What does the female perspective on the skateboarding industry look like?

Working in a male-dominated field always made me wonder, how other women experience their jobs and how they feel about it. What do they witness day by day and what do they want to change? To find that out I talked to three women and asked them to give me their perspectives, to broach the issues of female underrepresentation in the skateboard industry. Speaking about tokenism, the gender pay gap, and safe spaces, this article series could be a good guideline to use for everyone as a tool to create a more healthy environment and to empower more women to work with us. 

Introduction and Interviews by Lea Isabell Uhle.

Today we talk to Daphne Greca, owner and co-founder of the Brixton Baddest Skateshop in London.

Hey, I am Daphne and I work at Brixton Baddest Skateshop, which is the only female-owned and runned Skateshop in the UK. 

To make it clear, you’re the founder and owner of the Skateshop?

Yes, it’s my skate shop. We opened it in 2016 and started in a small shop and now we are in a proper one. 

How did you come up with the idea of founding a skate shop?

I started skating in my early twenties and like many people that start at this age, I was excited about it. At the time, I had been working in bars for many years and I was living and working in and around the area of Stockwell Skatepark. When a place opened where you could apply for subsidy runs, I intuitively knew that I wanted to open a skate shop in that area, because there was no skate shop south of the River Thames. Our first Skateshop was 2,5 x 5 meters big, but since then surprisingly we grew and finally could expand to a bigger location. 

Do you see any differences between a skate shop run by males and one run by female people?

Yeah, definitely. Not only as a female but also as a person that started at an older age than your average skater. I’d been to many skate shops before I opened mine and the main one I visited was the one where I got my first board. Later I knew it was lame because they gave me red hollow trucks (laughs). But I also receive lots of feedback from customers, who say our shop is a very nice environment to be in because we have female people working in the shop. 

Do you experience certain kinds of prejudices? 

When I explain to people all the different parts of the skateboard and recommend some spots close by, some of them ask if I skate myself – and sometimes they react shocked because they probably would never ask a male person working at the shop that same question. And I am pretty sure it is because I am a girl, and they don’t expect a girl to skate. 

What do you think could be a reason for that? 

I think a lot of people are just ignorant or they come from a place where they don’t see a lot of girls skating. To some point, I can understand. I am from Athens where you rarely see girls skate and when I started myself, there were not many girls doing what I was doing. So, like I said, to some point I understand where that is coming from. 

How do you cope with that? 

I take it with humor and never feel offended by it. 

Besides the customers, how is it interned in the shop? Do you see any difference between you and your male co-workers?

There are two male persons working in the shop as well, but I mostly see the difference in our personalities as opposed to our gender roles. The only thing that comes to my mind, related to gender, maybe would be the fact that they don’t find stuff that is laying straight in front of their face (laughs). 

And how is it with your position as the owner of the shop? 

Because I am the owner of the shop, I make sure that the people that are working in my shop take me seriously. But we are all on the same level.  I know from other females that they must repeat themselves like five times, especially when it comes to a ‘no’, but luckily, I never experienced that in my team. 

That sounds great actually! I would like to see more women in those positions. Besides your team, do you experience any sexism or micro-sexism at your work?

Yes! I am working in a shop where everyone can just enter, and Brixton is a specific place. So I have to think more about security aspects than maybe other shops. 

Did you experience something negative already?

Yes, I mean there have been people shouting at me or I had to kick people out and lock the door until they’ve left. But mostly they didn’t have anything to do with the skateboard community and were just random. 

How do you handle those experiences?

It kind of depends on the day. If I have a stressful day already, maybe situations like these stress me out more. But honestly, I don’t take shit like this personally anymore. I worked in the nightlife for many years, so I am just used to certain kinds of people and their intentions. I learned to be affirmative and luckily nothing bad happened to me so far. But I think these are just experiences every woman has to face in life. It can happen on the streets; it can happen in the shop and it can happen in any other work environment. And I know I am not alone when I think about what to wear when I am at the shop the whole day on my own, even when the skatepark is right around the corner and I know that if I have any issues, I will always have a backup right there. 

So you see the Skatepark as a backup, maybe even as a safe space?

Yes, I definitely feel safer because there is a skatepark down the street and I know there will be people that will help if anything goes down. 

Depending on if you consider the skatepark itself a safe space, what is your opinion about Female-only skate sessions that are organized to create a safe space for FLINTA*?   

I’ve never gone to female-only sessions but because a lot of people attempt to do them, they should take place. The one thing that I have realized is that those sessions are also open for queer people and I just wonder if it’s also a safe space for queers that identify as masculine.  But yeah, because I am not that into it, I can’t say much about it. But I can say that those sessions are important, not only the ones for females but also the ones like the ‘OldDog’ sessions for people older than 40.

It’s cool that you bring up age! Do you think that the naming of those sessions can also make a difference? 

I think to a point, yes! But more in the direction of opening up, instead of making a lot of small categories which separate people from each other. I mean in the end, we are all individuals and a future goal should be that everyone feels safe wherever they are. I mean I know girls that felt unsafe at skateparks. I think I just never experienced that specifically at a skatepark, but I hope for others to be able to feel safe everywhere. Personally, I can recommend the Stockwell Skatepark, it has always been a great environment for all types of people, even when I am on my own, I always feel safe there. 

