Eilidh Barbour knows what it feels like to be in a minority. As the lead presenter for BBC’s golf coverage and a familiar face as a football pundit, she’s often the only woman amongst a line-up of men.
Behind the scenes, says Eilidh, ratios are changing and she works with many camerawomen and female producers, but what the public gets to see on screen is not that much different now than if they were tuning in 20 years ago.
Eilidh’s visible presence and her willingness to stand up for equality, is what makes her the ideal presenter of this year’s The Herald & GenAnalytics Diversity Awards, which will take place in October.
It’s not the first time that she has filled this role, but after last year’s digital ceremony, she is looking forward to meeting the finalists in person.
“If it is anything like last year, then we can expect to hear lots of inspiring stories of people who are making a difference,” she says.
And it’s not just the ‘Diversity in Sport’ award, sponsored by Sport Scotland, where Eilidh expects to find welcome examples of society widening its view, but in every one of the 10 categories that will be recognised on the night, including Design for Diversity, sponsored by BAE Systems; Diversity Campaign of the Year award, sponsored by Arnold Clark and Diversity Hero of the Year award, sponsored by Diageo.
Growing up in Dunkeld, says Eilidh, she seldom met anyone very different from herself, until she started playing football at the age of 10.
“A lot of the girls that I played with were gay and women’s football provided a safe space where they could be themselves. And I still think that the women’s game is far ahead of the men’s in acceptance of everyone.”
In her own career she feels she has been fortunate to encounter little sexism and she credits the popularity of the Paralympics for giving disabled people a voice and for recent events for making her think more deeply about the insidious nature of discrimination.
“I remember thinking during the Pandemic about how difficult it was for deaf people when everyone was wearing masks and lip reading became an impossibility. It made me realise that there are many hidden disabilities and that people are often trying to manage conditions, even though they are not visible.”
The solution, she says, is a society that respects everyone, which is why she made her now famous exit from the Scottish Football Writers’ Association dinner earlier this year following a speech that she described as “degrading to women.”
“I didn’t make a grand exit, I just got up quietly and left, but I Tweeted about it afterwards and that’s what got all the attention.”
The SFWA later issued an apology and said it had learnt lessons from the incident, but Eilidh is still questioning why it thought that booking a speaker who would make such remarks was acceptable in the first place.
“It was the first time that I have ever felt uncomfortable in my own industry,” she says.
Eilidh’s Twitter comments provoked a wave of support and she says it was a demonstration of how social media can have a powerfully positive effect.
“Social media does have its dark side, but at times it can do a lot of good and let people know that they are not alone and that they don’t have to put up with behaviour that makes them feel diminished.”
Eilidh will be presenting the awards to those who have succeeded in standing up and making the case for equality and respect for everyone on Thursday, 13 October.
And in the meantime, potential finalists still have time to place their entries before the closing date of Wednesday, 10 August.
Full details of all the categories and how to enter can be found at:https://newsquestscotlandevents.com/events/the-diversity-awards/