Webinar: Sport and entertainment’s role in driving greater gender equity
Women’s sport has, belatedly, been having its moment in the sun. The Lionesses captivated an entire nation with last year’s Euros win on home soil. CBS aired the NWSL’s Championship Game on prime-time TV in the States. A lucrative new cricket league has launched in India, to the tune of $1bn in investment. In music, too, women stole the show in 2022. First Beyoncé and then Taylor Swift broke Spotify’s record for the most streamed album in a single day.
Yet, when it comes to achieving greater gender equity, such visible examples of progress cloud the full picture. Further down the funnel, change is happening at a much slower pace. So how do we turn these seminal moments into sustainable change?
That question formed the crux of the panel session we hosted on International Women’s Day, featuring insight from Crystal Fisher – VP, Strategy & Business Development, NBCUniversal, Fred Bolza – MD, New Soil, Suzy Levy – MD, The Red Plate, and Jon Patricof – CEO & Co-Founder, Athletes Unlimited.
The conversation began with a look at how to engender equality on the pitch and on stage. The consensus amongst the panel was that unity, not division, is the key to driving that change.
Often the debate is framed by pitting women against men. But citing The Hundred – the UK’s new short format cricket league – as a positive example of how unity works in everyone’s favour, Suzy Levy noted: “One of the things we get wrong is presenting the women’s game as a miniature version of the men’s. Women’s sport may not bring as many eyeballs, but it can find new ones as The Hundred showed. Men don’t have to lose for women to prosper, there is a win-win here.”
In fact, broadcasters, rights holders and governing bodies are increasingly seeing the value of cross-pollination, a point emphasised by NBCUniversal’s Crystal Fisher:
“Where we think we can drive more interest is through crossover events, be that the PGA & LPGA or NBA & WNBA. We can cross-pollinate those audiences and educate them that the women’s offering is just as good as the men’s, and vice versa.”
CHANGE REQUIRES ACTION
The most salient takeaway from the entire session was perhaps its most straightforward one. Change is not an intrinsic force, and it will not happen in and of itself. As Fred noted, turning seminal moments into sustainable change requires a willingness to act:
‘We are good at delivering diversity in a performative sense but not in a structural sense. And that’s because structural systemic change is hard. It takes courage and the will of many to build a new culture.”
It was a viewpoint shared by Suzy Levy who reiterated that there are no easy wins and quick fixes when it comes to driving greater gender equity and creating a more inclusive culture: “None of this happens by accident. Organisations have to choose to change.”
BE DELIBERATE AND CREATE SPACE
So, what does action look like in practice? The general agreement that emerged was that to take action and create opportunities, businesses need to be intentional and deliberate. Only by committing time, money, resource, skill and targets will a path to genuine progress emerge.
As Suzy put it, “I often see Diversity, Equity and Inclusion labelled a “strategic priority.” But then we nibble around the edges. If you don’t do the hard yards and give it the investment it takes, you won’t achieve the desired outcomes.”
It was a point that found synergy with Jon Patricof who decided to recalibrate Athletes Unlimited’s hiring practices to better expand its talent pool: “At a startup like ours – the tendency is to hire people from your network. We challenged ourselves to be broad and involve more people in our interview process, resulting in a more diverse set of applicants and a more inclusive environment.”
Similarly, at a broadcaster like NBC, that action can come through simple steps such as ‘ensuring we’re employing more diverse storytellers and covering more diverse stories.’ Or it can come by allocating equal airtime and share of voice for the LPGA across its golf portfolio that also includes the PGA Tour. Either way, it requires intent: ‘It’s incumbent on media networks to showcase women’s sport across all their platforms.”
And, ultimately, what this all came down to was a need to create space. Space for new voices, new perspectives, new stories and new approaches. Touching on Apple-owned Platoon as an example – which employs an all-women engineering team, Fred nailed the point: “Only by creating space for others will they be able to come in and see what is possible.”
To watch the full discussion, sign up here.