Sir Clive Woodward knows a thing or two about leadership in sport, as the former Rugby World Cup winning Head Coach and Team GB Director of Sport at London 2012.
He gave his views on promoting female talent in business and on the field of play at a forum ahead of the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open at Dundonald Links on Tuesday.
“I think one of the biggest opportunities is to get more women involved in coaching,” he said. “Of the golfers playing here over the next few days, I wonder how many have female coaches compared with male coaches. One of the things I saw when I had this amazing role with Team GB and rugby, in the Olympic cycle, across 26 sports, there was a lack of female coaches. In the medal table in 2012, the majority of medals were won by female athletes. Once you get into coaching and have success, the leadership stuff will follow because it gets you on the ladder. I would encourage any sport to get more females coaching because I think that will change the cycle to get to the top.”
Martin Gilbert, CEO of Aberdeen Asset Management, said that his company is promoting equality and diversity in the work place. “We as a company are committed to getting more women into business and have signed up to the Women’s Charter which means that we will have at least 33 per cent women in senior management positions within a five-year period. We are committed as a company, including our merger with Standard Life and with the merger, we obviously do the women’s Open, the men’s Open, the Ryder Cup and hopefully the Solheim at some stage as well, so we are also very committed to golf.”
He added that Aberdeen is keen to help grow women’s golf, which is why the prize fund has tripled this year and the tournament is taking place on the same course as the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open on the men’s European Tour.
“We’d love to play them at the same time but the whole strategy is to play them the week before the relevant Open, so I hope the experiment and the idea works well. If the weather holds like this, it will be great,” he added.
Both Sir Clive Woodward and Beth Allen, LET Player of the Year and Order of Merit winner in 2016, thought that the strategy of playing on the same course would help to level the playing field and attract a bigger audience.
Allen said: “We have an event in Australia (The Vic Open), which is a played at a 36-hole facility and the cut is made and then they alternate tee times between the ladies and the men. The crowds are great and some might go to watch the men and end up watching the women. I think what is going on here this year is a huge step in the right direction and we are all really excited to be at an event where the atmosphere is just the same as the men’s.”
Sir Clive Woodward said: “In rugby, I never thought I’d see the day when the women’s match would kick off just after the men’s game at Twickenham on the same pitch and it’s fantastic. More crowds are staying to watch the women play afterwards which is a huge step forward and a way that governing bodies and sponsors can really, if they get gender diversity at the front of their minds, do some really creative things. It would be interesting to see what the effect would be for TV, spectators and sponsors in keeping the two together.”
Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, thought that the recent exposure of the gender pay gap at the BBC had also put the issue of equality on the agenda, which could have an impact across the business and sporting worlds.