The first mentoring scheme to connect senior business people with women in sport was launched last month.
At the event on 7 October at Google’s UK headquarters, UK Home Secretary Theresa May urged women at work to avoid mimicking men, to celebrate the “different approach” they take professionally compared to men.
“We must encourage other women by demonstrating and sharing our own success. Men have networks; men have their champions. So women should too.”
Women Ahead, a scheme providing mentors from the business world to female professional athletes and women in leadership roles in the sporting world, is the brainchild of mentoring specialist and keen sportswoman, Liz Dimmock.
Although there has been significant progress in recent years, women seeking careers in sport still face hurdles that don’t exist for men, and not of the kind they can leap over. In 2012, only 0.4 per cent of UK sports sponsorship was invested in women’s sport and some of the world’s largest sporting events remain closed to female competitors.
Women Ahead believes that in addition to lobbying and raising awareness of bias, real change will come from empowering women themselves.
At the event, the panel of experts from sports and business included Victoria Pendleton CBE, Britain’s most successful female Olympian and nine-times world champion, and mentoring expert Professor David Clutterbuck.
Dimmock, CEO of Women Ahead, said: “Business leaders have significant experience and skills that can be shared with women in sport, whether they’re working towards a leadership role or a podium position. In parallel, women in sport hold the power to inspire and challenge leaders in business…. by introducing structured mentoring we can effect genuine change at individual, organisational and societal level.
“I also believe we can help elevate the profile of women in sport, to challenge unconscious bias within organisations, and to showcase inspirational role models to girls and women with the goal of raising levels of participation around the world.”
Dimmock has held commercial, coaching and leadership roles at IMG, KPMG, HSBC and GP Strategies. She is a passionate cyclist and in 2012 cycled the Tour de France route a week before the men’s professional field, matching the pros stage-for-stage over 3,479km. In 2015, she leads a team of four women cycling around the world in 90 days.