She Speaks with Lindsay Impett, Netball World Cup

At a time when equal pay and large crowds are being celebrated as milestone moments in women’s football, it is interesting to remember that there are sports which are really female-dominated and pull their own weight without comparison with the men’s version of the game. Netball is in the unique position of looking at ways to encourage more boys and men to take up the sport, even as the women’s game remains ever popular.

For this edition of She Speaks, we were in conversation with Lindsay Impett, Event Director of the very successful 2019 edition of the Vitality Netball World Cup.

Netball’s unique position

For the first time at the Netball World Cup some of the teams played warm-up matches against men’s sides. I believe it is important to develop the men’s and mixed games, whilst keeping netball as a leader in women’s sport. Netball is the only sport where there is little or no comparison to the established men’s version of the game for female athletes. This is a real strength of our sport and we need to maintain this while developing the mixed and men’s games.

The 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup

Lindsay Impett. Photo credit: SWPix

The Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 was a great success, I am delighted to say.  Every session met or greatly exceeded its target capacity and the feedback from the fans showed how much they enjoyed the high quality sport, top level event presentation and additional activities in both the fan-park and throughout the city.  Sky and the BBC provided an exceptional broadcast seen by over 3 million spectators in the UK alone. Our teams, our volunteer community and the International Federation provided hugely positive feedback on their experiences.

I have been lucky enough to work in Australia, South Africa as well as across a variety of events in the UK. I got my first break while volunteering at the Commonwealth Games in 2002.

Role at the World Cup

Netball World Cup 2019 Ltd. was set up as a wholly owned subsidiary of England Netball, to focus on the organisation and promotion of the event. My role involved leading the company and overseeing the delivery of the event.  On a daily basis, it was about managing the project timeline, budget, risk and readiness, but in a wider context it was about building the team and creating a culture that allowed them to thrive, to grow and deliver to the best of their abilities. The performance of the staff on the event is something I will always be very proud of.  

2019 Vitality Netball World Cup. Photo credit: SW Pix

Netball is the only sport where there is little or no comparison to the established men’s version of the game for female athletes. This is a real strength of our sport and we need to maintain this while developing the mixed and men’s games.

From Netball court to the boardroom

Netball is the ultimate team sport. Even though you need a captain or a leader, it is very difficult to win without each and every member of the team. I believe in valuing my team and what they can do, to deliver the best performance. 

Key Performance Indicators for the ‘best performance’

When England Netball moved to Loughborough in 2017, one of the first decorations we installed was a large wall with information about the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019. The detail that kept me focused right from the beginning – when I was the sole member of the organisation – was a target of selling more than 60 thousand tickets.  We smashed this KPI selling over 112,000 tickets for the event.

 

Equally important to me, however, was the objective of 100% staff retention throughout the duration of the project. Again, without the right team in place it is impossible to achieve the KPIs.

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2019 Vitality Netball World Cup. Photo credit: SW Pix

Netball has seen global growth in recent years with countries such as Argentina and Zambia developing their coaching networks.

100k+ tickets! How did you generate enthusiasm in a crowded year that included the Women’s Football World Cup and the men’s Cricket World Cup.

Early in the planning process, we decided to move the event from 5th to 12th July to avoid Wimbledon and the men’s Cricket World Cup. We wanted to ensure that the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 had its own platform and space to shine. We found that other sporting events such as the Women’s Football World Cup in France accentuated the narrative around female sport, which only benefited our event. 

Is the sport growing in popularity globally?

Netball has seen global growth in recent years with countries such as Argentina and Zambia developing their coaching networks. In the UK, off the back of the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup, England Netball have seen a rise in the number of enquiries about clubs, more back-to-netball attendance and an increase in ‘session finder’ use (on the website).

 

In fact, one person was so keen that she emailed England Netball from inside the (Liverpool) Arena while watching a World Cup match, in search of her nearest playing opportunity! England Netball have done a great job in tapping in to the various reasons why people want to play and creating a product that meets that need. Other member nations are also adopting this approach.

