Victoria Pendleton, a nine-time cycling world champion, said there would be less pay inequality between men and women in her sport if there was greater balance in the boardroom.
“It’s a cycle that should be broken by women being more in charge of organizing committees, having higher levels of responsibility in sporting bodies and organizations,” Pendleton said in an interview at a Women Ahead event yesterday in London. “In British Cycling, there is not one long-term female member with any authority further than booking flights.”
British Cycling has 10 male board members, according to its website, while there are two female non-executive directors and one woman advising the board. The lack of women on the boards of national governing bodies of sport in the U.K. is “shocking,” Home Secretary Theresa May said.
“If you ignore, or in some sense sideline, around 50 percent of the population, then actually you are missing out on a huge amount of talent and experience,” May said at the event to introduce a mentoring program to connect women in business and sport.
Women’s sports typically receive 0.4 percent of all sports sponsorship money -- estimated at 1.59 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) by World Sponsorship Monitor -- and 7 percent of all sports media coverage, according to the London-based Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation. Half of publicly funded governing bodies have boards that are 75 percent male, while women occupy 21 percent of leadership positions.
Bringing more equality to boards would also boost commercial investment in women sports, according to Helena Morrissey, chief executive officer of Newton Investment Management.
Sponsoring women’s sports “is very commercially viable,” Morrissey said in an interview. Newton is the main backer behind next year’s female Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge. It’s being held on the River Thames in London alongside the men’s race for the first time since 1829.
Female role models such as Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill and Pendleton are important for young girls and women, May said. Pendleton, 34, retired from competitive cycling after winning Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2008.
Just as some girls shun sports as they get older, some women avoid mentoring, May said.
“There is a sort of feeling that you’ve got to do it yourself, and if you don’t do it yourself, somehow it’s not quite as valid,” May said. “But the fact is, the men get mentored, the men have their networks, the men have their champions and women have to do that too.”
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By Danielle Rossingh