Tammy Parlour is a very busy woman. As well as being the co-founder and co-chair of the brilliant Women’s Sport Trust, she is also a Hapkido Master, founded Chang’s Hapkido Academy UK, has written a book on meditation and even does some lecturing.
With her Women’s Sport Trust hat on (not literally), Tammy took time out of her extremely busy schedule recently for a chat about the Trust and all things women’s sport.
KUDOS: You are the co-founder of the Women’s Sport Trust – for the benefit of our readers who may not be aware, can you just explain what the Women’s Sport Trust seeks to achieve, and how it came into existence?
Tammy Parlour: Women’s Sport Trust (WST) emerged out of London 2012. The Olympics and Paralympics made the media and funding disparity between men’s and women’s sport more obvious. It was also a time when we could see a diverse range of fantastic female sporting role models and we wanted that to continue beyond London 2012.
Our official strapline is…
“Women’s Sport Trust raises the visibility and increases the impact of women’s sport through the promotion of diverse athlete role models, increasing media coverage and improving the funding landscape. We are a leading UK charity focused on using the power of sport to accelerate gender equality and stimulate social change.”
In short… we help women’s sport to amplify itself through various campaigns, events and conversations.
Would you agree with us that everyone connected with women’s sport can be proud of the great progress it has made in recent years, but that there is still a fair way to go?
Progress over the past few years has been immense. Some trailblazing broadcasters, for example, the BBC and Sky are making significant, sustained, and coherent efforts to cover women’s sport. They are deliberately doing the work it takes to go out and secure the rights to leading events, to film them brilliantly and to engage new audiences. There is much still to be done – but we also need to acknowledge progress. These broadcasters are showing what’s possible, responding to an appetite for great sport and demonstrating the value of new markets. We hope that this stimulates a competitive instinct across the media.
Similarly, with sponsors we are seeing leading brands like Investec, Kia, SSE, etc. all making big moves to back women’s sport, but they remain the exception. We would like more organisations to realise the business and reputational advantage of associating with women’s sport and individual athletes.
Who in women’s sport has inspired you the most?
There are so many incredible role models across women’s sport that it’s hard to identify one person that has inspired me most. My own role models tend to be more like a patchwork quilt – a ‘hodgepodge’ of different aspects of multiple people stitched together in my mind.
I know that I feel constantly humbled by individuals like Chair of British Rowing Annamarie Phelps, ex-England Rugby captain Sue Day, Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson, and Olympians Donna Fraser and Alex Danson. They all have such a sense of duty and go out of their way to fight for what they believe in, constantly giving of themselves. When you are around people of such calibre it inspires me. It makes me want to be worthy of the role I’m in; and it fuels my desire to continually improve.
For all of our progress as a society, shameless sexism and misogyny is still very much alive when it comes to sport on social media – do you think we can ever reach a stage where this sort of unashamed public misogyny in sport can be eradicated to the extent, say, racism has been?
I’m not sure it’s possible to eradicate it. But it’s possible to make bigotry, homophobia, sexism etc. more and more socially unacceptable. We all need to step up and say that such behaviour is simply not acceptable. Just as importantly we need to amplify the positive voices and supporters – if we do that effectively enough we will drown out the Twitter trolls.
We were recently honoured to attend the Women’s Sport Trust ‘Be A Game Changer’ awards – it was a great and inspiring night. Do you think highlighting female sporting role models in this way has a tangible effect in inspiring others to take up a sport?
It’s important to celebrate the achievements of men and women in all areas of women’s sport, including athletes, journalists and everyone that works behind-the-scenes. The #BeAGameChanger campaign showcases those individuals and organisations doing the most to advance women’s sport, so that their example stimulates further progress. If we didn’t believe that action would come from running the awards we simply wouldn’t spend the inordinate amount of energy to put them on. We are a time poor and financially stretched charity – that means everything we do has to have impact – it must move us toward our purpose.
We think a lack of sufficient support from the mainstream media has been a factor in holding back women’s sport – although social media is a great tool to help us cut through. What do you think are the biggest obstacles for women’s sport today?
Women’s sport has evolved massively since WST was founded in 2013, however the key areas that need to develop are still quite similar. We need to increase the funding and sponsorship of women’s sport, improve its media coverage and raise the profile of elite athlete role models. We also need to get more diversity across every part of sport. These are all the areas that we continue to campaign for and requires joined up systemic change. There are no magic bullets. And that calls for bold leadership of real substance and sustained over time. We spend a lot of energy engaging with, and connecting those leaders together.
What does the future hold for the Women’s Sport Trust?
WST is such a young organisation and one that has punched above its weight ever since it came in to existence. We know we can do more. We have exciting campaigns underway such as our Athlete Influencers campaign and #Onside which is aimed at engaging men and boys as role models to speak up and take action to support women and girls in sport. We’re also working with sports journalist Anna Kessel to highlight the stories of sportswomen from history via Blue Plaque Rebellion. As an organisation though, we need to focus on our financial sustainability and are on the lookout for the right partners – brands that wants to join us in our mission and in so doing stand out as a credible supporter of inclusion. That sort of backing will enable us to increase our impact and extend our influence.
Thanks so much to Tammy for her time and her insight. Women’s sport is undoubtedly on an upward curve – let’s keep it that way by supporting it as well as organisations such as the WST. You can find Tammy on Twitter @Tammy_Parlour.
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