How Diverse is the Sport of Sailing?



Is Diversity a problem for Sailing?

Future America's Cup Fans? How does sailing score on diversity?

An interesting little story from TeamGaebler preparing for the first act of the Extreme Sailing Series in Oman, prompted us to think again about the diversity of the sport of sailing. It’s a topic that bubbling away under the surface with Carolijn Brouwer tweeting yesterday:

The 34thAC (#ac34) seems very Male dominated. Applaud #ISAF for at least working towards gender equality.

While young girls from Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, UAE and Saudi Arabia visit the Extreme Series, it’s hard to see the America’s Cup having similar representation of women at the top as happens in the Olympics or offshore sailing.

Next week, the Davies review will report to the uk government on the representation of women on boards of the UK’s top companies.

Lord Davies is expected to argue that there is a material effect on the bottom line from a lack of diversity in leadership and decision making positions.

The sport of sailing lends itself to being one where gender can be largely irrelevant when it comes to athletic success. Indeed, many of the most world’s most recognisable sailors are women – think dame Ellen Mcarthur, Dee Caffari, Anna tuncliffe or Shirley Robertson.

Yet at the top of the administration of the sport, and in the corridors of power, diversity is lacking. The same old white (and in some cases white haired) men hark back to a time when women were expected to use a different staircase in the yacht club (if they were admitted at all)

The authors of a new book – Your Loss: How to Win Back Your Female Talent, launched to coincide with the Davies report, also argue that organisations can suffer financial losses by not having diverse opinions considered when making decisions.

The book argues that losing top female talent is a massive waste of investment in training and development as well and increases recruitment costs over time.

With women responsible for more than 80% of buying decisions, companies in the marine industry who ignore the trends will lose out to those who adopt more progressive strategies.

While the Davies review is not expected to recommend quotas for female representation on boards, the report will focus the attention of shareholders on the diversity of the people making decisons.

Sailing’s stakeholders should ask the same questions. Who are the people making decisions? Who do they represent? Are opportunities being lost because of groupthink that never looks at a decision from another point of view?