I am happy that you didn’t have any bad experiences in Skateboarding. But you previously said that you did experience sexism in the work environment. Do you want to give us some examples? 

I experience a lot of micro-sexism like having to repeat myself loads. For example, if there is a brand that wants me to sell their stuff and I say no, I have to repeat my ‘No’ way more often than my male colleagues. Another thing I do when I deal with customers and have to do customer service, I sign my emails with a male name to guarantee that what I say will be taken for granted. Pretending to be a boy can make your work easier (laughs). 

That’s quite an interesting solution to those types of problems! What do you think has to happen, so that working as a female person in these types of environments gets easier or at least, does not require those types of tricks? 

One thing I really would like to see would be more girls behind the scenes, being part of the industry. 

Do you also support brands run by female Skaters for example Salon Skateboards? What like is it working with them?

Yes, Salon is a very good example. I have a great relationship with Stef (Stefani Nurding). Before I knew her, the minute I heard that there is a female-run skate Brand in the UK, I supported it from the beginning. There is also Doyenne Skateboards which is based up north. They do really nice apparel and stuff, but we do not actually have their stuff here in the shop because we mainly sell hardware. I checked out their stuff and it’s great! The same goes for Girls Skate UK, they’ve been working on creating a safe space for girls even before I started to skate. I think it’s important to support each other and have more women in the industry. We don’t have to wait until something bad happens to pick this up as a topic. I think especially people like Stef, the people behind Girls Skate UK and Doyenne Skateboards are preventively and consistently creating a safe space through the creation of visibility – and that is through their existence in our community. 

When we take Salon Skateboards, Doyenne Skateboards, and Girls Skate UK as an example, we mostly see girls behind the scenes creating something for others. Have you ever seen a man actively supporting females or creating a safe space for females? 

No, I haven’t! 

If you organize a shop event, how do you make it more inclusive?

Well, it is inclusive because most of my shop riders are females, it’s naturally mixed. 

And if you organize an event with distributions or brands, are you mostly in contact with men? And if yes, do they ask how to make an event more inclusive? 

All the distributions and brands are owned or run by men, so I am always only in contact with men. And because I am planning my events, they’re already inclusive. But I never got asked by anyone how to make an event more inclusive. 

Do you feel a need for this question when it comes to brands and distributions organizing events?

I guess it should be alright. The only point is that if big brands ask for that, they should also pay the people they get advice from. I think big brands feel so gracious that they ask women to donate their time for free, just because they’re women – but that’s not the case. Brands should pay people more for skateboarding because right now it is often not enough. I think that is not only a gender thing, they don’t pay people enough in general but especially when it comes to females, there is often that expectation of free labor. 

Yes, I would agree with that. A lot of people want your expertise but in return want to pay nothing. Either because they have a low budget anyway, or because they assume you to be thankful that they finally do something for your ‘category’, or because they think you will volunteer for your own better future, but that’s just my experience and sometimes the anger does pour out of me. 

I mean it’s quite cringing and normally the people in this position are now skating for like 30 to 40 years, so they are at a specific age with a completely different mentality when it comes to a lot of topics and I don’t even want to know what their mentality is. I do understand the need for companies to be more inclusive, but I also hope they will find a way without opening a thousand different “categories”. I mean I am privileged in my position because my team is mixed, so I don’t have to think in boxes. I wish I would have solutions for that, but I think opening up the space for more women to be in higher positions is already a step in the right direction. 

What do you think is a possible reason, companies feel the need to be more inclusive without being structurally inclusive themselves? 

You know, females are a big market. When it comes to retail, females cover a big part of the retail environment. Also, I think with the rise of social media, girls were able to support their own thing and that’s when brands and Companies understood that they should invest in female skateboarding. Again, Stef is a really good example. She works with big brands because she has high visibility on her platforms. 

Do you also think tokenism plays a role?

Yes of course, but also, I see it as a part of the process.

,,It also helps you as a woman to get a better deal, try to embrace and also get mentioned. I mean, tokenism is not great, but necessary at the level we’re at now.” 

That’s a great perspective on it. Last two questions: What is your biggest critique and what is your biggest wish when it comes to the skateboarding industry? 

My biggest criticism is that there are not enough women in the industry, but I have recognized a change has been set in motion. My biggest wish is that every woman starts to support other women even more than they do now. Things like buying a Salon Skateboard can make a huge difference. The same goes for boys, they shouldn’t just like female content, but also support actively. We should have more women in the media like yourself. I think there is a very problematic depiction of women in skateboarding and that is because not too many women work at magazines. So in general: include more girls in all parts of skateboarding, including the media. One last thing I would like to say is that I think all the gender topics are about women, it’s a thing about femininity. The women aren’t the problem, but it’s the very feminine women – or the feminine man. All the things we said before, there was a very specific picture of femininity in the 90s and luckily, we’ve passed that. So, as I said, I think mostly it’s not about the women or the gender itself, it’s femininity which causes the problem in some people’s heads. 

Thank you very much for your great perspectives, Daphne!