There were 3 things that influenced the creation of Sport Business Connected:
- Too much Gin at Sportel!
- A desire to create something that the 25-year-old me would have loved.
- The support of so many wonderful women.
In 2017, I attended Sportel in Monaco, at which female participants were vastly in the minority, as was so often the case at such sporting events which I had attended over the years. Following one very boozy night out that week, which involved my waking up the next morning with a headache, and wondering how we had got through the whole bottle of Hendrix gin on the way home (it was now sitting empty on the chest of drawers in my room!), I was reminded at a very late breakfast that I had announced on the previous evening that I would organize a lunch for the group of ladies (all of whom appeared at breakfast with sore heads, I might add!).
As promised, 2 months later, Sport Business Connected was created and, somehow, this lunch had grown from an intimate gathering for 8 to a group of 25. With a couple of the senior women from BBC unable to attend, but liking the idea, I was asked if I would organise a future event to include them. With the support of some great female friends, speakers and panellists, a brilliant moderator, two supportive sponsors (BBC and Perform), the first of the Women In Sport Business Speaker Series was created.
As a result of great feedback, there have now been 3 successful Speaker Series events (2 in London and 1 in Manchester), all attended by a diverse group of female sports leaders and emerging talent from a wide range of sports companies, 2 lunches in London, and now the launch of a website, and impending newsletter and podcasts.
What is always at the forefront of these events is the need to create an atmosphere that is inspiring, relaxing and fun. With studies showing that people feel physically unclean after networking, and that it is something that many try to avoid (this was backed up at the last event in June when most present raised their hands when asked if they disliked networking), it seems a little ironic, and still makes me smile, that there was still a packed room of those same women smiling, chatting and drinking wine together 2 hours after the main event had finished.
Moving forward, and under the banner of Sport Business Connected, the idea is to create events, platforms and services that address the issues facing women working in the business of sport. Furthermore, although it is important to highlight the success of the women who are at the top of their game, to me it is even more important to support those of all ages, levels of seniority and diversity in order to make this industry as inviting and inclusive as possible, not only to keep the talent we have, but also to make it a more welcoming working environment for future generations.
By being more open and honest (which sometimes means showing our vulnerabilities and not being worried about asking for help), we can address the issues, not only about career progression, but also what is actually most important: happiness, mental health, physical wellbeing, family and friends and how these fit into our working lives.
I am lucky to have always been able to combine my greatest passions – working in sport and playing sport. I have also been blessed with roles which have allowed me to see the world of sport from many different angles.
In addition, I am grateful to have worked with some really inspiring men and women, who have helped guide me through the different stages of my career, but it was very clear to me from a young age that there were few female role models to look to, both for advice and career paths.
Hopefully, some of the 25-year olds who attended one of the events over the last couple of years now feel there is always someone to whom they can look up and reach out when in doubt. But none of this is possible without the support and encouragement of those giving up their time to attend, or those seeing the value and allowing colleagues to attend.
There is a saying: “Alcohol. Because no great story ever started with a salad”. Although we may try to avoid the idea of networking, we do not try to avoid having fun and drinking wine with people who make us smile. I’m looking forward to the day I get a call from a wine brand which sees the sponsorship potential! I hate the word networking, so if you can think of a better word which better sums up the XXX, please let me know. Until the next time, remember that a smile and a word of encouragement may have a greater impact on others than you can ever imagine.
P.S. DRINKING ALCOHOL IS NEVER COMPULSORY!