Forty of Britain’s most successful and driven female athletes gathered in Manchester today to launch a unique five-month campaign led by women’s sport charity, the Women’s Sport Trust.
The campaign, named ‘Unlocked’, will see the 40 athletes paired with 40 ‘activators’ made up of leading figures from business, sport and media to shape the future of women’s sport.
Individually and collectively they will challenge and support each other to unlock media platforms, pitch to investors, speak out on live issues, tell new stories, get into boardrooms and break down assumptions.
Athletes have been recruited from 24 different sports with a focus on championing diversity and those who want to make a difference, including champion UK skateboarder Lucy Adams, para-badminton player Rachel Choong, England and Manchester City goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, Great Britain’s only black swimmer Alice Dearing, Asma Elbadawi, a basketball coach who helped overturn the ban on wearing a hijab in her sport and Alice Powell, the youngest driver, male or female, to win a Formula Renault race in the UK.
Together, these athletes will create an unprecedented critical mass of noise and energy to propel women’s sport to the next level.
Tammy Parlour, CEO and co-founder of the Women’s Sport Trust, said: “We believe the value of women’s sport needs to be unlocked faster, with more impatience and greater ambition.
“There are still too many closed doors in the sports industry and beyond, which means progress has been uneven and we see peaks and troughs of attention and investment.
“That needs to change, and we believe this formidable group of women and our network of high-profile supporters can make it happen.”
In 2019, we saw sportswomen such as US footballer star Megan Rapinoe talk openly about inequality in sport and urge athletes to use their platforms to lift others up and change the world for the better.
Alongside male stars like Raheem Sterling, who spoke out about racism, this signalled a new era for athletes as they became known as activists championing the issues and causes that are important to them.
Stacey Copeland, the first-ever British woman to win a Commonwealth title in boxing, is also part of the ‘Unlocked’ group. She said: “Most female athletes are not only concerned about their own sporting ambition but about what impact we can have as role-models and on the future of women’s sport.
“I want to see more women and girls in non-traditional sports like boxing and I have created my own project, ‘Pave the Way’, do to this. I have had success but I believe this campaign will connect me to people who can take it to the next level.”
The 40 activators will help the athletes open up their connections and share their experiences, uncovering the most urgent challenges facing women’s sport and developing ways to tackle them.
Joss Hastings, Vice-President, Marketing and Communications of Disney Consumer Products in EMEA, will be an activator. She said: “It’s difficult to think of better role models than sportswomen, but it doesn’t feel they have yet reached the scale of profile and influence that they deserve.
“I’m excited to hear directly from the athletes about the barriers they face and the opportunities they would really value so we can work together to drive change.”
During the campaign the athletes will be provided with coaching to make them even more effective influencers and ambassadors, tackling everything from commercial insights to social media skills. They will connect with their activator and work through how they can create tangible actions as well as communicating and learning from their wider peer group.
The campaign will also be challenging the public to help get women’s sport #UNLOCKED and share how they did it.