The Scottish FA’s performance director was speaking as he introduced Shelley Kerr as the new head coach of the Scotland women’s national team.
Kerr, who was the first woman to be appointed manager of a senior men’s side in Britain when she took charge of Stirling University in the SPFL Lowland League in 2014, will take over from Anna Signeul after this summer’s European Championships.
She described the new role as the “pinnacle”, claiming it was an easy choice to go for the international posting, but she also refused to rule out a return to the men’s game in the future.
“I think I did break down some barriers in terms of the role I have at Stirling University,” she said. “I certainly can only speak positively about my experience. But, obviously, when it’s your national team it’s a no brainer.”
Kerr’s impressive cv also includes 59 caps for Scotland and managerial stints in the women’s game with Hibernian, Spartans, Arsenal and the Scotland under-19s. Mackay cites her qualities and experience as prime reasons why gender should not factor in future career choices.
He admits that it would take a brave and forward-thinking club to break with tradition and appoint a female manager in the top tiers of the men’s game but he insists that it could happen.
“Absolutely. [The opportunity] is not something that is there at the moment, but I honestly don’t see why not.
“[With Kerr], there’s intelligence, there’s a plan and there’s a structure, and she’s thoughtful, so absolutely she could do it. She’s been a footballer and she’s been a manager in both the men’s and the women’s game, so I see no reason why Shelley couldn’t be the one to do that. But she’s got a job to do here first!
“Nowadays barriers are breaking down everywhere. You look at female assistant referees and now that’s just blasé. The Bundesliga now has a female referee, and it won’t be long I don’t think before that happens here. Barriers are coming down all the time and eventually that glass ceiling will shatter.”
Kerr, who has passed the Uefa Pro licence, will be charged with the task of guiding Scotland to a World Cup for the first time ever when she takes on her new role and the fact that the SFA have been able to turn to such a highly-qualified homegrown coach is encouraging for Mackay. Swede Signeul, pictured below, has been at the helm for 12 years, and before that it was Dutch woman Vera Pauw who had helped elevate the women’s game in this country. But options are improving as more women take their coaching badges.
“It is something we need to keep fuelling. We need young women who are finishing playing the game to come into coaching,” said Mackay.
“It’s funny because I was talking to Pedro Caixinha the other week about when we were on our A licence together. On our A licence was a Portuguese lady, Helena Costa, who became the first woman [to coach a professional men’s team] in French football. She was on that course with us ten years ago and she was the first one in France, where someone was brave enough to appoint her.
“I think perceptions are changing. The interview that I did with Shelley, halfway through it I was thinking, ‘I wonder, if there was a chairman sitting here, how impressed he would be?’ Because having sat through interview processes before I can tell you she was exceptional in terms of her knowledge of the game and her passion for the game came through hugely.
“She has been wanting to be a footballer since she was eight or nine years old and succeeded in getting over 50 caps for her country and she has gone on to manage at the top level so, sitting in the interview with her, seeing the way she handled herself, along with the plans she has, and the way she spoke, and acted – then you add her cv on to that – then if I was a chairman looking at that, I could see something there.”