Does ‘being the only woman in the room’ apply in Netball?

Although our volunteer community of Pivoteers was made up of a high percentage of females, our delivery team at the event had a good gender mix. Our Head of Sport Competition was Ian Holloway and I don’t believe there are many people in the UK who could have run our netball competition better. It wasn’t about male or female for us, it was about who was best placed to do the job at hand. 

Professional journey so far

I have been lucky enough to work in Australia, South Africa as well as across a variety of events in the UK. I got my first break while volunteering at the Commonwealth Games in 2002. I pushed myself forward and introduced myself to the representatives of Fast Track. Having been an athlete myself, I knew Fast Track ran track and field events and I knew this was the direction I wanted to go in. Fast Track then gave me opportunity and experience in a wide range of event operations and this set me up for all the jobs that followed! 

 

I have since worked at Wembley Stadium and been involved in a variety of events including Youth Olympics, World Masters Games, FIFA World Cup, the London 2012 Olympics, European Archery 2016, the Rugby World Cup and even a medieval pageant! Each role has provided me with new skills as well as contacts and I take experience and value from every thing I do. 

She Speaks with Hilary Atkinson, FIH

For our next edition of She Speaks, we caught up with Scotland native, Switzerland-living, Hilary Atkinson.

Hilary is a proud advocate for equality in sport and someone who leads by example, supporting women and men in and out of the workplace.

She has worked her way up the ranks at the International Hockey Federation (FIH) and manages a team of men and women working on the Pro League and the Olympic Games. She’s also a member of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) Sports Committee.

Working at the International Hockey Federation

I work within a team of 36 international colleagues in Lausanne as Director of FIH Pro League and Olympic Games.

The FIH Pro League is our new annual global home-and-away league involving the world’s leading hockey nations that was inaugurated in January 2019 and has just completed its first season.

Whilst the FIH Pro League has been running, we have also been working with our colleagues in the Tokyo Organising Committee for Olympic & Paralympic Games and Japanese Hockey Association in preparing for the Ready Steady Tokyo Hockey Test event this summer as a key milestone ahead of the Olympic Games in summer 2020.

As well as beginning the planning for a number of upcoming Games with the Youth Olympic Games in Dakar 2022, the Olympic Games in Paris 2024, and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022!

Your history in sports administration

Hilary at the FIH Congress in Dubai. Credit: Getty Images

I am enormously fortunate to be brought up in a family who have unequivocally supported my aspirations in life. My parents met and were involved, in particular, in badminton, another brilliantly equitable sport and I started at a young age helping my Dad when he was running tournaments. In my final year at school, I was granted leave to volunteer at the World Team Badminton Championships and by then I was officially hooked!

My first CEO, at BADMINTONscotland, was one of the longest-serving women holding a senior role in British sport, so I really didn’t consider gender as any kind of potential obstacle to a future in sports administration at that stage.

Since then I have had the privilege to work on two ‘home’ Games, at both the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, in what is a glorious decade of sport for Great Britain. As well as contributing at England Rugby 2015, before moving to Switzerland to join FIH and being offered the opportunity to contribute as a co-opted member of the CGF Sports Committee.

I travel quite a bit, which allows me to experience different cultures and meet many wonderful people who have dedicated themselves to hockey and other sports, often for their whole lifetime.

Every day in my working role is different, which is what keeps me curious and energised!

What does a typical day look like for you?

I travel quite a bit, which allows me to experience different cultures and meet many wonderful people who have dedicated themselves to hockey and other sports, often for their whole lifetime. Every day in my working role is different, which is what keeps me curious and energised!

Outside of work however, there are three things which are always part of my day; speaking to my family from wherever I am in the world is really important to me, catching up on the BBC news and sport before bed (especially keeping an eye on the Scottish Rugby team results) and some chocolate – I rarely get through a day without it!

