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Aberdeen mum and daughter say attitudes have changed – but sexism still isn’t a thing of the past

Zoe and Francesca Ogilvie at home in Aberdeen. Picture by Kami Thomson
Zoe and Francesca Ogilvie at home in Aberdeen. Picture by Kami Thomson

Zoe and Francesca Ogilvie are living proof that women in Aberdeen today are succeeding in traditionally male domains.

Last summer, Zoe became the first female director of Aberdeen FC.

And her 20-year-old daughter, a midfielder for AFC Women, is inspiring a new generation of female players as a coach while not turning out for the Dons.

Both are able to describe how attitudes have evolved in the sport, and in the city, in recent years.

Francesca tells us how times have changed since teachers at high school suggested she should go to university rather than pursuing her sporting ambitions.

But she says there is still work to be done in removing the “stigma” attached to the women’s game.

Zoe Ogilvie and her daughter Francesca, at home in Cove. Picture by Kami Thomson / DCT Media

Importance of women’s history instilled from a young age

In our interview, Zoe tells us how she impressed upon Francesca the importance of the suffragettes when she was growing up.

And there is a particular pioneer who the mum is keen to highlight.

Caroline Phillips, from Kintore, was a journalist at a time when it was very rare for women to work in newspapers.

She was honorary secretary of the Aberdeen branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union and courageously led the local fight for equality.

Caroline Phillips (Left) and her cousin, Agnes Simpson (right) c. 1900. Pic – Rosemary Watt.

Zoe said: “At an early age, I was telling Francesca about the suffragettes and people like Caroline Phillips, who fought for women’s right to vote.

“It has become a family joke, every time there’s an election I remind her about the suffragettes…”

Francesca interjects: “And, ever since I have been able to, I have voted!”

Zoe continues: “I find it fascinating how women have come on leaps and bounds in the last 100 years.”

How Francesca Ogilvie got last laugh on doubters

Francesca heads the ball in a game at the Dundee Regional Performance Centre last June. Kim Cessford / DCT Media.

Francesca works at the Russell Anderson Development School at Kincorth Primary School, helping pupils with poor attendance records to embrace education through sport.

And during lockdown, she started her own training sessions for girls and boys at Catto Park in Cove.

She adds: “Our coach instills it into us that we are role models for young girls starting to play football.

“I was 11 when I started playing, I didn’t even know there was women’s football until then.

“I’ve always said I wanted to play or coach football, from the start of secondary school.

“Then, I was told that wasn’t a valid career because it’s not something you can go to university to learn.

“They just laughed it off. But I stuck to my guns, and now I’m running my own coaching business.”

‘Family feel’ as players inspire young girls at games

Francesca adds: “Now there are many more teams in the area and coaching for various age groups…

“There is a more family feel at our games, but you can see the passion.

“It’s not our job, we aren’t playing for the money, and we love interacting with the younger supporters at the end of a game.”

Francesca Ogilvie scored from the spot against Spartans earlier this season.

Social media trolls a blight on the sport

But despite its growth in recent years, Francesca says there remains a stigma attached to the women’s game.

She explains: “You will always get people on social media saying the women belong in the kitchen.

“And of course female players get a lot more comments about how we look in our shorts than the men do.

“But as time goes on that should go away, as we get more people coming to our games.

“We had 500 people at Balmoral for our game against Celtic, that would never have happened a few years ago.”

Zoe and Francesca are both making an impact. Picture by Kami Thomson/DCT Media

Zoe adds: “It is crucial to the women’s game that there is a clear pathway into football, and you need a competitive league to achieve that.

“Now there is greater awareness, that means there is more sponsorship to help it keep growing.”

Zoe was ‘significant’ addition to Dons boardroom

Zoe has about 30 years of communications and marketing experience, including eight years with Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce as public affairs manager before setting up the BIG Partnership.

She is also on the board of governors of the Robert Gordon University and the board of directors of Aberdeen Inspired.

Zoe Ogilvie has become a leading business figure in Aberdeen.

When she joined the board of Aberdeen FC, chairman Dave Cormack said she would bring “significant credibility across both the public and private sectors”.

And she recently penned a piece for the Press and Journal about the growth of women’s football and her pride in Francesca.

‘Female footballers are still forging their own legacies’

Speaking before the Alex Ferguson statue was unveiled at Pittodrie, both mum and daughter agree it is important that female figures receive recognition too.

But they say whether that might mean similar stone tributes to the likes of Rachel Corsie or Kim Little will be for history to decide.

Zoe Ogilvie and her daughter Francesca standing side by side. Picture by Kami Thomson/DCT Media

When asked about the lack of female statues in Aberdeen, Zoe says that consideration should be given not just to how famous a certain individual may be.

She said: “I think a statue should recognise someone who has left a legacy behind, so someone like Caroline Phillips would be worthy.

“As for female footballers, maybe that will come in the future when we can see what legacy they have left.

“By then, we will be able to see how much of an inspiration they were to future generations.”

Francesca, meanwhile, aspires to play for the national team again as she continues her career.

But for now she is focussing on another historic achievement, when AFC Women take to the pitch at Pittodrie for the first time on March 23.

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