On International Women’s Day SailGP Chief Purpose Officer Fiona Morgan reflects on the pivotal role of everyone being involved, and of giving back and fostering supportive cultures in advancing women’s leadership.

Whilst today is the one day in the year globally we recognize and celebrate women, that celebration also comes with a sense of groundhog day, as the statistics are not growing as much as hoped, the barriers still seem the same and we realize that achieving equity for women in the workplace still has a long path ahead. Although there is more awareness – we still haven’t meaningfully moved the needle on female leaders' representation. The Russell Reynolds latest CEO Turnover Index found that, even with more women taking CEO roles than ever before, only 15% of new CEOs appointed globally in 2023 were women.

Since the early days of my career, I've been deeply committed to giving back, particularly within the realm of sports. My first boss, the legendary Chris Evert, taught me so much and having such a leading womens sports figure has really inspired me to drive change. Throughout my career, I've witnessed firsthand the confidence gap or imposter syndrome (and still do!) that often plagues women in leadership positions. Now I am a Mum and in my 40’s, I feel I can be my authentic self and make sure others feel the same.

Women leaders tend to hold themselves to a higher bar and underestimate their capabilities. The science backs this up, but as women we aren’t as predisposed to confidence as males, and in some respects have other key influences at the same time as a growing career. Therefore, fostering a supportive culture, building strong networks, and implementing relevant policies are paramount. These elements provide crucial support during moments of doubt or uncertainty, ensuring that women can navigate their paths with confidence and resilience.

With this in mind, we are working hard to empower and support our incredible SailGP leaders in underrepresented areas, such as Michaella McCloskey – our Technical Team Director. She is an unsung heroine! Michaella is onsite at every global event, managing a team of 90+ dedicated individuals within the Tech Team responsible for the building and maintenance of SailGP’s ten F50 catamarans and Technical Site. They are the ones that make the events happen. She oversees and manages daily site scheduling, on-water race operations, managing crane schedules, safety and much more in a high pressure and historically non inclusive career path. She is pioneering and showing other women what's possible, but of course pushing boundaries isn’t easy and it takes a lot of resilience and passion to overcome challenges and find the way through.

Hannah and Fi

A key aspect of this journey lies in the significance of establishing a robust network, particularly emphasizing the importance of women supporting one another. This interconnected support system not only fosters individual growth but also serves as a source of inspiration for others. As part of this vision, working with our partner Apex Group we launched the Women’s Accelerator Program which has this very element built into the core. The initiative supports our younger female leaders with male and female mentors who guide, with sponsors who open doors, and to accelerate that peer-to-peer support culture.

Empowerment goes beyond mentorship – it necessitates systemic change.

Creating this framework allows us at SailGP to start building a culture which listens, grows and then establishes policies and practices which support women in work. By putting that real purpose at the forefront – we aim to attract and retain the best talent. For instance, while it may not be a topic commonly addressed, we take pride in recently launching and implementing a menopause policy. This initiative was carefully crafted through listening to our female workforce, consultation with experts and a comprehensive understanding of the evolving needs of our female workforce, all aimed at swiftly putting our commitment into meaningful action. And why is that important? In the UK, women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing sector – corporations that fail to anticipate this shift will lose out. They may find themselves unable to attract talent and retain them.

We are committed to making a broader impact within the sport itself. Through initiatives like our Women’s Pathway, we are striving to create gender equity on the water where female athletes race alongside their male counterparts in our elite teams as we are better together. This Season has seen the first-ever all-female training sessions take place hosted by the Switzerland SailGP Team in Dubai and Emirates Great Britain Team in Abu Dhabi, with additional plans in place to continue this forward momentum for our female athletes.

While everyone at SailGP will rightfully take this moment to celebrate International Women’s Day and showcase our amazing female workforce, we also take this time to review what we can do better. It's a time for us to assess how we can lead the charge in fostering openness, supportiveness, and connectivity within our organizational culture – and accelerate those changes.

Fi headshot