FIH Pro League Trophy 2019

Being creative about how to develop yourself is important and continual (professional) development is a life skill as much as a work one!

Professional Development

The opportunities for professional growth throughout my career have come in a large part from working alongside and learning from an often inspirational and incredibly talented group of international colleagues.

I can also highly recommend IMD and Centre for Coaching Switzerland – both of which I have undertaken opportunities with more recently – if you are looking to pursue formal professional courses in Switzerland.

The sports industry is competitive, whatever your gender, and roles are often short-term contracts, or within smaller organisations where resources are more limited.

Being creative about how to develop yourself is important and continual (professional) development is a life skill as much as a work one!

Of course, it depends on the role you are working in or looking to contribute to. In some cases, you might not be able to progress without taking a further specific qualification.

However, I am a firm believer that practical experience and application are as important as qualifications and there are many informal ways to achieve these.

The most straightforward (and often undervalued) of which is volunteering.

Whether it’s volunteering at an event, in a sports club, for a committee or within your own organisation. It is one of the best ways to demonstrate and gain an understanding of a new sport, operation or role as well as build a diverse network, all whilst making a valuable contribution to something and having fun at the same time!

Gender Equality at FIH and the Commonwealth Games Federation

I’m proud that both of these organisations have gender equality at the heart of their strategies and have worked together to support each other, specifically in a number of these initiatives.

Equality is one of the three core values of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and at the 2016 CGF General Assembly in Canada, CGF launched a strategy which strives to ensure that women and girls are equally represented, recognised and served across all areas of the Commonwealth Sports Movement and sets the benchmark for gender equality standards in international sport. Non-discrimination is now a clause in all the CGF host-city contracts. At its helm throughout this period has been the CGF’s first female President, Dame Louise Martin.

The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games were widely applauded as the first multi-sports event ever with a Reconciliation Action Plan and Gender parity in the number of medal events at Gold Coast 2018 between women and men for first time ever. Basketball, Hockey and Swimming featured over 50% female Technical Officials; a first in international sport.

The FIH launched its Hockey Revolution Strategy in 2014 and one of its core commitments was to promote gender equality, inclusion and diversity in sports practice and governance across the #EquallyAmazing aspects of the sport.

FIH has championed this on the pitch, where the competitions and prize money are the same for men and women, supported by equal numbers of male and female technical officials. Off the pitch FIH has an equal involvement of men and women in the committees and panels of the International Federation and hockey governing bodies and has delivered FIH Academy education courses specifically focused on women’s performance coaching, just a few examples of its ongoing promotion of equality.

As a further milestone of its #EquallyAmazing strategy promoting gender equality, FIH has recently inaugurated a new Women in Sports Committee, chaired by FIH Executive Board member Marijke Fleuren, who is also a member of the IOC Women in Sport Commission.

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Oi Hockey Stadium Tokyo with IOC Commission Member and FIH EB Member Tayyab Ikram

The responsibility and ownership is upon all of us who are working in the industry, as well as the industry’s stakeholders, sponsors, fans and media partners, to work together to address not only gender equity, but all aspects of discrimination, as well as promote inclusion and integrity.

The Sports Industry as a whole is working hard to overcome obstacles to gender equality, such as its history of predominantly male leadership, limited number of female role models, lack of female high-performance coaches and officials, unequal prize money and an uneven distribution of media coverage across some sports.

There are many examples of specific work being done to overcome these through the leadership and governance of the IOC’s Gender Equity Recommendations, the International Federations and National Federations own strategies (ITF Advantage All Campaign designed by She Speaks interviewees Pure Purple, and World Rugby’s ‘Try and Stop us’ are recent examples). However, there is much more to do.

The responsibility and ownership is upon all of us who are working in the industry, as well as the industry’s stakeholders, sponsors, fans and media partners, to work together to address not only gender equity, but all aspects of discrimination, as well as promote inclusion and integrity.

How can we support our organisations to be more gender equal?

