For International Women’s Day, we spoke to leading figures within the sports industry and asked them to reflect on Beyond 30%, Women in Sport’s report on workplace culture in sport. We’re sharing some highlights from the interview before their wider release.
Anne-Marie Batson, a freelance broadcaster and journalist who works for the BBC and talkSPORT, discussed the opportunities for black women in the industry and the work that still needs to be done to support all women.
Is the culture of sport impeding women’s progress?
I think there are greater prospects now for someone like me, a woman, a black woman, to progress in sports media. If you asked me that question 10 years ago I think the straight answer would be no but I think in the last few years, I think a lot of eyes have been opened about the opportunities in front of us for more voices, more diverse voices, more inclusive voices, to be part of sport. I think in this age where openness and transparency, with 24-hour news and social media, people are under scrutiny and questions are being asked of them. Now is that time to jump on that momentum to promote women’s sport and use the various social media channels and various outlets that are available to us to do that. When you think about this year alone, we have the Fifa Women’s World Cup and you have the Netball World Cup, female cricket has also exploded. This is great time to build on this momentum and go with the ride.
What’s the difference between the sporting workplace now, and then?
The main one is about sports punditry. Ten years ago you wouldn’t have had a female commentator on Match of the Day. Then we had Jacqui Oatley as the first woman to commentate on Match of the Day. That was amazing. I would go back even further. For me, one of my role models when I was younger was Helen Rollason on Grandstand. It was unusual to see a woman talking about sport and they were very few and far between, but things have improved, particularly around seeing more females involved in sport. Not just the playing of sport but the business of sport, we wouldn’t have seen a female CEO 10 years ago but we have one or two since then. Participation has also increased. Now we talk about good health and wellbeing and sport being a part of social life. We have discussions about family responsibilities and financial cost. It’s not just about seeing women on the screen, it’s the wider discussion about how sport, as well as physical activity, can play a part in someone’s life. We’re now addressing those issues more and more.
Are there any schemes that work well to increase diversity and how can we encourage more women to apply for certain roles?
There’s always room for improvement. I think with schemes that are for apprenticeships the opportunity needs to be offered right across the board so if you’re a single parent that wants to get involved in sports media there needs to be a scheme that allows that. As a single parent you could do a course part time or in the evenings. That’s a wild idea but that’s one way to look at things. It’s also about tapping into networks. Those days of traditionally advertising in a newspaper or online need to be scoped out further. Tap into people’s networks, someone will know someone, who will know someone. I do believe it’s about thinking outside the box to and working with organisations like BCOMS and what Leon Mann and various others are doing to encourage people to apply. They have relationships with organisations already, work with those groups and those networks and hopefully you will see the rewards.
Several female leaders at the top of women’s sport have recently announced they are departing, do you think this will have an effect?
This is a time of a changing of the guard for some of the most powerful and influential people in British sport. Where this is going ?I don’t know. Despite those women leaving roles, the established order has changed. We had three powerful figures within the industry and I hope that continues. All three of them have done extraordinary work and I hope that continues. I’m hopeful that whoever comes in next will carry on their legacy and create new ideas and new innovation. I believe opportunities should be given to everybody, particularly women because they haven’t been considered in the past. I’m hoping there’s a bit of momentum that is starting to show that women are capable of leading organisations, building legacies and setting the visions for their team. We need to move on and progress and help women see that they are the future CEOs of organisations.
We know that nothing in sport lasts forever but Jennie Price was at the helm of Sport England for 11 years. To have a woman at the top of an organisation for 11 years is an amazing achievement. We hope that legacy will continue. It can’t go backwards, it can only go forwards.
The progress has been slow but it’s now moving faster. We’re seeing women cricketers that are now high profile. We are only one of two countries in the world that a have a professional women’s football competition, with the Women’s Super League, which is amazing. These developments are significant. And from a commercial point of view the men’s market is fairly saturated and women are still unrepresented on that front. Team sports like netball and cricket are starting to see some commercial opportunities come through but we’ve still got some individual sports like golf where there still needs to be some inroads in terms of the commercial aspect. We’re trying to address the imbalance and we want to get more women involved. It’s been slow but over the last few years change has been accelerating.