English Chess Federation gave job of promoting the game to women to a man
The English Chess Federation has been accused of sexism after rejecting two female candidates for a top role promoting the game to women, in order to give it to a man.
It is claimed that one applicant, an expert player who specialises in recruiting women to male-dominated fields, wasnt even interviewed for the ECFs Director of Womens Chess post.
The other, a chess-playing lawyer in her 30s, said she was offered the opportunity to shadow the male candidate who was eventually successful.
The directorship, which carries a paltry £5,000pa budget to promote chess to women and girls nationally, was previously held by former England international Sarah Longson.
However it was abolished in February after laying vacant for several month, and then only reinstated following a series of complaints.
Campaigners blasted the ECF – which runs Englands national team and the British Championship – of being spectacularly out of touch with wider efforts in society to get more women in leadership roles.
Amanda Ross, who founded Londons Casual Chess Cafe group which encourages more women to play, told The Telegraph: This is a lost opportunity to put a highly qualified leadership role.
When I heard the news, lasers came out of my eyes! We refuse to be squeezed out of the game.
Time and again, in all areas of life, we are told “the best man for this job just happens to be a man, better luck next time girls”. Its not that women are mysteriously worse at everything in the world than men: its that systemic unconscious bias leads recruiters to falsely believe men make better leaders.
In the case of this particular role, a first hand understanding of the barriers to womens participation is key, and previous post holders have also cited their importance as a role model for young girls starting out in the game. The straightforward administrative aspects of this job have been given preference over the higher level strategic ones.
Englands number one female player, International Master Jovanka Houska said it was very strange and that it is very important to have female presence on the board.
The ECF leadership consists of 11 directors, only two of whom are women. One is a non-executive director and the other the director of junior chess.
Garry Kasparov, perhaps the games most famous player, also once said women, by their nature, are not exceptional chess players: they are not great fighters.
Despite Kasparovs comments, he was still regularly beaten by female Grandmaster Judit Polgar.
In England, out of a total 16,000 active players registered with the English Chess Federation last year, only 4 per cent were women.
The ECFs successful candidate for the role of director of womens chess was 59-year-old Chris Fegan, a highly-experienced tutor for the Chess in Schools and Communities charity who has taught the game to thousands of adults youngsters of both sexes.
Mr Fegan told The Telegraph: With the imbalance between the numbers of men and women playing chess, it is obvious that a key focus across the chess world is boosting the participation of women in chess at all levels.
I am looking forward to the challenge of working with men and women across English chess to change the culture of the game in this country to make it more welcoming and inclusive for the many women who want to participate.
The new Womens Chess Network has launched a fundraising page to help increase the numbers of women playing chess, and support existing female players.
ECF CEO Mike Truran said the ECF directors had carefully reviewed the three applications but that Fegans chess-related experience got him the role.