I have been fortunate to benefit from opportunities offered to me by both great men and women and if you are in a position to, one simple way to support your organisation to be more equal is to employ or appoint as many great women as men into your business and encourage others to do the same! This is something I have championed throughout my career.

It is my opinion that sometimes women don’t put themselves forward for roles or opportunities that they are well suited for. Everyone, whatever your role in a workplace, can help uncover, highlight and promote talented women to those around them and endorse a collaborative culture in the office that anyone male or female would be happy to join!

We all stand on the shoulders of many others that have gone before us and I consider wholeheartedly that life is about making a positive contribution in whatever way we can.

I’m still learning every day myself, but if I’m asked and I am able to help someone in a small way, it’s a pleasure to be able to do so.

We all stand on the shoulders of many others that have gone before us and I consider wholeheartedly that life is about making a positive contribution in whatever way we can.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch

She Speaks with Micky Lawler, WTA

Sport is lucky to have Micky Lawler – president of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

Originally wanting to work for the United Nations, but unable to get a visa to work in the US at the time, Micky returned to Europe to find a way to use her passion for sociology and her skills as a linguist.

A Dutch native, Micky is fluent in five languages, thanks to a colourful childhood which saw her live in the Netherlands, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia and Kenya.

Micky has 33 years’ experience working in sport, including 26 years at Octagon, as Managing Director for Tennis and Global Initiatives. 

She is also a mother to three children. 

Getting Started in Sport

Sport was a big thing in our family… But I didn’t grow up thinking ‘oh I must work in sports’. In fact, I thought that I would work for the United Nations because that was the natural fit in my mind.

It was really difficult to find a job because in those days, unless you typed a certain number of words per minute or knew shorthand, the jobs for women were for women in the administrative or secretarial fields. 

Teaching languages in Paris, Micky got her start in sport when she applied and was successful for a role as Press Attaché for the Men’s International Tennis Council – the predecessor to the ATP. 

I travelled 48 weeks per year. It was really incredible because that is a way to learn tennis. The insights, the outsights and every side of the sport. You got to know the players really well; you got to know the tournaments really well.

So that’s really how I got into the game.

Tennis Outside of Europe

WTA President Micky Lawler presents an award commemorating the 15th edition before the final of the 2018 China Open WTA Premier Mandatory tennis tournament

As part of Micky’s previous role on the WTA Board, she helped establish the Wuhan Open in China and other tennis initiatives in emerging sporting countries like the Middle East. 

The one thing in tennis that is super interesting especially on the WTA, is that the WTA has had the flexibility to take a parallel journey to events and growth that we’ve seen socio-economically. 

So the WTA went to the Middle East when the Middle East was emerging as an economic power like no other. And the great thing about that is – while there’s a long way to go – I feel that women’s sports have a lot to do with social advancement as well. 

Tennis’ expansion has not only been in China, but other parts of the world as well – Eastern Europe for example, so Eastern Europe has been very strategic in using its super strong tradition and culture in sports and women’s sports as well to again transition into the West and become one with the West, whilst still maintaining its cultural identity. 

It’s been an incredible journey that’s for sure.

We want to encourage women to, if they want to, start a family, and not have that mean that their career as a professional athlete has to be over.

Maternity Leave for Female Tennis Players

Thanks to the likes of Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, the WTA recently made some significant changes for athletes who take maternity leave. Now, players will have three years to enter a maximum of 12 tournaments under a protected ranking. 

The players were very involved in this. It came about because pregnancy was treated in a similar way to injury. Meaning, injury caused an athlete to be out, to not be able to compete, and pregnancy caused an athlete not to be able to compete.  

The fact that Vika [Victoria Azarenka] had a baby, and then Serena had a baby meant there was a lot of discussion around the time that they were out, their protected ranking, but then the seedings as well and having such a high-ranked athletes floating around the draw and whether it was fair to the players who had not been out and earned their position.

