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Work Life: Sue Tibballs CEO, Women’s Sport And Fitness Foundation

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Sue Tibballs, 45, is chief executive of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF). She lives in East Dulwich with her children Josephine, 11, and Laurie, eight.

I wake up between 6.30am and 7am and put a pot of porridge on to cook while trying to coax my daughter Josephine out of bed. The next hour is a whirlwind of making packed lunches and getting ready to leave the house. I’d describe my style as understated androgynous – I like to mix pieces by designers such as Acne and Studio Nicholson with high street labels like Gap. I love clothes but I also believe passionately that women shouldn’t be defined by their appearance; they should be respected as athletes, businesswoman or artists. If they happen to dress well, that’s a bonus.

I use my hour-long bus journey to the office to apply my make-up and catch up on reading for work. We’re in talks with Transport for London to get more women into cycling, so when the weather is nice I bike to work.

WSFF is a charity that campaigns to make physical activity a part of everyday life for women and girls. As chief executive, I’m in charge of overall strategy, making sure the organisation is well run. We campaign at both ends of the spectrum; from a lack of participation by girls in sport (only one in 10 achieve the recommended weekly amount) through to a lack of female representation in senior sports roles (only one in five jobs are held by women).

We campaign to make physical activity a part of everyday life for women

There’s a real difference in attitude between girls and boys; being sporty is seen as a positive thing for boys whereas girls are raised to think it is more important to be thin than fit. I see this difference with my own children; my daughter enjoys swimming and horse riding but doesn’t have the confidence in team sport that I see in my football-loving son. At WSFF, we’re campaigning for cultural change; we just launched our Go Girl campaign celebrating our female Olympians and Paralympians and I recently met with the equalities minister Lynne Featherstone for a round table on body image. We also work closely with national governing bodies such as the Football Association to help them better understand the women’s market and make their sports more accessible. Women are often motivated by the social aspect of sport, so we encourage organisations to make women feel welcome to give it a go.

At lunchtime, I’ll ask someone to pick up sushi, salad or soup for me, as I’ve given up wheat – before I sound too worthy, I make up for it with crisps and ice cream! As public spokesperson for WSFF, I also have to make statements to the media. We’re really excited to be partnering with Stylist for the Fair Game campaign to banish sexism in sport, as it’s breaking new ground by creating serious conversation about women’s sport. I also have to react to news – for example I was interviewed by Channel 4 in May about the negative comments made about Jessica Ennis’ weight. We’re trying to shift the agenda so that it’s positive for women to be seen as fit and strong. Comments such as those are all the more galling when they’re made about an amazing athlete like Jessica

Many women struggle to fit exercise into their days and it’s something I really relate to. I make sure I do two sessions a week; on Fridays I do a high-impact body blast dance class and on Sundays I do a British military fitness class. I’d love to do more but I don’t want to spend time away from my children in the evenings. I leave work at 5pm and when I get home our manny [male nanny] has usually heated up dinner – casserole, fish cakes or bolognese – that I cook at the weekend. We eat together then it’s homework time. I potter about before reading in bed – usually fiction, psychology and self-development books, or clothing catalogues. As the children get older, they go to bed later so my ‘me’ time has shrunk down to an hour from 9.30pm until I go to bed at 10.30pm.

wsff.org.uk; support Stylist’s campaign Fair Game For Women In Sport. Sign our petition at stylist.co.uk/fairgame

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