“It’s important to make myself visible so other women can see there is an opportunity.”

Meg Lay, groundswoman at the Bristol Cricket Ground and a member of the Women in Cricket Employee Network, moved to the UK in early 2022. Here she reflects on her journey and looks ahead to how the network will work to give women in cricket a voice to create and influence change.

I grew up on a crop farm south of Christchurch in New Zealand. My mum was into cricket and Dad played, too. Mum used to take my younger siblings and I to watch. As soon as I was old enough, I wanted to start playing myself. It was the social element that really gave cricket the edge.

Having grown up in New Zealand, I can’t help but feel lucky. We’re the most progressive country in the world when it comes to women's rights. The UK is excellent too, and all the steps are there for it to continue to get better.

Having worked previously as an agricultural contractor, I jumped at the opportunity when I saw a job advert for a member of the grounds team at the Bristol County Ground just after I’d moved to the UK.

Before then, I didn’t think groundskeeping was the sort of job you could get paid to do and I certainly didn’t think I’d get the job. I figured you’d probably need a PhD in horticulture to work at an international cricket ground! But I must have been keen enough, with the right attitude, and I literally started straight away.

The team around me are just the most wonderful guys. I sometimes wonder if they’ve even noticed I’m a woman! We have a great laugh and have so much fun together. It definitely makes the long days go quickly. They’re all keen to teach me what they know, and they’ve a huge amount of experience. The ground staff shed at Gloucestershire Cricket could not have been a more supportive environment to start my sports turf career.

My favourite day on the job so far was England women’s game against South Africa. That was incredible. To have helped prepare the pitch on which Sophia Dunkley bagged her first hundred felt like a huge achievement.

Meg (right) with cricketer Fran Wilson

I've loved working with the Gloucestershire men’s team as well. You can see in the stadium that each format of the game attracts different crowds. It shows that cricket truly has something for every spectator.

Defying some of the stereotypes of a ’groundsman’ has been a challenge. We’ve been collectively called gents, lads, or fellas a few too many times. Some correct themselves when they realise, some don’t bother, and some ask why a young lady would want to be doing “a man’s work”. It can get a bit tedious, but it only enforces why I want to get more women involved in the profession.

As far as I know, I’m the only woman rolling pitches at a UK international cricket venue. I’ve been trying to think why there are so few women in this job, and the only thing I can think of is because other women can’t see it. Every game you go to, you’re only going to see men taking the covers off and preparing pitches, so it’s important to make myself visible. I want other women to see there’s a huge opportunity here. The sports turf industry desperately needs more people, and we need that other half of the population to feel like it can put its hands up and get involved.

The more women see it, the more they’re going to do it. We’ve seen that in the sport itself. All the current English players were playing in boys’ teams growing up but now there are girls-only teams and academies for girls and women. I think the same can be said about working in the grounds. We just need to get that ball rolling.

It’s brilliant to now be part of the Women in Cricket Network. It’s the sort of thing I’ve been wanting to be a part of since I started in my role. As amazing as my team in Bristol is, it can be strange being the only woman around. So it’s really beneficial to be in a group full of like-minded women who want to drive the game forward and want to support each other. It’s a fantastic opportunity for all of us.

It’s important to celebrate women’s achievements and International Women’s Day is a good opportunity to do that. The day is all about showing that we have more than earned our place. It's a celebration of how far we’ve come and then pushing to go even further.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Embrace Equity’. What I take from that is completely equal opportunity. To me, that’s not about quotas. It’s about embracing the fact that women deserve to be in those places for our talent alone. We just need to ensure we actively attract women into these behind-the-scenes roles in sport. Cricket is for everyone.

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