Last year, SportsPro launched NEW ERA, a year-round programme and community designed to recognise, support and advocate for a new era of gender equality and representation within the international sports industry.
Over the past 12 months, 24 of the 26 members across the class of 2022/23 and Steering Group have been involved in SportsPro editorial content, while 18 have spoken at SportsPro’s in-person events across the globe.
With applications for the 2023/24 NEW ERA programme now open, SportsPro asked some of the inaugural class members to reflect on their involvement in the initiative, how it’s helped their personal development, and what opportunities it has created.
Ojonoka Agudah, Head, Legal & Women’s Sports, Integral
Allie Dinsmore, VP, Strategy and New Business Development, Professional Fighters League
Michelle Goulty, Head of Fan Journey, Integrated Fan Experience, City Football Group
Laura McDonnell, EU Sponsorship Manager, Amazon
Lorraine Moalosi, Head of PR and Communications, Data Talks
Helen Praz, Director, Content Operations and Media Rights, Football Marketing Asia
Sahaj Shah, Product and UX/UI Designer, Areto Labs
Charlie Sizer, Global Partnerships Manager, DAZN
Hana Taji, Director of Purpose, SixFive Sports & Entertainment
Shikha Tandon, Director, Partnerships, Svexa
How do you reflect on being part of the inaugural NEW ERA class of 2022?
Hana Taji: This programme has been nourishing and reinforced my belief in the power of sport. It has been heartening to learn from so many impressive and kind women who are positive forces in their networks. This opportunity is a great privilege and I trust this class will apply what we’ve learned and pay it forward to other women and non-binary professionals making their way up in the industry who seek connection and support, just like we did.
Laura McDonnell: I feel really lucky to have been part of the inaugural NEW ERA class. This happened at such a great time for me as I began a new role, and it’s been a real privilege to be supported by the SportsPro community, be mentored by the steering group, take part in the events, and possibly most of all get to know my fellow class members.
Michelle Goulty: I felt it came at the perfect time in my professional journey as I was looking to take my next career step. It has been a privilege to connect with such inspirational women across the industry and globe, both within the cohort and the steering committee.
SportsPro Live in London, where I had a chance to meet many of the group face to face, was a particular highlight. I also enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone and leading – alongside Shikha Tandon and Yin Khoo – a NEW ERA Connect session about impostor syndrome.
Sahaj Shah: Every single person in the cohort and steering group is doing amazing work, and there’s something to learn from each of them. It’s been an honour just to be selected in the same group!
What has been a personal highlight from your involvement in NEW ERA?
Allie Dinsmore: The relationships that the programme has facilitated. The connections with the Steering Group have been incredible, and I feel truly lucky to count my fellow cohort members as friends. I know I will continue to turn to them all in the future for professional and personal support.
Charlie Sizer: Being part of a positive, supportive and experienced community of women that have provided guidance, advice and encouragement during so many important moments throughout the last year.
Helen Praz: Meeting and speaking with the incredibly inspiring and talented women in the programme – from one-to-one sessions with the mentors to catching up with the mentees, and then even having the opportunity to meet some of them face to face in London. This has been such a great opportunity to build meaningful connections and learn from some of the best in the business. I have really appreciated being part of a network of women who are all here to lift each other up – in such a small and competitive industry this is refreshing!
Ojonoka Agudah: It definitely has to be moderating the first in-person NEW ERA connect session at SportsPro Live in London! Looking into the crowd and seeing my fellow cohort members cheering me on, along with members of the Steering Group sitting front row and telling me at the end of the session how proud they are, was a major highlight for me.
NEW ERA class member Ashlea Block (centre) speaks with SportsPro’s Milly Miller-Adams and Katie Preston
How have you benefitted from the programme and what skills has it helped you to develop?
Allie Dinsmore: I have learned so much thanks to the approach SportsPro has taken to the programme by encouraging candid conversations and true information sharing. It has been invaluable to connect one-on-one with the Steering Group members, who have successfully navigated their career paths to the top of our industry.
NEW ERA has also made it possible for me to attend multiple SportsPro conferences this year, including participating as a panelist and moderator. Women at my level are too often passed over for these opportunities, but SportsPro has gone above and beyond to live up to their promise to elevate the voices of NEW ERA participants.
Charlie Sizer: I never thought I would have been on a panel at SportsPro Live but the team have been so supportive and encouraged us to take up speaking opportunities throughout the year on panels, podcasts and in interviews. It’s had such a positive ripple effect by building the confidence and courage to get involved, from developing coping mechanisms to building a more visible external profile and a stronger network of incredible people in the industry.
