By Sarah Whittaker, Co-head, Women of Ogilvy

We were lucky enough to welcome a group of ‘sheroes’ into Sea Containers last week for the Women of Ogilvy “Breaking Boundaries” Women in Sports event.

The event kicked off the “Breaking Boundaries” series from Women of Ogilvy, a professional network of women (and men) championing diversity and inclusion within our workplace and industry. Knowing that you can’t be what you can’t see, in this series Women of Ogilvy look to the experience of leaders across different industries to motivate and inspire.

Sport opens to the door to confidence, communication, leadership skills and much more. The panel came together to discuss how what it takes to win at sport can also help us win at work, and what role brands can play in empowering future leaders.

Our panel, moderated by Ogilvy UK Chief Marketing Officer Nina Jasinski, included Anna Kessel MBE, Guardian Journalist, Author and Sports Equality Activist; Isa Guha, England Women’s Cricketer and TV Presenter and Broadcast Commentator for BBC, Sky and Fox; Harriet Killen, Comms and Community Champion for This Fan Girl, a digital online community dedicated to female football supporters and Marzena Bogdanowicz, The FA’s Head of Commercial and Marketing for Women’s Football. 

We covered everything from leadership, to overcoming challenges in the face of criticism or failure and to how we make sure girls aren’t afraid to embrace sport. We’ve pulled out some of the key takeaways from this inspiring discussion.

Don’t let perception limit participation

Whether it’s a job in sports or marketing and communications, our panel agreed that a perception about what we ‘should do’ and who we ‘should be’ often gets in the way of women’s participation and progression. Many of the panelists faced criticism and barriers for the sometimes unusual and groundbreaking career paths they chose. But their advice was to ignore the haters, focus on your ability and drive to get what you want. Every industry should celebrate a diversity of talent and welcome participation from all walks of life – that is what makes a workplace great and clients happy. When it comes to getting involved in sports, our panelists reminded us that physical activity can actually be fun so do something that makes you happy rather than puts you through a world of pain (6.15 spin classes spring to mind).

Lean on others

So much of sport and appreciating sport is about fostering a sense of togetherness and community. The same goes for any workplace. Working together can drive confidence, cohesiveness and help us to see things from a range of perspectives. More importantly it can help us to solve problems for both ourselves and our clients. Family and friends often provide the encouragement and advice we need, too.

Break boundaries by going where others haven’t gone before

When embarking on a new path, professional or otherwise, it can seem extremely daunting not to have role models to follow. Our panelists have shown that you need to trust your own ability to break down those barriers, and embrace them, too. Your actions could be the catalyst for many others to achieve what they never believed they could.

Brands have a role to play in the future of women’s sport

There is huge opportunity for brands to harness women’s sport. With cost effective partnerships ripe for picking, there’s first mover advantage for brands taking the plunge into this relatively new and fast-growing market. As with all partnerships, brands must ensure authenticity; each of our panelists agreed that this is the most consideration factor for any partnership – fans and media can see right through something that isn’t genuine.


There's more from Women of Ogilvy as they discuss the importance of women's networks here.