A WOMAN from Wargrave is spearheading a national campaign to promote women in sport and business.
Liz Dimmock, 36, a business coach, runs Women Ahead, a social enterprise designed to improve the prospects of women seeking a career in sport.
Her latest initiative is a mentoring programme offering businesses a chance to support both sportswomen and women in leadership roles in sport.
The programme was launched in London last week with the support of Home Secretary Theresa May, who is Miss Dimmock’s local MP, Olympic cycling gold medallist Victoria Pendleton and former Sky Sports News presenter Georgie Thompson.
Miss Dimmock, a keen cyclist, 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.
“There has been a lot of talk but surprisingly little action and by introducing structured mentoring we can effect genuine change at an 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 showcase inspirational role models to girls and women with the goal of raising levels of participation around the world.”
She said the inspiration for Women Ahead came from her own experiences of both the sport and commercial worlds.
Miss Dimmock said: “There are a lot of similarities and wisdom that can be shared. Our flagship programme targets sportswomen and business leaders but more broadly, Women Ahead does other things like mentoring programmes and running workshops in big corporations.
“The event in London was a huge success. We had 150 people in the audience from companies like John Lewis and BSkyB and sporting bodies such as the International Olympic Committee, British Cycling and the England and Wales Cricket Board.
“Theresa May gave a great talk, which was echoed by Victoria Pendleton. She also talked about the importance of sportswomen as role models.”
Mrs May said: “Liz came to talk to me about this social enterprise she had launched. I sat there and thought, ‘why has nobody thought of this before?’ because it seemed such an obvious thing to do. We need to ensure that we are bringing women forward in those leadership roles in sport and giving them an opportunity to show their talents.”
In 2012, Miss Dimmock became the first woman to cycle the route of the Tour de France in order to highlight that the race is only for men.
She spent three weeks cycling the 3,500km (2,175-mile) Tour de Force, which takes place a week before the main race.
She raised more than £3,500 for the William Wates Memorial Trust, which helps disadvantaged children through sport, the arts and education.
In 2012 only 0.4 per cent of UK sports sponsorship was invested in women’s sport.
Women Ahead donates half of its profits to projects that support research into the development of women in sport and business.
Miss Dimmock, who is chief executive, works with Jo Gray, Mel Hill and Sam Harrop with whom she used to work at a global mentoring consultancy based in Burnham, Clutterbuck Associates.
Miss Dimmock left Clutterbuck in 2012 for a round-the-world cycle ride which was cancelled when a sponsor dropped out. In April she plans to lead a five-person ride around the world, starting in Wargrave.