County Cricket Club about the current state of the industry.

We discuss how the industry needs to adapt to make it easier for women who join and who want to start a family, as well as highlighting the ongoing recruitment crisis.

When did you first think 'I want to join the turfcare industry?'

I fell into this job by accident... as I think so many people do! I happened to be living with a couple of professional cricket players who were short on ground staff at their club. I thought they might want me to pull some sheets for a couple of weeks, so I reached out to the club. I never thought about it as a career path, I didn't really know it was one.

How does it feel to be working for Gloucestershire Cricket Club?

I knew from the second I met Sean Williams, the Head Groundsman, that it was a team I wanted to be a part of. He's such a nice guy and he's got so much knowledge. His deputy, Paul Collett, knows everything there is to know about preparing cricket grounds. They've been in the industry for a combined 70-odd years (I hope they don't mind me saying that), but they're great guys and we have a really nice team. They've all been super welcoming. If they hadn't been as amazing as they were, I would have been out in a week.

We work alongside the men's cricket team and the Western Storm (women's team) and they're all awesome to work with. I haven't worked in other sports, but I can't imagine there are many others harder than cricket. The hours are pretty cruel and there are very few days off. There's a lot of scrutiny over the pitch.

Can the industry do anything to attract more women?

We can recruit as many women as we want, but it doesn't matter if we're not retaining them. There are some big issues in the industry that we need to face. I'm 27 and realistically, in a couple of years, I'm going to have to decide whether I want to keep working in cricket - doing 70 hours a week for hardly any money... not knowing when my day off is, or whether I want to have a family.

That's a choice I'm going to have to make and I think that disproportionately affects women. Our maternity policy is more in line with office workers, which isn't realistic when we're pulling heavy sheets and doing a lot of physical work. You have to think, should our policies be more in line with the players? I think that's the reason why there are only three women working in cricket and certainly no mothers. That's something that we can change and we need to change quickly.

What gives you the motivation?

I think this is one of the best jobs in the world and I can't imagine doing anything else. However, the industry has so many problems - some of which I think have some obvious solutions! I really want to get stuck in and see how I can do my bit to make change.

I don't blame people for leaving, but I don't want to leave... I want to fix things. I want to make it easier for people that come into the industry. I want to promote the job and put a positive spin on this career, because it's super rewarding and there are some amazing people in it.

Meg recently won the Newcomer of the Year at the GMA 2023 Industry Awards

In terms of diversity, being a woman in a male-dominated industry, how have you found this?

I guess diversity hasn't really been addressed in sports turf because they haven't needed to. The reason why we need diversity in the industry is because we don't have enough men doing the job. If there were plenty of men wanting to join, then it wouldn't be as much of an issue. The problem we have is people don't want to join.

We need more people in the industry and, right now, you've got 50% of the population who are not putting their hands up. So, we need to figure out why and we need to encourage them into the industry. I don't care who comes in; whether it's men or women, but we need to make it more welcoming. I think most people do want more women in the industry, but ultimately, they just want more people!

How difficult was the application process for your role?

It couldn't have been easier. That's how much of a recruitment crisis we're having at the moment. I literally sent an e-mail to the club and they asked me to come in.

It wasn't something I thought about, but I was pretty well equipped for it. I've got experience in agriculture, as I grew up on a crop farm over in New Zealand. I've also played cricket my whole life. I met the Head Groundsman and got offered the job on the spot.

Can you tell us a little bit about the all women team at Edgbaston over the summer.

It was unbelievable. We created this community of women that didn't exist before, most of them are the only women within their different clubs. It was a hugely valuable experience just meeting them and getting to produce the ground for an Ashes match. It again highlights how welcoming this industry is.

Gary Barwell from Edgbaston invited us onto his ground. It was a really big deal for us all and he was very generous with his time. His team were also fantastic and I can't think of many other industries where you'd be welcomed like that.

It was a really positive experience for all of us and we will absolutely be doing more. That was just the start for women and turf in the UK.

There will be more events, there will be bigger events, there'll be more women. There's so much more to come!

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