Principle of Buildcorp and President of the Australian Women’s Rugby Union, Josephine Sukkar, has said one of the biggest challenges for women’s sport is how to make it commercialised and an appealing pitch for sponsors.
Speaking at the recent M&C Saatchi Sports & Entertainment and The Guardian seminar on gender equality in sport, Sukkar shared her stories of working in construction, and the immense similarities between women in construction and women in sport.
“We’re busy gendering jobs in Australia in a way other countries don’t do,” she said, claiming that the only way to encourage female leadership in both business and sport was to address the way it was compared to men.
“There are parallel worlds where we need to shift what women look like in sport and construction. Team sport provides a pipeline for developing leaders in the workplace.
“And we have a genuine pipeline issue in Australia.”
Sukkar said both her career in construction and her involvement in rugby were things she “fell into”, and this is a clear pattern with many women, who are “tapped on the shoulder” to give certain jobs, leadership positions and sport a go, rather than pursuing it directly themselves.
Sukkar said that when it comes to sponsorship of women’s sport, it’s time to look at it in a different light and redefine what it means to sponsor a women’s sporting team.
“I know what is valuable to me in a sponsorship, and we need to stop calling it sponsorship,” she said. “It’s a community investment.”
Sukkar said until women’s sport can rally up more support, get more air-time on the TV, and draw bigger crowds, it’s not a ‘sponsorship’, as the return on investment isn’t what a business would expect from sponsoring a team normally.
“For those of you sitting on your CSR budgets, it’s time to consider supporting women’s sport.
“Our challenge is, how do we make women’s sport ‘commercialisable’ for sponsors,” Sukkar added.
Sympathising with this approach, Southern Star & Matilda athlete Ellyse Perry added, “Women’s sport needs to exist as its own entity and bring in its own revenue and stand alone.
“We need to make it justifiable for broadcasters to cover our sports and for companies to sponsor our teams.”
AFL National Women’s League brand marketing manager Jemma Wong also said that rather than making women’s sport a topic of interest, she wanted it to become an entrenched part of the Australian sporting landscape.
“It needs to be culturally embedded not just topical. We need to build a culture of inclusiveness.”
Panelist Gabrielle Jackson, opinion editor for The Guardian, added, “We need to encourage the normalisation of women’s sport. We are half the world, if we look at men’s sport, it shouldn’t be treated as a different thing.”
Adding to this, Channel Nine MD Amanda Laing said it was imperative to extend this normalisation of women’s sport to the cultural conversations post-game.
“We need those conversations to continue at the pub and whatnot after the sporting match is over.”