It's been a long time in coming, but at last the landscape for women in sport is finally beginning to shift.
Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen significant improvements in sponsorship, prize money and professional contracts for sportswomen around the world.
There’s been increased media coverage for women’s sport and recognition of female athletes as role models and activists for social change.
The participation gap between men and women is closing and, after decades of sport being led and managed by men, we’re finally seeing more women taking influential roles as board directors, editors, coaches and officials.
But despite these recent advances, and improvements in gender equality, sport is still a very male dominated space, something which can be intimidating for women hoping to build a career in the sector.
It has been this way since formalised sport was established more than 150 years ago – with women considered too frail to compete and completely excluded from the first Olympic Games.
Although in Tokyo next year we will finally see equal numbers of men and women competing, sadly this balance is not the same across all sport.
In most team sports, female athletes still do not get equal funding or opportunities – even though they train as hard and make the same sacrifices as their male counterparts.
In many sports, women receive less prize money, fewer professional contracts opportunities, lower sponsorship revenues and a tiny fraction of the media coverage.
Girls often do not have the access to sports, funding and facilities as boys, and, despite the huge impact of campaigns like This Girl Can, women are still less likely to take part in sport than the men around them.
I love sport. I was a sporty girl growing up, studied sport at university and have been lucky enough to work in the sports sector for over 30 years. But as the years have passed, I’ve become increasingly concerned about the massive disparity for women in sport. The inequality in women’s sport makes me angry, but I see great hope for the future.
The inequality in women’s sport makes me angry, but I see great hope for the future.
My ambition for The Game Changers podcast, which I launched in 2019, was to give a voice to the incredible female trailblazers, those ‘fearless women in sport’ who have knocked down barriers and challenged the status quo for women and girls everywhere.
I wanted to share the stories of these remarkable women and all they have had to overcome on their pathway to success. I hope their interviews will inspire other women (and men) in the future.
As I launch this fifth series of the podcast, it’s wonderful to reflect on the incredible guests I’ve had the privilege to interview. From Olympic, Paralympic and world champions, journalists and broadcasters through to coaches, agents and CEOs. All have openly shared the barriers they’ve faced and what they’ve learnt in the process.
Game changing guests from the previous series have included Katherine Grainger, Denise Lewis, Clare Balding, Casey Stoney, Kate Richardson-Walsh, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Chrissie Wellington and Sue Campbell.
Some of the key advice I’ve repeatedly heard from them includes the need to work hard and be (over) prepared as woman, how to overcome ‘imposter syndrome’ by being brave and always open to new opportunities, and the importance of surrounding yourself with a strong support team – which is not just something for athletes to consider.
It is fantastic that Sport England has agreed to support the next series of The Game Changers. It will enable me to share the learnings from these impressive women with a huge new audience.
The remarkable line-up includes:
- Eleanor Oldroyd – one of Britain’s most respected sports broadcasters
- Sarah Storey – the most successful female British Paralympian of all time
- Alison Oliver – chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust
- Ebony Rainford-Brent – Cricket World Cup winner and now much respected sports broadcaster
- Katie Sadleir – former Olympian, now general manager of women’s rugby at World Rugby
- Tracy Edwards – skipper of the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race
- Judy Murray – former international tennis player and coach to many champions including her sons Jamie and Andy
- Jessica Ennis-Hill – Olympic champion and three-times world champion heptathlete.
The Game Changers is available across all platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google and Stitcher, or you can listen here.
You can find out more about all 41 guests from this and previous series here.