It’s a very exciting time to be a woman working in the sport industry, but 13 years ago when I first started out things were very different.
One of my first sport clients was an organisation called the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) and we had three bold objectives – improve exposure for sportswomen in the media, highlight the gender disparity in sponsorship money and tackle low female participation in sport…
Whilst it was an empowering account to work on with clever campaigns, it did feel like a huge mountain to climb but I believe that finally the industry is making huge strides in helping to create more opportunities to get involved in sport, whether playing, watching or working.
Exposure to sport from a young age instils life skills that can help prepare girls for the challenging and increasingly pressurised world that they find themselves in. For too long, girls have not had enough sport role models or opportunities to watch women’s sport, but gradually this seems to be changing and it feels like a momentous moment and here are three reasons why:
The first significant change was when sections of the broadcast media, spearheaded by the BBC, made a clear commitment to show women’s sport. I’ve heard many an argument, from men and women, that no one is watching so why bother, but if you want to get more girls and women playing then you need to show them that women’s sport matters. This is clearly a view that The Telegraph understands as they promise unprecedented investment and coverage in their newly launched ‘The Telegraph Women’s Sport’ initiative.
Athleisure is now definitely on trend – a clear shift from a previous perception that being sporty isn’t cool. When I was working with the WSFF, one big challenge was to position exercise as ‘cool’ at a time when super thin models and WAGs were leading the conversation on body aspirations. My friend’s daughters now all wear leggings and sporty crop tops inspired by the likes of Katrina Johnson-Thompson and current models who proudly share their exercise regimes across social channels.
In recent weeks we have seen a sea of change in terms of commercial parity with Visa, Nike and adidas all making significant commitments to women’s sport. Then Barclays made the landmark announcement that it was committing £10m into women’s football through the FA Women’s Super League. Now while this does not match the money devoted to men’s football through the ongoing association with the Premier League, no one can downplay this investment and the opportunity they are presenting the women’s game at elite and grassroots level.
Last week, my newest colleague Tracey Crouch MP and I attended an event aptly discussing parity in sport and business organised by Harlequins RFC, one of the leading sports organisations at championing women’s sport.
The Co-Head Coach of Harlequins Ladies, who is also the Chief Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, gave an inspirational speech on parity and her remark “if you can see it, you can believe it” really stuck with me, because that is what this is all about.
All the money and all the exposure creates role models to get more girls (and boys) playing sport, so that they develop the life skills that only sport can instil and better prepare them for life.
Both Tracey and I were really struck by the discussion on the wider engagement of women’s sport, a subject that in her role as Sport Minister for four years and author of the current Government’s Sport Strategy, knows all too well. It’s important to get girls and women involved in all elements of the game – from playing, to coaching and also supporting – to gain the wider life skills inherent in sport.
There is no doubt that Tracey understands better than most the power of sport and we are currently working with her to help brands give sportswomen the platform they deserve which will in turn help girls nationwide.
It really feels like an exciting time and a powerful movement to be part of and if you’d like to hear more please drop me or Tracey an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Thinking by Rebecca Hargreaves.