But the players decided what was fair and what was not fair. We want to encourage women to, if they want to, start a family, and not have that mean that their career as a professional athlete has to be over. So we provide an environment that encourages women to have families and keep competing.

Simona Halep of Romania celebrates finishing as Year End World Number One with WTA President Micky Lawler & WTA CEO Steve Simon at the 2018 WTA Finals tennis tournament

We all need to work together to make sure a mother can be a mother first, but if there’s a way to structure things so that her role as a mother is never compromised and we can still ease the mother into not missing a beat at work, then that’s great for both sides.

Pros and Cons of Maternity Leave ​

When I started as a professional, women would be pegged into non-essential roles. Because the social benefits were and are such for maternity or paternity leave that as an essential member or an executive at a company, it would be very hard to step away for nine months or a year, and expect everybody else to carry the load and for this not to have a tremendously draining influence on the company or the team for which you work. 

So that balance has to be achieved. 

My own personal philosophy is that we need to use the flexibility that technology gives us to actually not step away completely. 

We all need to work together to make sure a mother can be a mother first, but if there’s a way to structure things so that her role as a mother is never compromised and we can still ease the mother into not missing a beat at work, then that’s great for both sides. I know that’s really hard to do.

Dealing With Intimidation Of Being The Only Female In The Room

So to be honest with you I still have these episodes where I have this tremendous fear of public speaking. It’s debilitating to the point where I think I’m going to have a heart attack because the heart cannot physically beat this fast and this strongly and I can feel my neck and my chest getting completely red and my mind going blank.

So that’s some sort of anxiety that came I think because in those days I would push hard to break the mold. But respectfully break the mold. I felt this huge responsibility of, ‘okay, I’ve been given the opportunity and now I can’t screw it up, because my female friends here are counting on me to come through.’

And also because of a super respect for the men in the room and what they’ve done, where they’ve come from, and what they’ve achieved, and asking myself can I go toe to toe with them as a young woman.  

I grew up in the bush sometimes, and in developing countries. The schools were.. great life schools but sometimes not the best academic schools. So we had to work extra hard to live up to European educational standard.

When you come to the developed world and you know everything about the developing world but all of a sudden everyone here has the schooling that we’ve had to work extra to try to equalise. So I grew up with the mentality that I have to do all this other work to be at the same level as you, and that is intimidating. 

But it’s also really helpful because the humble gene never leaves.  And that’s key, in my opinion.

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Micky Lawler with Jenni Lewis SAP and Lindsay Davenport at the 2018 WTA Finals in Singapore. Photo credit: Jimmie48 Tennis/WTA

The number one thing for me, is how important it is that women are kind to each other and help build each other up.

We need to be straightforward, we need to be very honest it’s okay to wear your heart on your sleeve, in fact, it’s good.  

Advice To Women Working In Sport

The ideal situation for anyone in the workplace young or older is to work together.  

There are things that the younger generation can offer to the older generation that are invaluable and the same thing goes in reverse.  

The number one thing for me, is how important it is that women are kind to each other and help build each other up.

We need to be straightforward, we need to be very honest, it’s okay to wear your heart on your sleeve, in fact, it’s good.  

It’s never good to pretend to be someone you’re not. 

When you come into a room and you have self-doubts, understand that no matter where the people in the room went to school, no matter what professional experience they have, how many languages they speak, you have a lot to offer that is complementary to what they have to offer.  

Working together always wins. Always always always. 

Do you think women have specific strengths that differ from men that are an advantage when working in senior administrative roles?

Absolutely. It’s key to be authentic. If you need to cry, you cry. If you need to nurse your baby, you nurse your baby. You know, these are the things that make the world turn. These are characteristics that define and separate us from men. I think we should use being female to the advantage of the occasion.  If you look at the PM of New Zealand in the aftermath of that terrible shooting, she was authentic, and people responded well to it because the occasion called for that, it was completely appropriate.

Who is your role model?

