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Demi Stokes on the PFA’s See It. Achieve It. campaign

Demi Stokes

The PFA caught up with England and Manchester City star Demi Stokes to discuss the importance of representation and visibility, which is at the heart of the union's See It. Achieve It. campaign.

Led by Fern Whelan, the new initiative was launched earlier this year and aims to increase Black, Asian and minority ethnic representation in women's football.

Stokes explained: "Whether I like it or not, I'm a role model, and people look up to me. I have a responsibility.

"I always like to help people, and I am in a very fortunate position. When you get to the top of wherever you are, it's good to give back."

Following an incredible summer of football, with the Lionesses winning Euro 2022 on home soil, the absence of visible role models from ethnically diverse backgrounds in the national team has never been more apparent.

Stokes was just one of three Black, Asian or Mixed Heritage players in the winning squad and one of only 29 players in the Women's Super League (WSL) during the 2021/22 season.

Stokes said: "I always had good people around me. It's important that I give back too. If it means helping one young girl or inspiring someone to want to keep playing football and be the best at what they want to be, then I am comfortable with that."

Stokes quickly highlights key figures that gave her the confidence to dream big as a young player: "Growing up, I saw Rachel Yankey play in an FA Cup game when she was at Charlton. That was the first time I had ever seen someone that looked similar to me and that played a similar position. It almost felt like, well, if she looks like me, I can be like her."

Inspiration didn't just come from football either: "Other athletes inspired me as well," Stokes said, "I always looked up to Jessica Ennis and Serena Williams. At the time, they were the women at the forefront pushing the boundary."

One of the key strategies to address under-representation in the women's game is creating networks for WSL players. Following a similar game plan as the players' union's established Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme (AIMS), players in the network will receive peer-to-peer mentoring, attend group meetings and be given bespoke support from PFA staff.

As a senior player, Stokes talks about her role in the programme: "When I get involved in a campaign, I think first, what do I stand for? What is it I want to push? It's important for me to be involved in campaigns I am passionate about.

"Growing up, I experienced racism. My dad heard sexist comments. But it was something that you got used to.

'Now I think we need to keep having difficult conversations and be open because people are curious and want to ask questions. Education is so important."

Diversity on the pitch is only part of the equation, running alongside See It. Achieve It. the PFA is implementing a three-year strategy to improve diversity levels within the entire women's football pyramid.

This will include collaboration with other football stakeholders and expanding the project scope to include support for black, mixed heritage and minority ethnic women in other roles within football.

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