Community Equality Level The Playing Field Meet The Team

What Can We Learn From ‘Level The Playing Field’?

April 16, 2021

On the week we held the global forum, ‘Level The Playing Field’ alongside the International Tennis Federation, iSportConnect’s Meet The Team piece comes from our Community Manager, Bethany Hushon, looking at some of the themes from the event.

As some of our community members may be aware, a passion of mine is “women in sport” and working towards more gender equality not just across women’s sport, but women in sport and the business of sport. This has been the foundation of my current part-time PhD with Loughborough University London –

So imagine my joy when iSportConnect were given the great responsibility to work with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) on a Global Forum titled ‘Level the Playing Field’, highlighting their research exploring gender equality in the media. The event provided an opportunity to discuss the landscape around women’s sport to gather an understanding of the key issues and constraints and how we can all come together to empower positive change. The incredible line-up across different backgrounds and perspectives showed why we all have a responsibility to create positive change for gender equality. 

Progress has been made for gender equality, yet so much more needs to be done. Over the past year, especially with sport restarting after the pandemic, it has highlighted that although women’s sport has made strides over the years, there are still barriers and restrictions, especially with many in society still having a socio-political outlook and negative perception. It is a reflection of education and culture, yet we can challenge these stigma to create accessibility for all.

The ITF’s research even highlights how there is even an imbalance in online searches when looking at Tennis:

• Overall, there are unbalanced search results in Google 

• Only 6/50 search results are women if you Google the ‘top 50 tennis players’ (Data true as of 31.03.21) 

• ‘Tennis players’ delivers male results; or usually call out ‘women’s tennis’ for female results 

• Different visual focus for women’s media coverage than men’s – more likely to highlight family and off-court activity


What can be done to influence and empower change? Education and culture starts from the boardroom and the organisers of these sporting events. How can you make changes for gender equality on the court/pitch if there isn’t gender equality in the workplace. Showcasing more role models in both topics of sport for women by highlighting opportunities for women in participation and business, which the research demonstrates isn’t the case with online searches. Where is the visibility? 

Women themselves also need to have that self-belief that they belong in sports and take the resistance as a positive, and a wall to break through. Billie Jean King highlighted on Monday that men are told to follow the money, and women should too, this is just as powerful to generate growth in sports. We as women have the responsibility to also empower other women. Kirsty Coventry highlighted that some women have worked so hard to get to a top management position that they follow the norm in their role, instead of empowering other women and influencing positive change. A sense of all the hard work has been done to get there and now it is time to stop breaking barriers. These women have had to fight so hard to get the opportunity they deserve so that the legacy can pave the way for the next generation.

The sports industry is moving at such a fast rate with commercial values increasing, the rise of demand for digital content and adapting to the current global climate with future physical events. With these factors, doing nothing to level out gender equality can leave you behind and have a detrimental effect on the other areas of the sports business you’re part of. It is moving forward in the right way instead of going backwards by applying the same approaches. Angela Ruggiero’s point that we should be pushing boundaries and not be comfortable with the status quo was echoed by the audience at the event, at all levels we are leaders and have a responsibility to empower change and challenge the norms. 

“If you are not changing you are going to be left behind. It’s as simple as that.” – Kelly Fairweather, COO, International Tennis Federation.

As a woman who has worked in the sports business industry for nearly six years now, I have continuously come across barriers due to my gender. Particularly a difference in how I am spoken to/managed and gaining the same respect as my male counterparts. And as Kirsty stated, this can be from women too.

Angela’s phrase #manbassadors definitely rang true, men having the power and wanting to be leaders for change for women, showing what real leadership is. All we can do is learn from these experiences and use these frustrations as a positive light and passion point to fight for equality. Talking about these challenges in the first step, establishing solutions and coming together collectively as an industry to tackle to norm is next to Level the Playing Field’.

As Editor for the ITF, Jamie Renton stated – Male or female, the stage is ours. Step up, stand up, speak up. –

Watch the event back in full

Community Equality Level The Playing Field Meet The Team