Agenda Setting

Anna Edwards Sky Sports News Producer of ‘Sportswomen’
Anna Edwards
Sky Sports News Producer of ‘Sportswomen’

Anna Edwards, Sky Sports News Producer of ‘Sportswomen’ and WST guest blogger gives her take on the DCMS strategy for women’s sport. 

The DCMS have outlined its strategy to change the sporting landscape for women today with the publication of the final report of the Government’s Women and Sport Advisory Board.

The recommendations are a real improvement on the proposals from the board back in October 2014. Here are some of the key points:

  • National Governing Bodies to set targets to get more women active.
  • A Women’s Sport Week (June 1-7) is proposed to attract new audiences and participants.
  • All media to significantly increase their coverage of women’s sport (not just the major events).
  • Commercial investment in women’s sport currently stands at just 0.4 per cent. This figure to be at least 5 per cent by the end of the next Parliament in 2020.
  • Women to make up 30 per cent of the boards of Governing Bodies and other sports bodies in the next five years.
  • 40 per cent of all Sport Honours – such as OBEs – to be awarded to women in each round of honours.

But does the report go far enough? Jennie Price, Sport England CEO, joined us live on Sportswomen this week and is enthused by the progress.

“I think what is really significant here is that it was a board of really heavy hitters – all the main broadcasters were on there and you had people like Baroness (Karren) Brady, Judy Murray and they really wanted to set high standards.

“In almost every single area where they have made recommendations they are either saying we need to do something different or we need to do something more, so it really does set a demanding agenda.”

I agree. Let’s not run before we can walk. Gradual steps will establish a stronger foundation to build on for years to come. Don’t get me wrong – if you asked me to draw up a wish list of what I want to see for women’s sport it would be off the scale. But in order to achieve these targets we need to strip it right back, work really hard and think logically about how we address the issues at every level.

What is to stop Governing Bodies appointing woman to boards in order to tick a box?

I am not a fan of quotas. I sit in the camp that is concerned setting a target to get women on boards is dangerous territory. Women should be there on merit and for no other reason. If they are not up to it, they should not be there. It won’t do any of us any favours to have a lightweight in a boardroom giving us all a bad name.

Rather than quotas, there needs to be a greater emphasis on appealing to the right women to apply for these positions and making the application process competitive. FTSE 100 companies do this all the time and I think there is a lot NGB’s can learn from these companies’ recruitment methods and techniques.

We hear a lot about giving women the confidence to apply to be on boards. But, if women lack the confidence to back themselves for a high profile job like this, they shouldn’t be applying in the first place.

Jockey Hayley Turner joined us in the Sportswomen studio this week and also expressed concerns with the quota system.

“I certainly appreciate the core of what they are trying to do and I think it’s always going to be a good thing but I think maybe they go to the extreme slightly with a certain percentage on the board and a certain percentage of OBEs.

“I think providing we get the support and the publicity and at the end of the day it’s results which are going to get people talking and that will help snowball it.”

The Women’s Sport Week is a super idea. The purpose of this is to celebrate women’s sport and serve as a call to action for the This Girl Can campaign.  The intention is for governing bodies, local authorities, employers and schools to put on events that help women participate in a sport.

I welcome the proposals in today’s report. For journalists like me it’s great to have a strategy in black and white. It means we can keep across progress and hold people accountable as well as track change. We have a long way to go but things are improving. More women are participating in sport, more women are being seen in the media, and more women are considering sports journalism as a career. They key is to continue to debate and work together to achieve change. No one can do this single handed. Get out there and speak about what you do, educate the younger generation and with that society will progress.

Sportswomen is repeated on Tuesday night on Sky Sports 4 at 7pm. We’ll then be available On Demand. If it’s the Sky Living repeat you prefer – that’s every Sunday at 11.30am. Join in the debate @SkySportsNewsHQ #Sportswomen or tweet me your thoughts @annaedwards3.

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