GB Rower Mathilda Hodgkins Byrne has told MP’s at the Women's and Equalities Committee that she feels “pushed to the side” and “alienated” after having a baby and trying to return to elite rowing.
A number of current and former athletes appeared before the Committee to discuss sexism and inequalities in sport. The topics discussed included the effects of periods, pregnancy and the contrasts between male and female sport.
Hodgkins Byrne said “From the minute I said I was pregnant, and currently, I'm not part of the squad. At the moment I'm now being treated as a development athlete, or an athlete who's been injured or ill rather than someone who has had a baby.”
UK Sport released official pregnancy guidance in November 2021 but Hogkins Byrne says “My biggest criticism to the pregnancy document is that it only goes to nine months postpartum, and I know in some sports it is possible to return - cycling they're world champions in seven months - but in rowing I'm not allowed to race this summer and there's no security for me or my funding. My support team have been brilliant, but the support team doesn't include the coaches or management… and unless they're on board it's very easy to feel alienated and feel pushed to the side a little bit. Which is my experience with it at the moment.”
Former England international Shaunagh Brown spoke to the Committee regarding periods saying “We've had sessions as a squad that are about training around your period, about what you can't do and when you're at highest risk of injury, and the male coaches were not in the room. I questioned it afterwards and there were very poor excuses why they couldn't be there, yet they're at every other single session. We have to sit through a drugs and gambling awareness programme every year in rugby - why not do the same around periods?” Hogkins Byrne added “It's seen as more abnormal if you have a regular period [in rowing]. It's almost at times considered that you're not training hard enough it you still actually maintain having one. It's one of those things where you don't want to say you're uncomfortable because you'll get called soft.”
Hogkins Byrne also told MP’s that if she wants to take her son to training camp she must pay for it herself and has set up a crowdfunding page to raise money to take him to the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
In response to Hogkins Byrne’s comment GB Rowing's team director of performance Louise Kingsley said the governing body was “very disappointed” and claims they have created a “bespoke coaching and training programme based on her needs, availability and fitness.”