I have just returned from the 5th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Women in Sport forum that was hosted by the US Olympic Committee (USOC) in Los Angeles. There were over 800 participants from 140 countries gathered to meet in the city that hosted the Olympic Games in 1984.

“Together, stronger” was the theme of the conference. The speakers topics were diverse ranging from HRH of Jordon and how they have formed peace for sport organisations in the Middle East to the CEO of Proctor & Gamble (P&G) and how they are using their products in thanking the mothers who support sport and therefore encouraging those mothers to get their daughters into sport. I spoke about using athletes commissions as a vehicle to bring woman through to leadership in sport organisations and the IOC’s Athletes Career program where we are building the “complete athlete”.

On the field of play woman represent up to 48% of competitors with London being the first games where woman can compete in every discipline. Although it is to be noted that men don’t compete in synchronised swimming. And to date there are only 3 National Olympic Committees that have never had female representation at a games (all middle east countries).

My highlight was Geena Davis (actress and former athlete – archery) spoke about the media and how they play a huge role in forming perceptions and behaviours from the lack of female cartoon hero’s to the lack of air time in the US for woman’s sport which has fallen from 4% to 1% in the last few years!!! There is much work to be done here in all countries. Especially as one of the fastest growing markets out there is woman in sport and woman are the biggest consumers. Geena was highly entertaining and had fantastic research and solutions to share.

I couldn’t help feel proud and lucky as here in NZ I have grown up with the perception girls can do anything and competed in a sport where girls and boys could compete on an even playing field so I never really met the prejudice that some woman face in trying to become a top sports person. I also grew up with woman as our leaders from the queen to the governor general, prime minister and our CEO of yachting back when I started competing was female. So I always felt there were no obstacles to what I wanted to achieve.

Today in New Zealand we are still short of female representation on boards and leadership in the corporate and sporting worlds. Change does take time but there is enough research out there now to prove that balance and diversity on boards is beneficial for the performance of the organisation, so it is just a matter of time before more woman have the willingness and confidence to put their hands up and stand up!