19th March 2019

International Women's Day: Officials - Margaret Werrett

25 March 2019 

International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8 March every year and is a focal point in the movement of women’s rights.  This year’s campaign theme of #BalanceforBetter is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world. 

Athletics prides itself on being a gender balanced sport and our officials play a major part in achieving this, where currently there are 59% male and 41% female officials in the UK.  In support of International Women’s Day 2019, throughout March, we will feature Officials across the UK to celebrate them and their commitment to athletics.  

Margaret Werrett 

What is your role as an official?
I am a starter, starter’s assistant and have also been involved in Call room teams. More recently I have qualified as a World Para Athletics (WPA) International Technical Official and acted as an International Starter on several occasions for WPA.

How long have you been officiating?

I have been officiating since 1982 when the number of women starters was far fewer than it is now. At this time I was certainly one of very few women in a male dominated discipline. I would say this has changed over the years and there are fewer barriers to climb over as a female starter now.

What inspired you to become an official?
The desire to break through into a discipline which was in the 80’s and 90’s male dominated was my main inspiration. Alongside this was my PE teacher who was the Chief Starter in Scotland. He was a very good starter, a superb role model and wanted his pupils to succeed in life.

What would you say to anyone wanting to get into officiating?
I think first and foremost have the courage of your convictions and ‘go for it’. You do not get anything in life without having to work for what you achieve. The officiating community provides friends from all walks of life and opens up avenues which I would never have thought possible when I first started officiating.  As a young official you may encounter many highs and lows along the way but this is part of life’s large tapestry but there will be many officials of all ages to help you achieve your goals. Aim for the top, believe you can be the best.

What has been the highlight of your officiating career?
I think I may be greedy and go for 2.

Firstly, being appointed Start Coordinator for the London Paralympics and managing to get the T44 100m – Jonnie Peacock’s race – away on the third time of asking when the entire stadium just wanted him to win and chanted his name for what seemed like an eternity before I stood the athletes up

The second, came last year when I was appointed start coordinator for the world indoor championships and having a series of very good starts in the women’s 60m from heat to final. I think the expression nowadays is…. “I was buzzing after these starts!”

What can we do as a sport to achieve a #BetterBalance in officiating?
I think the sport needs to continue, as it has done in the recent past, to allow women officials a forum to discuss their career paths. The use of social media may allow group discussions to occur country wide rather than just in small areas. The more interaction we can have with the younger generation and the more support from approachable officials the greater the chance we have of securing good officials for the future.

We need to try to be more proactive in ensuring when young people and young women, in particular, make a decision to become an official that there is proper mentoring in their chosen discipline and opportunities for them to shadow more experienced officials when they officiate at higher level meetings. If this were possible then making the transition to national and international level competitions would not be so daunting.

Find out more about International Women’s Day here

If you want to get involved in officiating, find out more information here