I have many. I can tell you my father is a tremendous role model, and my mother and my grandmother and my grandfather. I mean we travelled all around the world, which was very hard for my mother.  She didn’t speak the language, she wasn’t working, she had to deal with a completely different culture, had no education, she was a team player like no other.

Throughout your career you learn so much from all your colleagues. My prior boss, who is still a very close friend of mine, he always said to me ‘your strengths are your weaknesses.’  He would also say to me you have to be really fair to the individual, until it’s unfair to the rest of the team. I think about those two things a lot.

Your Strengths Are Your Weaknesses

As a woman this is really applicable. I’m very emotional.  I think that can be a weakness to be too emotional. I cry very easily.  There are times when people say it’s really important that you don’t cry on this one.  When I cry it’s over, I completely let go, not good. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, and if I lose, it’s not good.

But at the same time, it’s good to really understand that I’m human, this is who I am.  Your capacity to empathise because of that deep emotion, you live it, you breathe it, it’s in your DNA, it’s very authentic.  I think that makes a very strong connection to the cause, to the goals you lay out. It makes for a good employee. 

Your capacity to empathise because of that deep emotion, you live it, you breathe it, it’s in your DNA, it’s very authentic.  I think that makes a very strong connection to the cause, to the goals you lay out. It makes for a good employee. 

Micky Lawler. Photo credit: Jimmie48 Tennis/WTA

She Speaks with Raewyn Topp and Sarah Massey, Pure Purple

For the second edition of She Speaks, we catch up with Raewyn Topp and Sarah Massey, who have some serious #careergoals as they work to facilitate positive change in gender equality in sport with their business Pure Purple.
Both Raewyn and Sarah live and work in Switzerland and spent some time telling us about what the sporting landscape looks like through their eyes as they look to remove the ‘grey’ and work towards a level playing field within the industry. 

About Pure Purple

Sarah and Raewyn’s partnership began while at the International Hockey Federation (FIH), working together on strategic projects across events and marketing.

Sarah: Setting up business together meant combining our skills to deliver to clients what we term the ‘purple approach’. Deciding what Raewyn and I would do was easy – we both love working in sport, enjoy big projects, flexibility and varied challenges.

The story behind the Pure Purple name.

Raewyn: ‘P’ words are very powerful – think Pure, Passion, Purpose, Precision, Practical, Performance, Positivity, Persistence and Projects…the list goes on.

Purple – well, often projects are stuck in ‘the grey’ – too busy, not enough time and lack of resources.  Purple is a rich, empowering and creative colour.

So Pure Purple cuts through the grey, adding momentum and focus to help CEOs and Executive teams deliver on their goals.  By removing the grey, projects come to life and empower organisations, creating better results.

Currently, Sarah and Raewyn are working with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to deliver a Gender Equality Strategy.

Sarah: Pure Purple gave the strategy a fresh approach and distinct positioning that resonated with both men and women – arming them with language everyone felt comfortable using. 

The result is a powerful platform, ‘Advantage ALL – Tennis is an equal advantage sport’. Since then, Advantage ALL has begun to take on a life of its own within the organisation.  It’s wonderful to hear people talking about Advantage ALL as part of other projects.  You know you are starting to get momentum when Advantage ALL is included in multiple project discussions, not just the gender equality discussions.

Raewyn: One of key deliverables this year is a campaign to raise the awareness of opportunities for women in tennis off the court. This campaign will drive and encourage more women into non-playing  roles. It will be launched at the Fed Cup Final later this year and we are excited to see how the market responds to it.

“Sports that don’t embrace gender equality in leadership, and the potential value of the female game from a fan ‘likeability’ and even from a commercial perspective will be losing opportunities.”

Marketing Women in Sport

On the topic of marketing women’s sport, and whether a different approach is required compared with marketing men’s sport, both Sarah and Raewyn agree that the first step is to make sure there is actually a well thought-out and deliberate approach.

Sarah: History shows that women’s sport has generally been marketed, packaged and bundled along with the men’s, as opposed to it being considered as a separate and distinct product in its own right.  

