How can we continue to develop and grow women's sport?
That is the question that the Everything In Sport Women Edition conference aimed to answer through a variety of talks and panels over two days at the London Stadium.
Speakers ranged from the likes of Barbara Slater, director of sport at the BBC, to Dame Heather Rabbatts, chair of the women’s sport group.
The delegates were represented by clubs, media, governing bodies, tech groups and more.
The event was designed to raise and answer questions on how we can continue to grow and develop women’s sport.
There were inspiring stories told, positive change created and some drawbacks to the conference as well.
The presentations often touched on similar subjects, such as the desire to promote women’s sport and help it grow to an equal level to men’s sport.
Around the room many heads could be seen nodding along in agreement as speakers talked about the different ways they believe we can grow and support women’s sport.
The only downside of these talks was that many of them felt repetitive, with several speakers talking about the success of the Women’s World Cup this summer, and reiterating how we can use media and technology to promote female athletes.
However, despite this, there was a real sense that those in attendance were, and would remain, committed to developing the women’s game through these avenues.
Preaching to the choir
With over 100 delegates in attendance, the majority of people in the room were white women.
On the equality in sport panel, Sabrina Ibáñez, the secretary general of the Federation Equestre International, asked a question of the group: “Why is this event labelled ‘women edition’?”
Ibáñez continued to explain that by labelling this event as the women edition, we may actually be excluding men from the conversation.
The counter argument for labelling the event is that the label inherently helps create a safe space for women to be in to have these conversations.
Some questions were also raised as to if we are ready to remove the label. Many believed that we are not there yet but, one day, through more of these events and increased saturation of women’s sports in the media we will be able to get there.
The downside here is that the conversations and questions raised in the conference were important, but they were heard mostly by people who are already passionate and committed to the topic.
Spaces that are inclusive to everyone need to be created to allow those who may not know much about women’s sport to hear the discussions but also to ask questions so they can learn as well.
Where can we go from here?
Women’s sport is still judged heavily on attendances.
One of the best things everyone can do to grow women’s sport is attend matches, attend tournaments, attend races and invest in being there as fans to support the athletes.
Viewership of women’s sports on television has skyrocketed in the last year, however if stadiums are empty that leaves an impression on the viewer no matter how good the level of competition is.
There is a significant need for more role models in women’s sport.
There has been a massive growth in the way female athletes stories are being told, and the increased coverage of women’s sports in the media.
However, we can still share those stories more and by sharing those stories, we can help those athletes to reach young girls and boys everywhere and allow them to dream about where they could be in sport.
Social media platforms are key to telling their stories and to allow fans to get to know female athletes. For all media, it’s not just about covering women’s sport but it’s about how women’s sport is covered.
We don’t need men to play certain sports for them to be legitimate.
The vast majority of sport is male dominated. However, there are some sports such as cheerleading and gymnastics that are primarily female dominated. This is something we can, and should, embrace.
And finally, it is not all on women to change women’s problems.
More education is still needed on women’s issues and sports, and allies are important to help create the change that the Everything in Sport - Women Edition conference is driving for.
photo Dan Vernon
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photo Dan Vernon