If you don’t have either, you can’t expect commercial sponsors to get behind it.
" As with most movements, it’s a hard to pinpoint a single cause or catalyst to this changing mood. But as a whole, things are looking ever more positive for women’s sport."
I recently caught up with some of our sponsored athletes and found the challenges of being elite sportswomen were tricky issues for them to discuss.
No-one wants to appear negative. They all feel lucky to be doing the thing they love. They feel grateful for all the opportunities to date. They love the fact they can inspire younger players.
However when pressed they feel the burden of the well-documented issues of lower pay than sportsmen - and the fact many have to hold down part-time jobs (which is true of many individual and non-professional sports, regardless of gender).
They talked about the moments which had influenced them as athletes - like the time Valerie Adams’ Olympic gold medal was usurped by domestic rugby results in one of the newspapers.
In fact, New Zealand research commissioned by the International Olympic Committee showed during the Rio Olympics male athletes were 67 per cent more likely to be on the front page or as lead in a bulletin than their female counterparts.
This is despite our female athletes winning 61 per cent of the medals.
Female athletes, the research also found, were ‘framed’ in different ways to their male team mates.
They were nine times more likely to be pictured with their partner and 39 per cent more likely to be referred to as ‘girls’ than males athletes referred to as boys.
The tide is turning
It’s not all bad. Over recent years I have seen a huge groundswell of support for women’s sport internationally. Here are some trends I’ve noticed.
• Awareness, appetite, advocacy
As a society we’re developing a stronger appetite to level the field - and this has been reflected in sport. There are more voices, research, analysis and more groups dedicated to growing different aspects of women’s sport.
One example is newly formed Women in Sport Aotearoa (Ngā Wāhine Hākinakina o Aotearoa) – New Zealand’s first national advocacy organisation for women in sport.
The foundation board, comprising female sporting, academic, business and political leaders, will be researching female progression across all levels or sport and sport leadership.
Another sign of progress is former Black Ferns Captain Farah Palmer, who last year became the first female elected to the board of New Zealand Rugby in its 125 year history.
White Ferns captain Suzie Bates cites (see video) having more women in leadership and decision-making roles in New Zealand Cricket as a key reason behind her sport’s recent hike in public profile. The team has also received a funding boost, with more annual retainers being offered at a substantially higher pay rate.
This follows an international trend – the International Cricket Council not only more than doubled the prize pool for this year’s Women’s World Cup, but guaranteed every ball would be broadcast live. This led to an estimations of more than 180 million people around the world viewing the tournament. It has also committed to pay parity in the next 15 years.