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A two-way learning experience and confidence in the future: The NEW ERA Steering Group reflects on 2022/23

With applications now open for the second year of NEW ERA, SportsPro asks members of the Steering Group, including individuals at the NBA, ATP Media and the RFU, for their takeaways from 2022/23.

18 August 2023 SportsPro

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It’s nearly one year since SportsPro launched NEW ERA, a year-round programme and community established with the aim of recognising, supporting and advocating for a new era of gender equality and representation within the international sports industry.

Over the past 12 months, the NEW ERA class of 2022/23 has featured prominently in SportsPro editorial content and at SportsPro’s in-person events across the globe. The class members have also been able to lean on the advice and support of an esteemed Steering Group, which comprises executives at organisations such as Fifa, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and ATP Media, as well as the Premier League, World Table Tennis and the Olympic Channel.

With applications for the 2023/24 NEW ERA programme now open, SportsPro asked members of the Steering Group for their reflections on their involvement in the initiative, what they have learned from their interactions with each other and the class members, and what impact they believe NEW ERA has had in its inaugural year.

The contributors

Andi Chu, Vice President and Editor in Chief, Tennis Channel
Sue Day, Chief Operating and Financial Officer, Rugby Football Union
Sharon Fuller, Associate Vice President, National Basketball Association
Gabrielle Guedj, Commercial Director, ATP Media
Raven Jemison, Executive Vice President, Business Operations, Milwaukee Bucks
Jenny Mitton, Director, Sports, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment
Fiona Morgan, Chief Purpose Officer, SailGP

What’s your number one takeaway from being involved in the NEW ERA programme this year?

Sharon Fuller: My number one takeaway is just how much really excellent female talent there is in our industry. But also, the power of that network when it all comes together, with the new generation combined with our more experienced group, is really something. It has also been fascinating that many of the challenges have been really similar or relatable no matter which area people work in, and I wish I had had access to an initiative like this when I was earlier in my career.

Raven Jemison: The value that the up-and-coming talent in our industry will add to the future of sport is immense. There is no shortage of great ideas, energy or ambition. I got as much out of engaging with this group as they hopefully did. It gave me hope that the conversations about being “the only” in sport will no longer be the main topic in the future. Instead, we can focus on the work that we do and the value we add to our respective roles/organisations.

Fiona Morgan: Women in sport still need support and champions. Although the gap is closing, there are still so many barriers and challenges that are the same as when I was starting out. The growth of women’s sport is on an upward trajectory but what’s lacking is the consistent support, funding and time dedicated to making it impactful and successful in the long term.

For me, it’s all about walking the talk and action rather than simply having conversations, which is equally as important, but progress tends to halt any further than discussions.

Jenny Mitton: My number one takeaway has been that we have some exciting female leaders coming through the industry. It’s given me a lot of confidence in the future of our industry, and I can see every member of the cohort making their mark and creating positive change.

Sue Day: That there are so many wonderfully talented young women in our industry. The future is very bright indeed!

How have you found the experience of mentoring the class of 2022?

Andi Chu: Mentoring the class of 2022 has been a rewarding experience. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to connect with these talented women. I have enjoyed listening to their personal journeys and learning from them!

Sharon Fuller: It has been really rewarding, but also tough because I remember how it felt to be in their position and dealing with some of the challenges they have found themselves up against. Hopefully I’ve helped them learn from my mistakes and laugh a little along the way by putting a different perspective on some situations.

I always enjoy listening to the perspectives of other women from different work, personal backgrounds and geographies, and this is a really intelligent and talented group. Aside from learning about what our group do (and the businesses and roles they work in are really varied) I have enjoyed getting to know them as people and have appreciated their openness to share and their honesty.

Gabrielle Guedj: I have educated myself on the variety of issues our mentees experience, and I was humbled by the ambition and desire to succeed that links them all.

I believe that this community will flourish in years to come. Women supporting women is a powerful thing.

Andi Chu, Vice President and Editor in Chief, Tennis Channel

Jenny Mitton: I’ve loved every minute of the mentoring sessions. The cohort work in a wide variety of roles in sectors and sports I don’t have experience in, so for me it’s been a two-way learning experience.

We’ve had some brilliant conversations. Addressing challenges has of course been at the heart of most of the conversations, but every member has come to the table with pragmatic ideas and solutions. Often you just need someone to be a sounding board who isn’t connected to your workplace to say ‘Yes, that’s a great idea. You should go for it.’

Fiona Morgan: It’s been truly inspiring. One of my biggest learnings over the course of my career is that giving back and helping others is so important. I have loved getting to know the mentees and have felt such energy and optimism from their approach and ambitions. I have extended my network and learned from them. Mentoring is a two-way street and the conversations I’ve had through this programme has challenged me to do more and think differently. I am very proud to be part of the programme and feel it will only go from strength to strength.

Sue Day: Number one word is: energising. It’s a wonderful development experience for me having conversations with people in parts of the industry and parts of the world that I otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to talk to.

Are there any new things you’ve learned from being part of the NEW ERA community?

Sharon Fuller: I think I have learned a lot too – including getting to know the mentor group better. It has brought us together and many of us I think will stay friends in the long term. The main thing I have learned is what a brilliant and supportive networking group women can be and how the opportunities available to all are elevated when we all work together in this way and outside of our usual groups.

We have an excellent generation of up-and-coming women here and I’m really excited to see what they all do over the coming years.

Andi Chu: The NEW ERA community has reaffirmed for me that there are smart and accomplished women making significant contributions in the sporting space. I am impressed by the diverse range of creative ideas and projects that are being pursued, and I am inspired by everyone’s unwavering commitment to innovate and leave their mark in this field.

Gabrielle Guedj: I now know that each of the mentors apply a different approach to communicating with the mentees and we all have a different way to support each individual – some of us are more structured, some are more comfortable in having an open free-flowing chat. It has made me realise that with all our different styles we bring different flavours and perspectives to our relationships with the mentees.

NEW ERA steering group member Fiona Morgan (left) speaking at SportsPro Live in 2022

What impact do you think the programme has had in its first year?

Raven Jemison: Connections. Getting to know these women and speaking to the work that they do, while also creating a network of support for them, was great.

Fiona Morgan: I think it’s really helped build a stronger and wider network for more women in sport. It has brought new contacts together and hopefully advanced more women in sport’s careers by giving them additional wisdom, guidance and a platform to be rightfully recognised by others.

Andi Chu: I am grateful to be in the programme’s inaugural year and believe that this community will flourish in years to come. Women supporting women is a powerful thing.

Gabrielle Guedj: It has provided a valuable support network with the mentors but also amongst the mentees themselves – they will now always be available to each other. I have seen some of the ladies grow in confidence through their increased online presence, and some have found the self-assurance to make career decisions as a result. Sounds like job well done.

Sue Day: I think the connections that people have made, and the energy that we have brought to each other, will prove to be very powerful.

Jenny Mitton: The number of applications for the 12 places shows that there’s a huge demand for programmes designed to support women in the sports industry. SportsPro NEW ERA has set out a blueprint on how we can support women through not only mentoring but by providing genuine opportunities through panels, podcasts and thought leadership articles.

I can’t wait to see how the programme evolves and, in the future, I’d love to see senior men in the industry get behind NEW ERA too.

Interested in being part of the NEW ERA class of 2023/24? Click here to find out more about the programme and click here to apply

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