Jen Beattie on how community makes football more equitable

MAKERS partnered with the nonprofit organization Be Bold for Change for Women's History Month to inspire and activate changemakers today. Through Be Bold Now + MAKERS, we aim to highlight their stories, celebrate their efforts, and remind us that more work remains for a more equitable world.

During the Be Bold Now + MAKERS London event on March 14, attendees had the opportunity to meet Scotland-born Jen Beattie, a professional European footballer for England's Arsenal FC, who has played 270 times for Arsenal, Manchester City, and Queens Park. Her defensive experience, stability, strength, and height have made her an in-demand player worldwide. Scotland's first-ever qualification for the World Cup finals in 2019 came thanks to this legend, who holds multiple Football Association Women's Super League (FA WSL) Cups. The BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award was presented to Beattie in December 2021 to commemorate her outstanding achievements through hardship. However, these achievements came with severe obstacles and unrealistic expectations in this male-dominated field. "I was always trying to challenge the perception. I was always asked, you know, what are you going to do when you grow up and to be a footballer as a girl, you were always laughed at," Beattie expressed during her speech at the Be Bold Now + MAKERS event. She played football (soccer) as a child, even making the school team as one of only two girls. The lack of girls in that sector meant not having equal benefits like changing rooms for games or having a parent chaperone for football trips just for her. Her challenges didn't stop there. After a match with the Scotland women's team, a prominent journalist suggested torching Motherwell Stadium after the team had just played there. Beattie recognized that even though women have been denied the ability to play football for 50 years, society still expected them to be just as good as their male counterparts.

In 2020, despite being diagnosed with breast cancer three days after scoring for Arsenal against Brighton in a 5-0 victory, Beattie underwent treatment and continued to play at a high level. "I got diagnosed on a Thursday, on the Sunday we played… and I scored and there's a picture, it is probably my favorite picture of professional football that I've ever played in. But it is us celebrating and it really defines the way we were as a team, I think, coming together not just for my battle, but our teams and what we were going through and what we're fighting for and how the club has really kept us all together as staff and players and the board and the chief execs were all going through it together." As a cancer survivor, she is passionate about helping many cancer charities in the U.K. and inspiring others to advocate for their health.

 (left to right) Jordan Nobbs, Leah Williamson, and Jen Beattie
(left to right) Jordan Nobbs, Leah Williamson, and Jen Beattie

Because of the many battles that Beattie and her Arsenal FC team have gone through, they have developed a close bond. Still, they have made a solid commitment to having rare conversations about roles and responsibilities in women's football while acknowledging that it is its own game and shouldn't be held to the same standards as men's football. Beattie understands how being bold can be a very effective way to ensure a more equitable future as she paves the way for women's football; she believes being brave means facing one's fears and acting upon them.

Written by Rhonisha Ridgeway, MAKERS Social Media Coordinator