SailGP’s Women’s Pathway sailors have urged fellow female athletes entering the sport to stand out rather than ‘blend in’ with male-dominated crews.
Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team’s Hannah Mills, New Zealand’s Liv Mackay, Canada’s Isabella Bertold and Denmark’s Katja Salskov-Iversen took to stage for a Breaking Boundaries forum ahead of the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch.
In conversation with Kiwi Olympian Anna Willcox, the four athletes reflected on SailGP’s pioneering Women’s Pathway and unpacked the challenges of joining a male-dominated crew.
Salskov-Iversen said highlighting the issues of emotions is often shied away from - ‘we just say ‘moving on’, she said. But she encouraged women entering the sport and male-dominated crews to remain ‘in touch with the feminine values’ of ‘empathy and communication’, rather than just fitting in.
“Sometimes it’s easier to put it all away, act along and play all cool, but actually it’s good to be vulnerable, open up and share with each other so you can develop together,” she said.
Emirates Team GBR strategist Hannah Mills agreed that ‘it’s very easy to mould yourself to fit in to how the guys run the team and change who you are’.
“I have definitely done that before in the past and had to check myself and say ‘no’,” she said. “Actually I’m bringing a lot more by asking the questions and having the conversation, and I definitely feel like I’ve brought something in terms of communication on board the boat.”
Elsewhere, the four athletes reelected on their individual pathways into sailing, how they developed their career and the future of gender equity and sailing for women in SailGP.
The event, held at Lyttelton Arts Factory, was attended by more than 170 young aspiring female athletes.
Mills said the event ‘sent such a strong message’.
“It’s critical to push things forward - it’s a great opportunity for the young girls in the audience to come and watch and see what we’re up to and be inspired,” she said. “It’s that old saying - ‘if you can see it, you can be it,’ and I think that’s really true.”