Kicking off a sporting revolution

Katy McLean MBE

Published on 05 February 2018

6 February marked the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Representation of the People Act, giving the vote to women over the age of 30. We caught up with England's first professional women's rugby player Katy McLean.

“When I was growing up rugby was perceived as a ‘man’s sport’, it wasn’t something young girls did. I did feel like I noticed that I was different, being one of a few girls - but I just wanted to play, so I kind of ignored it.

“As I became older I’ve become really proud of the sport I play, and I just want to keep showing it in a really positive light.

“I think that perceptions have changed massively over the last 6 years, especially of women’s team sports. The quality of the game has greatly improved and people are now viewing women’s sports such as rugby, football, cricket and hockey in their own right, rather than always comparing it to the men’s game.

“In sport my first female role model was Sally Gunnel, because she’s one of the few female athletes I saw regularly on TV … But my Mam was my real source of inspiration growing up.

“She always got everything done and never looked rushed. Her work ethic was amazing, and that’s something that I want to repeat in my life.

“If I had to give any advice to young women considering a career in sport, it is Just to work really hard. Even if you have set backs just keep going. And make sure that you have a good support network - having good people in your corner is essential.”

Katy McLean MBE is the UK’s first professional women’s rugby player. Katy was Captain of England Women’s Rugby’s World Cup winning squad, and gained a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics as part of Team GB – she has 94 caps for England. Katy graduated BSc Sports Studies in 2007, and was made an Honorary Fellow of the University in 2015.