SailGP’s Women’s Pathway is in need of commercial backing and extra investment to close the experience gap between the league’s male and female athletes, Emirates GBR strategist Hannah Mills has said.

Mills discussed the program, which requires each SailGP team to race with a female athlete on board, at the league’s latest Champions For Change event.

The event, which took place in London, saw sustainability leaders and champions join together to discuss a variety of topics, including gender equity, climate action and sustainability practices.

Season 3 // San Francisco Grand Final // Hannah Mills as Champions For Change

Speaking alongside Women’s Sports Group founder Dame Heather Rabbatts, Mills said further investment is needed to supercharge the effect of the Women’s Pathway.

“We’ve made the first step and that’s always the hardest,” she said, “but now it’s about building the investment around the pathway to facilitate the training and the opportunity - that’s the gap.”

She pointed to the ‘years and years’ that the league’s male athletes have been ‘racing these boats’ while their female counterparts ‘haven’t’. “It’s about closing that gap down - that’s what we need to do next.”

Season 4 // Heather Rabbatts talks to David Garrido at Champions For Change

Rabbatts, who was the FA’s first female non executive board member, agreed: “We need to invest now so we can grow the opportunity for women in the future.”

Mills also revealed that ahead of the launch of the Women’s Pathway there was ‘a lot of discussion’ about ‘whether we should have a women’s league or aim for mixed teams’. Her preference, she said, was ‘absolutely for mixed teams.”

“Our sport is one of the few sports where mixed teams can compete at that top level together on the same platform - so I’m excited that’s the way we’re going.”

Season 4 // United States Sail Grand Prix Chicago // Hannah Mills with Dhuha Albeshr in Chicago

Rabbatts agreed that sailing differed from the more physical sports of football, rugby and cricket, which are better suited to hosting female-only leagues.

“Here in SailGP you have an unbelievable machine with people who can absolutely be on board in equal measure - as long as women are given the opportunity and the time on then water.”

Champions For Change is SailGP’s exclusive thought leadership program, which brings together leaders and sustainability champions, to share key learnings, expertise and innovations around climate action and inclusivity in sport.