Women in Turf - Celebrating the Role of Women in the Grounds Care Sector

It is fair to say that women in the grounds care sector are a rarity. In fact, according to research findings in the GMA’s Workforce Survey 2022, women account for only 3% of professional grounds staff which, although a slight improvement from the GMA’s 2019 industry-wide survey ‘Groundsmanship – Sport’s Vital Profession’, still signifies a significant under-representation of women. 

On International Women’s Day, we wanted to shine a light on some of the women working across varied roles in the sector and share their thoughts on the importance of women in the grounds management industry. Covering many parts of the sector, from grounds management and pitch advice to grounds care businesses and industry trade shows, here are their stories. 

Cheryl first entered the world of grounds management when she joined Leicester City Council as an apprentice at the age of 16, looking after parks around the city. Cheryl struck gold with her next move, joining Leicester Tigers Rugby Club just after her apprenticeship had finished. 

This was perfect for Cheryl who knew that having had a keen interest in sport, especially rugby, the role was just what she wanted. Following an interview with then-Head Groundsman, Derrick Limmerage, Cheryl was hired the same day. 

It has been 32 years since Cheryl joined Leicester Tigers and she still enjoys her work as a Groundswoman for the Premiership Rugby club. Over this time, Cheryl has witnessed developments and changes which has helped the industry raise its standards and produce better quality sports pitches, for both men and women: 

“I am a very hands-on person and have developed my skill set from learning on the job and other people whom I look up to. Each day is never the same and I look forward to the challenges they bring and tackling issues head-on. 

“I see everyone as important within this industry, but it’s great to finally see women being treated as equals and given the chance to show their talent.” 

Louise owns successful grounds care company, Premier Sports Surfaces which specialises in installing, refurbishing, and maintaining the finest surfaces in sport. Now 26 years old, Louise became Managing Director of Premier Sports Surfaces when she was just 21 before becoming a joint business owner at the age of 24. 

She has been working in the industry for over 7 years in a management role as well as representing the industry as a member of the GMA’s Young Board of Directors since 2022, leading on finance and strategy of the programme, and is keen to see the industry develop as well as women’s role within it: 

“In order to thrive as an industry, we must always look at ways to innovate and adapt to the modern world. We cannot achieve this by continuing to employ the same types of people. Women can bring fresh ideas which will lead to better decision making and increased productivity. We must adopt a culture where women feel welcomed, supported, and inspired to be successful in their careers.  

Karen was first introduced to the grounds industry when she was Editor of Sports Management magazine in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. After the Games, she joined the GMA as Head of Communications, Commercial Development and Member Services and got to know many of the GMA members, industry experts and passionate volunteers that work within the industry.  

In 2020, Karen set-up Karma Communications and still works with the GMA as Editor of Grounds Management magazine as well as supporting with the Learning LIVE seminar programme at SALTEX. Karen is also Events Manager at the Sport & Play Construction Association (SAPCA). 

Having worked close to the grounds care sector for many years, working with numerous successful women along the way, Karen is keen to see more women representing the industry to encourage more people to join: 

“The women I have met during my time in the industry are extremely dedicated and hard-working individuals – from pathologists and agronomists to grounds personnel who have proved to be great assets to their team. These women are powerful role models that are helping to encourage more young people into the industry.” 

Nicola joined the Pitch Advisory Service in October 2017 and plays a vital role in the programme. Her role sees her leading support for the programme and ensuring it remains successful in meeting objectives of Non-Governing Bodies and funding partners, along with the wider strategic objectives of the GMA and the Grounds Management Framework programme. 

Nicola’s experience has been instrumental to the progression of programmes, systems, statistical analysis, and report creation; ensuring the success of the Pitch Advisory Service into its third funded phase as well as its recent nomination for the Sport Industry Group’s Data & Insights Award, alongside big industry names such as The FA, Formula E, and British Curling: 

“Women play a significant role in the grounds management industry; they bring a unique perspective, often providing creative solutions to problems and offering a different approach to problem-solving, which make them invaluable in the grounds management industry. As more and more women continue to break into high profile sports, it will become even more important for women to be part of the wider workforce as well.” 

An accomplished senior project management and client services leader, Sarah brought a wealth of experience to the GMA, gained from over a decade of managing large-scale trade events primarily in the media industry and within not-for-profit organisations.  

Before joining as Director of Commercial & Events, Sarah had previously worked for the association in an interim capacity to support delivery of SALTEX 2021. Her current role is focussed on delivering SALTEX success, which has seen her oversee a nearly-15% increase in visitor attendance at SALTEX 2022, as well as applying her expertise to helping extend the GMA’s products and services to GMA members and the wider grounds care community. 

Keen to see more women join the sector, Sarah wants to see more stories being told of the often-unseen role women play in the sector: 

“We know that women can support and advance the sector in many ways, whether that is working on pitches, like Cheryl, or supporting on the business-side, like Louise. To increase representation of women in the industry, we need to highlight the important, but often unseen, role women play in the sector. By making their role more visible, fewer women will feel intimidated by joining and we will start to see better representation of women over years to come.”