Women's Accelerator Program // Member spotlight: Barbara Szkutnik

At the start of 2024, SailGP and its Exclusive Financial Solutions Partner, Apex Group, launched the global sporting league’s first ever Women’s Accelerator Program. Having signed a new three-year sponsorship deal in June 2023, SailGP and Apex Group have worked together to bring the latter’s change-making Women’s Accelerator Program into the world of sport for the first time. The program aims to increase representation of women at senior management levels, working towards driving more inclusive decision making through the league and the wider sport.

Throughout the course of the program, SailGP will spotlight it's twelve members of the inaugural class of 2024 to get to know the aspiring future female leaders. To kick off the series, we start with Barbara Szkutnik, Financial Accountant at SailGP.

Can you share with us your journey into the world of finance and how you became involved with SailGP?

Back in 2015, I was working in the hospitality industry, serving coffee to locals at a little shop. One of our regulars, who seemed to have a knack for spotting potential, suggested that I consider diving into accounting, because my Master's Degree from Poland apparently hinted at some pretty handy transferable skills. So, I decided to take the plunge and enroll in an Accounting Technician Course (AAT). A month later, I landed myself an unpaid internship at a Polish accounting practice in Ealing. It was a bit of a hustle juggling my regular job and the internship, but after three months I got my first official accounting job as an Accounting Assistant. Towards the end of 2022, I found myself on the hunt for a new role, mainly to dial down on the business travel for personal reasons. Since I was already in the sport events scene, I wanted to stay in the industry. One day, as I scrolled through LinkedIn, a role at SailGP caught my eye. I dove into the company's profile and I started thinking - this was the place for me. The company's values aligned with mine, and in that moment, I knew I had to be a part of the team.

What does your day to day look like? What are the specific roles and responsibilities you undertake within SailGP?

My primary responsibility entails leading the audit procedures for the entire global Group. On a daily basis, I focus on enhancing existing accounting processes, offering guidance to other departments on accounting matters, and providing integral support to both the Finance Team and Senior Leadership.

Barbara WAP feature

As a woman working in a predominantly male-dominated industry, what challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?

Navigating a male-dominated industry as a woman definitely comes with its fair share of challenges. One hurdle I've encountered throughout my experience in multiple roles is sometimes feeling like my voice isn't given the same weight as my male counterparts'. However, I've found that confidence, expertise, and assertiveness go a long way in earning respect and being heard. By staying true to my abilities, speaking up when necessary, and consistently delivering top-notch work, I've been able to overcome these challenges and carve out my place in the industry. It's all about owning your worth and refusing to be underestimated.

In your opinion, what unique perspectives or strengths do women bring to the world of sport and to SailGP in particular?

Women bring a diverse range of perspectives and strengths to the world of sport, including SailGP. One notable aspect is their ability to foster collaboration and teamwork. Women often excel in communication and emotional intelligence, which are essential for effective crew dynamics in sailing. Additionally, their attention to detail and strategic thinking can contribute to innovative approaches in racing tactics and problem-solving on the water. Moreover, the presence of women in SailGP helps create a more inclusive and diverse environment, which ultimately enhances the sport's growth and appeal to a broader audience. Overall, women's contributions bring a valuable balance of skills and perspectives that enrich the sport and make it more vibrant and competitive.

Now a few months into the Women's Accelerator Program, what have been some of the successes from the program so far?

A few months into the Women's Accelerator Program, I've already witnessed several noteworthy successes. Firstly, participants have made significant strides in their personal and professional development, honing their skills and expanding their knowledge base. Through workshops, mentorship, and networking opportunities, I have gained valuable insights and resources to propel my careers forward. Moreover, the program has fostered a strong sense of community among participants, creating a supportive environment where women can share experiences, exchange ideas, and offer each other encouragement. Additionally, the Women's Accelerator Program has facilitated meaningful connections with industry leaders and stakeholders, opening doors to new opportunities and collaborations.

What specific goals or aspirations do you hope to achieve through your involvement in the accelerator program?

Firstly, I aim to further develop my leadership skills and enhance expertise in my field. I hope to leverage the resources and mentorship provided by the program to accelerate my career progression and unlock new opportunities for advancement. Additionally, I aspire to expand my professional network and cultivate meaningful connections with fellow participants and industry leaders. I am eager to contribute to and learn from the collaborative environment fostered by the program, with the ultimate goal of driving positive change and empowerment for women in the industry. Overall, my participation in the accelerator program is driven by a desire to grow personally and professionally, while also making a meaningful impact on the broader community.

What are you most looking forward to getting out of this program?

I'm most looking forward to getting the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. I'm excited to learn from experienced mentors and industry leaders, gaining insights and perspectives that will help me advance in my career. Additionally, I'm eager to connect with other ambitious women in the program, forming a supportive network of like-minded individuals who can provide guidance and encouragement along the way.