How to... break through as woman in sports industry
Kate Caithness, who became the first female president of a winter sports federation in 2010 and was recently re-elected for a new two-year term at the World Curling Federation, offers her advice to women who are looking for a career in sport.
Tip 1: Show a keen interest in sport
A career in the sports industry may seem like an attractive option, but to succeed you have to demonstrate your sporting knowledge.
“I have always been involved in sport from a young age,” Caithness says. “In school I was the field hockey captain and trialled for Scotland, while I also enjoyed athletics and badminton. Thirty-five years ago I first experienced the sport of curling thanks to my husband. I think that no matter if you are male or female, to succeed in the sports industry, it’s important to have a keen interest in sport. You don’t necessarily have to be an Olympian or world champion; you just have to have an understanding of how different sports are played and how they operate.”
Tip 2: Focus your passion
Everyone has to start somewhere, but even in a comparatively lowly role you have the opportunity to impress.
“As I progressed up the administrative ladder I think I have learned that it was extremely important to remain focused and passionate throughout, no matter what level I was at or position held,” Caithness says. “People within the industry recognise this, and eventually, more often than not, it pays off. At times it will be extremely difficult and like all industries you will be faced with many challenges. You cannot earn success instantly; it takes time and a lot of hard work. You have to earn respect and prove you have what it takes and, as more people begin to trust you, the easier it is to progress up the career ladder.”
Tip 3: Have clear goals
Remember the old adage: by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.
“I think the key to my success was remaining strong willed and confident throughout the election process, not only making my voice heard but making sure I sounded confident so as to instil trust in voters and the Council,” Caithness says. “Having a clear set of goals and knowing how you will achieve them helps improve your confidence, which has always been key in my career.”
Tip 4: Utilise networking opportunities
Prepare to take the opportunity that may open the door to people who could aid your career progression in years to come.
“In 1999, Curling for Disabilities was discussed at the Assembly of the WCF and this was something which really interested me,” Caithness says. “I decided to try to develop the sport of wheelchair curling. The WCF asked me to become the Disabled Project Leader in 2002 – a volunteer position. In 2004, following two years of intensive development of the sport internationally, I travelled to Salt Lake City during the Winter Paralympic Games and gave a presentation of wheelchair curling to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) with a view to being accepted as a Paralympic sport. This proved to be successful and in 2006 wheelchair curling made its first appearance at the Games as a full medal sport. The development of wheelchair curling in turn really helped raise my profile within the sport. I gained respect from the member associations within the federation which resulted in my nomination by the RCCC (Royal Caledonian Curling Club) to stand for vice-president of the WCF in 2006. My work for wheelchair curling also opened some other doors for me as I became involved with the IPC, becoming an elected member on the four person Sports Council and on the Paralympic Games Committee. Again networking has been key to my career, and showing you are both confident and knowledgeable about your area of expertise gives others confidence in your ability.”
Tip 5: Go that extra mile
Be prepared to do that little bit extra to demonstrate why you are the right fit for the job.
“I do not see barriers for women to be part of the business of sport but I do think we have to go ‘the extra mile’, as I have done throughout my career,” Caithness says. “I have a passion for curling, have worked extremely hard and continue to do so. I have at all times been honest and treat everyone the same – with respect. l have reaped the rewards of my endeavours and attained the highest position in my sport and firmly believe that women are increasingly making inroads into the sport industry – not because of their gender but because of their ability.”
Top Tip: Show your commitment
Caithness adds: “If you go that extra mile, focus on something you are really passionate about, you prove to everyone that you have got what it takes to make it in this industry, irrespective of your gender. I firmly believe that equality in the sports industry is improving dramatically and it is a very exciting area to get involved in right now.”