Women's Accelerator Program // Member spotlight: Katja Salskov-Iversen

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. Next up is Katja Salskov-Iversen, ROCKWOOL Denmark SailGP Team's Strategist.

Can you share with us your journey into sailing and how you became involved with SailGP?

I started sailing the Optimist when I was a young girl, only 8 years old. I probably started because my parents were sailors, but in my mind, it was solely on my own initiative ;). I always loved sailing, especially the competition and the social aspect of it. After I decided to quit 49er sailing in 2018, I wanted to try out other sailing opportunities, but nothing really stuck. I was almost thinking of quitting and starting my civil career, until I heard about Women's Pathway in SailGP. We had a selection process in Denmark, and I have now been a part of SailGP since March 2021.

What does your day to day look like over a SailGP event weekend? What are the specific roles and responsibilities you undertake as part of the ROCKWOOL Denmark team?

We normally get a schedule the evening before, so we know exactly when to be where. The days are often structured around crane-in times. My day starts with a morning coffee, some meditation and mental prep, a short warm-up with a run/stretch/swim. Then a good breakfast with the team and off to the SailGP Tech Site. We prep the F50, crane it in, and depending on racing times, we are in a hurry or have a bit of a break. We use this time to brief and prep for the day. We often have some Tech Tours and commercial activities, which I am often a part of. I do like to entertain and show our world to the people that want to hear about it.

Around two hours before race start, we change to race gear, warm up, play some loud, semi-good tunes (or not-so-good tunes) to get us in the mood, and head to the F50. Here we do sailors' checks, signing off on the boat and making sure everything works. Every athlete is responsible for their own area of functions. We race, and then we do everything in reverse. When the boat is up, washed and ready for the next day, we eat dinner and go home. Often we have an evening event with sponsors that we attend. We are often home between 8-10pm. If we have the time, I love to do some evening activities with the team, like a swim in the pool. I aim for 9 hours of sleep!

Katja Women's Accelerator

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

It's challenging to be the only woman in a male-dominated industry. The pressure to fit in can be strong. I find myself observing the guys and subconsciously mimicking their behavior, even though it might not be entirely me. Now, I'm consciously trying to stay true to myself and bring my unique feminine perspective to the table. It's not always easy, but I believe diversity is a strength. By being my authentic self and utilizing all my skills, I can make a positive impact.

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

Firstly, the increasing participation of women in sports enriches the entire athlete pool. This automatically raises the competitive level while also increase diversity, dynamism, and ultimately, greater success.

Historically excluded from professional sports, women have had to fight for change. We understand the need to constantly prove ourselves and earn acceptance. Because we differ from men, what's considered "right" often needs redefining. This has resulted in more creativity and innovation. We've had to be smarter, adapting to potential physical disadvantages. We put on a show to attract spectators. We excel in business, networking, and socializing to secure necessary funding. The lack of easy paths has forced us to develop a wider skillset to secure a place in professional sports.

Women bring many qualities. A prominent one, in my experience, is challenging traditional, sometimes toxic, aspects of sports culture. We push for inclusivity, fair play, and a more holistic approach to athlete well-being. It's often easier for us to integrate feminine values, which creates a safer environment. Communication and collaboration become central, building strong team dynamics and leadership styles that prioritise supporting each other.

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

I'm a big fan of women's communities. I believe they build strength in all of us women. We need to create more of these communities because there aren't many out there. We need to focus on building strong collaborations with women. By supporting each other through recommendations, mentorship, and shared resources, we can all become stronger and more used to successful environments with many women. I can already feel the power of having a supportive network within SailGP. The program itself is great because it creates a healthy pressure to take action in areas where we want to improve. I've already used my Sponsor, which is a fantastic opportunity to get targeted support in areas I need it most. The program truly rewards your investment of time. The more I put in, the more I get out of it.

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

I'm excited to develop my skills in targeted areas through this program. I also look forward to being inspired by the other women and drawing on the collective knowledge within the group. In turn, I hope to offer inspiration and support to others on their journeys. Being surrounded by strong women is incredibly motivating, and I can already feel the strength within this program!

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

This program offers a perfect environment for me to develop the skills I want to focus on. I'm excited to learn from and be inspired by the other strong women here, and collaborate to share knowledge and empower each other. Being surrounded by such a supportive network is incredibly motivating, and I know I'll gain a lot from giving back and supporting others on their journeys as well.

In case you missed it, catch up on the previous member spotlight Barbara Szkutnik, here.