Helen Praz: The programme helped me build self-confidence in talking about myself and my work – the highs and especially the lows. Although it sounds quite straightforward, celebrating my successes and achievements as well as reflecting on my struggles and failures has not come easy to me. The NEW ERA programme helps foster such a safe and comfortable space to encourage open dialogue, which led to me opening up about some of my biggest career challenges during one of the online NEW ERA connect sessions.
Lorraine Moalosi: I think having access to the mentors has been the biggest benefit. But also, the editorial piece I got to do was retweeted by the commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League so I got a platform to share some of my thoughts. I also benefited by gaining a community of peers who are very well-versed in what they do and are super supportive of each other. The programme has helped me hone my confidence, in a nutshell. And that has been a huge blessing.
Shikha Tandon: As my career evolves, having conversations with these inspirational women in leadership roles has enabled me to start thinking about my own journey forward. Many of the mentors have worked in roles and industries different to mine, and this has also allowed me to gain different perspectives on leadership styles.
Class member Charlie Sizer (centre) speaks on-stage at the first-ever NEW ERA Open Day at SportsPro Live
What have you learned from your engagement with the NEW ERA steering group and wider community?
Hana Taji: The future of sport is promising if communities like this continue to grow and women like those involved continue rising in their leadership and influence. What struck me the most was the prevalence of abundance mindsets. There seemed to be a shared belief that the sports industry still has much more to offer its existing stakeholders, as well as the societies and environments it impacts through its operations.
Laura McDonnell: That there is so much commonality in the experiences of women in the sport industry, and the more connected we are the more we can support each other.
Sahaj Shah: Having come into sport from a different professional background, it’s been valuable to connect with steering group mentors who have entered the sports industry later in their careers and get their advice on navigating it – especially as a woman of colour. The support and encouragement I’ve received from them has helped me understand the value I bring from a different perspective and that I do belong here, even though I didn’t begin my career in sport.
Michelle Goulty: None of us are alone in the challenges we face. There is so much common ground between women working in sport and entertainment all over the world, so many transferable learnings and experiences. My engagement with the NEW ERA steering group has given me the confidence to be bolder, braver, and more direct, whilst retaining my naturally very collaborative leadership and working style.
Which aspects of the programme have been most valuable to you?
Hana Taji: The opportunity to connect with industry leaders from different sectors and sports in both group and one-on-one environments was invaluable. The Steering Group shared their insights and lived experiences with such candour and generosity that it made bonding and learning happen quickly. I gained a lot from their career reflections on leadership, industry trends and how they navigated personal challenges and business opportunities.
Sahaj Shah: No matter where you are in your career, having SportsPro’s reach, support and credibility behind you can really accelerate your growth. In my case, every speaking and media opportunity gave me the chance to improve on different things, while growing my presence in an industry I really love.
Laura McDonnell: The mentoring. There is such a breadth of knowledge and experience amongst the steering group and the opportunity to access and learn from so many of them could not have been possible without a programme like NEW ERA.
Michelle Goulty: The mentorship from the Steering Group, who have been very generous with their time, guidance and insights, something I’ve found invaluable as I’ve transitioned into a new role at City Football Group this year.
The NEW ERA Connect sessions have also been a valuable way to meet members of the wider NEW ERA community and delve deeper into key topics.
What would you say to someone who is considering applying for next year’s NEW ERA programme?
Allie Dinsmore: Apply! It has been a privilege to be part of NEW ERA, and there is no doubt that it has expanded my network, career opportunities, and overall industry exposure. I cherish the relationships I’ve built as a result of this programme and the long-term benefits that it will bring to my career.
Charlie Sizer: Do it, throw yourself into it and do the things that make you feel uncomfortable! You have a whole support network around you to back you.
Shikha Tandon: I would definitely recommend the programme as it’s an opportunity to connect with and speak to very accomplished and motivated women in the industry, and a unique opportunity to customise your learning and conversations based on your individual goals and journey.
Helen Praz: Go for it – apply and make sure you stay true to yourself when submitting your application. NEW ERA is all about helping empower women in business and lifting each other up so make sure you voice what you are looking to get out of the programme. And if you are not selected, know that there are still NEW ERA connect sessions which you can join to build your network, hear about and discuss topical subjects.
Ojonoka Agudah: I would say go for it! It’s truly refreshing being surrounded by people who understand and have had or have similar challenges in their career journey. Being a part of a group of women from across the world all genuinely rooting for each other’s success is something you get to experience!
Lorraine Moalosi: I love working on projects so I would say to identify a specific project you would like to work on during the entire duration of the programme. For example, one of my mentors and I called 2023 my “year of braveness”, so I had to do practical things to demonstrate this braveness.
The programme goes so quickly that sometimes it might be hard to capture everything. But if someone dedicates themselves to a specific project that they can work on with the mentors, then they will have something long-lasting to refer back to once the programme is over.