As England’s #women’s football team prepare for their world cup semi-final, we ask why big companies are so unwilling to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to diversity
As you’re cheering on the England women’s football team this evening, take a minute to appreciate how far they’ve come on how little resource. The lack of sponsorship available to women’s sports is a well-covered subject, but what we don’t often realise is that this lack of interest in women’s issues from corporate sponsors goes beyond just sport. They might be happy to wheel out the token woman on their board, point to their thriving women’s network or explain how great their parental leave policy is, but when it comes to parting with cold, hard cash, the well has run dry.
Just 0.4% of all corporate investment spent on sport goes to women’s teams. If you try to pin down a marketing director to explain why this is, they’ll often shake their heads and explain that women’s sports just don’t have the branding impact that men’s do. This is certainly part of the reason but as Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investments, points out this excuse really just shows a lack of imagination. Under Morrissey’s leadership, Newton now sponsors the women’s boat race – taking the event from zero funding and an audience of a few hundred, to being hosted on the same day as the men’s race, broadcast on the BBC and watched by an audience of millions. As well as promoting the brand to a big audience, the initiative generated a huge amount of goodwill.
“I think it’s a no-brainer for companies to sponsor women’s sports,” Morrissey says. “The prices are compelling and it’s totally in tune with the zeitgeist. It’s key though that when assessing the opportunities, companies look at the potential. Inevitably there’s no history of viewing figures or brand impact. A vision, not a spreadsheet, is what’s required.”
However, it’s not just in sports that large corporates are showing an unwillingness to put their money where their mouths are. Most companies are happy to point out the good work done by their internal women’s networks. These groups, often set up by women within the company on their own initiative, are showcased as a company’s commitment to diversity and female promotion. They can often be a lifeline for women seeking advice, but while they may be feted, many are underfunded and given little or no support.