In the media

Targeting gender parity in sailing

By Matthew Campelli

The Sustainability Report

27 May 2022

PA’s Head of Sustainability, Jonquil Hackenberg, joins The Sustainability Report podcast alongside Anne-Cécile Turner (The Ocean Race sustainability director) and Dee Caffari (World Sailing Trust chair) to discuss the launch of Horizon – a new collaboration between PA Consulting, The Magenta Project and World Sailing Trust, dedicated to increasing the number of women in professional sailing.

With a World Sailing Trust report in 2019 highlighting room for improvement across the whole sailing industry when it comes to inclusion for women and girls, the group is calling on the sailing, marine and sports industries to join them in helping to accelerate accessibility for women.

Kicking off the episode Jonquil talks through the genesis of the partnership: “It came about through a conversation with Anne Cecile, Victoria Lo and I discussing how we bring to the fore strengths, and  demonstrate that strengths on a boat need to be addressed rather than looking at it through a single gender lens. So the collaboration was essentially to determine how we can make this tangible so that we can take a step forward in what is a challenging industry.”

With the discussion turning to the findings of the World Sailing Trust’s report and how to take the findings forward, Jonquil says: “Looking at the strategic review we really took it to the next level and said, if sustainability is not going to be just about the environment it has to be advanced through gender equity as much as anything else and, if we can do this in the world of sailing it’s a brilliant example to spotlight that for other industries.”

“We really took the hallmarks of what a strong diversity, equity and inclusion strategy looks like and they were things like - how do you ensure equal pay as well as equal play? How do you make big changes quickly and shine a spotlight on good behaviours? So what we did is tie in how the mentoring programme (that has been provided by The Magenta Project for female sailors to move in to performance sailing) can help play a tangible role in taking the recommendations from the strategic review, the strategy that PA Consulting put together around what this would like, and how it can be put in to practice.”

Further commenting on the barriers to the sport and getting women and girls involved Jonquil adds: “Having spoken to eight and nine year old children as part of this, they pointed out some really simplistic things like the challenges for girls getting their periods and nobody considering how they can handle this when racing out on the water, which is stressful for girls. In a similar fashion they find that boys can be quite shouty on the water. It’s these kind of things, the simple perspectives, that allow us to put in place very tangible and practical steps.”

“The other barrier, at the other extreme, is that you’re going to hire people to be on your boat who look like you, who you are familiar and it feels like a risk to hire someone or work with someone who you don’t know. But the research and recommendations in the strategy from PA Consulting said that a mixed skill, multi-disciplinary team is going to be much more powerful than everyone thinking, breathing and talking the same way as you. Those are the two ends of the spectrum but both need to be taken in to consideration in order to effect change in sailing.”

Jonquil is asked what the barriers are for women in design and manufacturing roles or technical specialists: “The challenge around gender parity or diversity and equity is across the entire value chain of sailing and therein lies an opportunity. Borrowing from other sports, borrowing from design and innovation is really key, as is bringing more women in to engineering and design of boats and equipment and clothing for women to wear on boats. WE can’t just focus on the boat itself; if you see the boat as the boardroom we need to have an influence across the entire value chain.”

Jonquil also highlights the important role of both sponsorship and ‘the world stage’, saying: “Sponsors in sport from a corporate level are really looking to associate themselves with two things: one is sustainability or climate response and the other is diversity & inclusion. Brands and corporates are increasingly shying away from being associated with sports or sportspeople who are not embracing both, or at least one, of these things. With the horizon project we will hopefully drive interest from a sponsorship angle and this is going to help drive and move the dial forward.”

“You can’t advance the environment without advancing communities and a large part of that is diversity. So by putting a line in the sand, we, as The Ocean Race, are saying that we cannot do this on our own and that’s why we’re collaborating, however additional partnerships and ecosystems are also needed to effect change really broadly.”

When asked to provide an example of what additional ecosystems could be, Jonquil says: “It’s working with additional sports, it’s learning and leveraging from different industries and innovation and because all of this takes time, it also take money and investment in younger sailors to bring them up and encourage diversity at that level. It’s branding and sponsorship, it’s boat designers saying they want to be associated with a sport that’s much more diverse, it’s communications and finding a way to report on diversity so that it’s a sport that’s forward thinking and leading.”

Concluding the episode, Jonquil comments on what she’d like to see this time next year: “I’d like to be able to say that we’re starting to see more women or aspirational professional sailors coming through the mentoring programme and would also love to see similar programmes across different sailing classes and investments and talk about these stories a lot more.”

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