Here come the girls - Women’s Sport Week 2016

Which Team GB medal moment from Rio 2016 sticks in your mind the most?

Ask me, and without a seconds hesitation I’d tell you mine is the GB Women’s Hockey team winning gold following an intense penalty shoot out.

It was an incredible moment for women’s sport, just one in a multitude at Rio which saw our biggest ever contingent of female athletes at a foreign games have their most successful Olympics ever bringing home 25 medals. Not bad considering women's sport receives just 7% of all sports media coverage and only 0.4% of commercial investment in all sport. The ‘on field’ influence should never be underestimated with the potential of causing a huge ripple effect off the field. There are currently 1.6 million fewer women than men playing sport on a regular basis in the UK however this gap is closing. It may be closing slowly, but it’s closing and that’s all that matters.

This week, we celebrate the second year of Women’s Sport Week, a government initiative that is backed by sport National Governing Bodies, Sport England, Women in Sport, Women's Sport Trust and major broadcasters including the BBC and Sky to showcase women's sport from the grassroots to the elite. The goal? Shine a light on the successes of women’s sports, increasing it’s level of public support and therefore encouraging women and girls across the country to get physically active.

All over the country, people are showing their enthusiasm. Governing bodies are putting on free taster sessions and classes in a variety of sports for all abilities and ages. The hashtag #WSW16 has been trending on twitter as yet again, social media shows the important part it plays in raising awareness. There has been and will be content on the TV, radio and online media looking at issues in women's sport and how to increase participation - this includes panel discussions, live forums and guest columnists from female athletes.

But is it enough? Can just one week in a year really generate the change so desperately needed to start closing the gap between Men’s and Women’s sport?

In reality, a week alone, probably not. However it starts a conversation, creates a buzz, let’s female sport stars have the limelight for a week and gives women all over the country the opportunity to try something they may have never tried before. More than anything, it highlights the incredible contribution that women make to sport.

If we look at the time between this years and last year Women’s Sport Week, there is already evidence that initiatives such as this have a positive effect on women’s sport. No one can deny that if we look objectively at the world of sport, we are dealing with a growing business worth billions and billions. When the industry predicted what the emerging trends would be for 2016, Women in Sport featured in nearly every article/blog/feature you can imagine. Women are causing disruption in a stereotypically male dominated environment. They are fronting global brand campaigns, winning awards typically won by their male counterparts and their sporting achievements are being reporting on within the headline news stories of major publications.

England Netball are now offering full time contracts to players - a historic turning point for the sport with the highest rates of participation amongst females within the UK. The Netball Superleague has grown from eight teams to ten including a new team with a direct affiliation to Premiership Rugby side, Wasps. The effect that this may have on sponsorships is yet to be fully understood but the sporting business world is waking up to how female targeted initiatives can grow their fan base.

Going back to the success of the GB Women’s Hockey team, to see Maddie Hinch, Kate Richardson-Walsh and Hollie Webb join Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, Laura Trott on the Jonathan Ross show post Rio 2016, was nothing short of inspiring. These are women that have earned their place on that sofa as success stories of the Olympics and along with hundreds of other female athletes, are now role models to both women and men all over.

The phrase ‘here come the girls’ has never had more relevance and for someone with a passion for sport, I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

Sophie Arundale

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search