We are delighted to see this changing, and fans, both male and female, responding positively.  The huge fan numbers turning up and consuming  women’s world cup events  for cricket, rugby and football, as well as the recent unbundling of media rights in football gives us goose bumps.  This shows there is a real appetite and potential for female sport and demonstrates, when packaged correctly, the growing commercial opportunity. 

“The huge fan numbers turning up and consuming  women’s world cup events  for cricket, rugby and football, as well as the recent unbundling of media rights in football gives us goose bumps.”

Gender Equality in Sport

Having worked on gender equality projects across multiple sports, it was interesting to hear Sarah and Raewyn’s views on the challenges facing sports and whether there is a ‘one size fits all’ approach to ensuring more women are both working in, and playing, sport.

Raewyn: In recent years sport has seen a rise in awareness and discussions around the topic. 

But the major challenge remains implementation, the ’how to’, courage, allocation of dedicated budgets and resources to implement long-term and sustainable change.      

Sarah: Yes, implementation is of course easier said than done – especially when you consider that sports organisations have a global membership and hence a significant range of cultural differences and regionally specific barriers to overcome. 

A topic such as gender equality often struggles to find its place in the org chart and have clear decision-making influence and budgets.  In our opinion, sports that don’t embrace gender equality in leadership, and the potential value of the female game from a fan ‘likeability’ and even from a commercial perspective will be losing opportunities.

Raewyn: In our experience most sports are facing the same types of macro challenges when it comes to gender equality to a larger or smaller degree.

These macro issues include: lack of female leaders or decision-makers in the sport’s administration, low pools of women to recruit from, too few women succeeding in off-court/off-field roles and poor commercial value and positioning of their female sports products.

Certainly, as you dig deeper, individual sports can have more specific issues.

But I think there is enough common ground for all sports to learn from each other, and yes, there are key actions and disciplines that sport organisations can adopt ‘across the board’ to promote gender equality, just like there are best practices in many areas of business.

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Encourage your organisation to find language that makes gender equality easier to talk about – it’s about balance, not ‘anti-men’. 

Three challenges for sports wanting to implement change in gender equality

If we were to pick three of the biggest implementation challenges for most sports it would likely be:

  1. Getting women into leadership positions, to help govern, influence and grow the sport.
  2. Generating buy-in from the top so that this is firmly on the agenda. Including men in the discussions is important  – this is a joint challenge and not just one to be led by females.
  3. Keeping it high priority and accessing dedicated resources and budgets.

What will it take for the field to become level within the sports industry?

Sarah: Really the factor that will make the most difference is time and persistence, but we are certain it will reach a tipping point.

  • Time for a critical mass of women to be in leadership positions
  • Time for more females to have higher profiles and visibility
  • Time for sponsors to see the value and invest in women’s sport.
  • Time for female sport and female athletes to be portrayed in the media for their performance and not for other reasons
  • Time for culture to change

Like many of you, we believe it’s already taken too long, so we are keen to speed up the process as much as we can.

What can we do at an individual level?

Raewyn: It’s often difficult to believe that anything we do as an individual can make a difference to an issue as big as gender equality, but here are a couple of ideas, which if we all did, would certainly make an impact.

  • Help make your organisation more aware of any inequalities that exist. Often these are unconscious or historical and it’s only when you raise them that people notice them for what they are. Try and do this in a constructive and positive way.
  • Encourage your organisation to find language that makes gender equality easier to talk about – it’s about balance, not ‘anti-men’. Avoid overly earnest language and approaches, this can be off-putting to everyone and make change seem very onerous. With energy and positivity, it is easier to change organisational culture and generate buy-in.

After chatting with Sarah and Raewyn, we’re more inspired than ever to continue our work to champion the cause of gender equality in our own workplaces but also through She Sports Switzerland.

What’s also come through strongly is that we can all be part of the change. Are you with us?