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Ruth Holdaway receives honorary UEL doctorate for her service to sport

UEL students graduation

The CEO of Women in Sport awarded Honorary Doctorate of Science at Sports Awards 2017 ceremony

The University of East London (UEL) has awarded Ruth Holdaway, the Chief Executive of the charity Women in Sport, with an Honorary Doctorate of Science for her service to sport.

Ruth, who was named by the Independent as one of the 50 most influential women in sport, has headed the organisation since 2013. The charity aims to achieve gender equality across the whole of society, with a focus towards sport.

She was presented with her doctorate by the UEL Chancellor, Shabir Randeree CBE, at the UEL’s 8th Annual Sports Awards at London’s indigo at the 02. Ruth said it was as much an honour for her organisation as herself.

“It’s very exciting and a real privilege,” she said. “I feel very honoured that there has been recognition of my organisation and my team.

“It’s great to know that people care about gender equality in society and particularly in sport. To have the work that both Women in Sport and myself has done recognised in this way is fantastic.”

Women in Sport’s influence in the sector of sport was demonstrated recently when it successfully lobbied the Government to introduce a new gender quota for boards of sporting bodies in receipt of public funding. Sports bodies that fail to ensure a minimum of 30 per cent female representation in the boardroom can now have their funding withheld.

Ruth said it was important for women to be involved in sport, either on the playing field or behind the scenes.

“We want to see more women playing sport because it’s an empowering tool and helps women be at their best”, she said. “We are also trying to transform the sports sector and make it a place women and girls will not be discriminated against.”

Ruth was also involved in supporting the nationwide ‘This Girl Can’ campaign. Based on Women in Sport’s insights, the campaign seeks to break down the significant barriers that women face in sport and physical activity.

Ruth offered some advice to the women attending the awards ceremony about how to progress in a career in sport.

“I really hope that things are starting to change for the women here tonight that want to go into a career in sport,” she said.

“Things have already started to get better but they will face some challenges. I would just advise them to keep going and to know there are organisations like Women in Sport that are behind them and making things easier for them.”

Sport has always been a massive part of family life for Ruth. Her whole family are passionate supporters of Sheffield Wednesday while Ruth indulged her love of sport by volunteering as a Games-maker at the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

She has also held roles at the Department of Health, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer UK, where she was part of the team that brought the Movember campaign to the UK.

Even with such an illustrious career, Ruth was still surprised at receiving an honorary doctorate.

“It was a real surprise to receive this and I hope I’m able to live up to the award and give something back,” she said. “I really want to work with the University and help the students in any way that I can.”