What changes could be made to go beyond the 30% gender diversity quota that was brought in by UK Sport as part of the new Code for Sports Governance?
It should be more than 30%. I know there is ambition within that 30% and I know there are governing bodies that are still falling considerably below that, but I don’t think 30% is enough. I think we should be looking at 50%. Organisations need to be made more accountable for the action plans and programmes they have in place to support women, like Engine’s Better with Balance. Sadly, organisations are still riddled with unconscious bias, why shouldn’t those that are publicly funded ensure that everyone undertake unconscious bias training? We all have blind spots based on our upbringing and lifestyle, but we can’t do anything to combat them until we know what they are. I think there could be initiatives like that that we could be tougher to enforce within publicly funded organisations to make sure they’re really uncovering their blind spots to gender.
Several top female leaders in British sport will be leaving their posts this year, do you think this will have an effect?
There’s going to be natural churn and there’s always going to be people starting & leaving roles. My hope is that the women that are stepping down from roles will move on to somewhere else and have a positive impact wherever they go. I absolutely believe that you have got to ‘see it to be it’. Women and men need to see other successful women who are inspirational and aspirational leaders.
But, I it’s almost as important that there’s a healthy pipeline of women for those leadership roles. The most senior people in roles i.e. the CEO, aren’t always the ones that feel the most achievable for most women. It feels quite far off, a long way to go. I think it’s important that we start to look at the roles beneath the CEOs and to make sure we are building those women’s profiles. There are some incredible women in those roles across the industry, roles that feel more attainable and achievable for other women. I know lots of amazing women in the with in the marketing & commercial sector and we have brilliant relationships, I think sports industry could be doing more to support them too.
With the announcement of the new RFU CEO, I don’t think there was enough mentioned about how Jo Manning Cooper was leaving the RFU to go to Sky, she has made an incredible impact on the Sports Industry and I think it’s a shame that didn’t get enough attention.
We’ve recently been working on a new women’s sport project and we’ve been exploring the interesting concept of zero-sum sexism, the idea that if a woman advances a man becomes oppressed. It’s beautifully illustrated by the classic case on International Women’s Day of those people that come out and say, ‘when’s International Men’s Day?’… ‘If I don’t get something I’m worse off’. I think we’ve seen a real change in that in culture, particularly in young people. There’s many more male allies that support (gender) diversity and I think we will see a major shift in the culture of the sports industry as a Gen Z enters the workplace.