Leshia Hawkins, Business Development Manager at the England and Wales Cricket Board
With England’s Women successfully retaining the Ashes in Australia recently, it feels like a good time to reflect on the now seemingly ubiquitous debate in our industry and the media about Women in Sport.
I have been working in the ECB's commercial department for just over a year, brought on board with a primary remit to develop a commercial programme for grassroots, recreational and Women's Cricket. The fact that the job was created, quite apart from my fortune to have secured it, I see as a massive positive; a recognition that Women's sport, specifically cricket, is viewed as having commercial viability and warrants significant personnel resource.
I have, like most, acutely sensed the momentum in the sails of Women's sport, pre- and post-London 2012, the feeling of greater inclusivity in sport and the 'Jess Ennis effect' of more genuine female sporting role models appearing in the media - which is of course a positive. But we can't let this stagnate. In my view, organisations such as Women's Sport & Fitness Foundation, who lobby for women to be more active, are great. There is, though - in my opinion - a whole, and probably very long-term, socio-cultural shift which needs to happen in order to engender long term (attitudinal) change.
I was lucky. I had a great PE & sport experience at school and I was supported massively by my father (who had 2 girls, no boys) in my sporting endeavours. Sport was entirely normal for me to watch and be around and compete in. My best friends are still those girls I played cricket with at University.
But, sadly, I imagine I'm the exception to the rule.
If more young women can have and see the positive experiences I did and, in turn, if more women are given the opportunity to participate and excel in their field and the quality of 'product', regardless of the sport, further increases, then the media will, logically, take even more notice than they are already doing.
Then, in turn, more corporate sponsors ought to seek to further associate themselves with such skilful, graceful, intelligent, yet still passionate athletes - who, broadly speaking, may be able to teach their male counterparts a thing or two about fair play and what it means to be ambassadors for their sport or discipline.
And off the field, comparing sport to these corporates, who themselves are publicly endeavouring to address the gender balance in their senior positions (eg through initiatives such as 30percentclub), it’s clear that most organisations would benefit from recognising the positive influence that diverse Boards and senior management can bring.
Again, there have been decent strides made by our industry in this regard in recent times; the proportion of female board members in sport has risen, from 20% in 2010, to 22%, and the number of NGBs without any women at all on their Board has dropped, from ten in 2010, to five.
While of course the encouragement of women, on merit, into leadership roles should not be limited to sport, I am hopeful this trend will continue in our industry, for its own betterment - and to the benefit of our stakeholders, customers, fans and participants.
By Leshia Hawkins, Business Development Manager at the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Leshia on Twitter: @LeshiaHawkEye
Leshia on LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/in/leshiahawkins