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.
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:
- Getting women into leadership positions, to help govern, influence and grow the sport.
- 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.
- 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?