Level the playing field

From left are Professor Shirley Zinn, Tennis SA CEO Richard Glover, Fran Hamilton-Smith and Boxing SA Women's Committee member Zandi Kabini at the Women in Sport Summit.
Empower women. This was the overall message at the Women in Sport Summit which was held at the Belmont Square in Rondebosch on Thursday August 16.

Author and transformation specialist Professor Shirley Zinn gave the keynote speech.

Professor Zinn, who grew up in Steenberg and started out as a teacher, stressed the importance of supportive teachers.

She urged young children who are interested in sport to find mentors.

“Surround yourself with people who can uplift and inspire you.”

She also urged women to help each other.

“Try and make a difference in the lives of other people. Live your life with meaning and purpose.”

The event had several speakers from various sporting codes.

Fran Hamilton-Smith, who’s an assistant technical director at SAFA Women’s Football, shared her experience with Banyana Banyana.

She has travelled all over the world and helped develop women coaches throughout the African continent.

But, she said: “Girls’ football is still not as developed as boys football.”

Banyana Banyana have a proven track record. They’re doing far better than Bafana Bafana, but they only have one sponsor, Sasol.

“Why don’t companies that make women’s products support women’s sport? They make money by selling hair and everything that women buy and yet they’re not giving back.”

Speaker after speaker agreed that more needs to be done to support women in sport.

They all agreed that South Africa has come a long way, but more needs to be done.

CEO of Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) Dr Phathokuhle Zondi focused on the vast pay gap between female and male athletes.

Dr Zondi thanked the men who attended the summit, saying they needed to be part of the solution.

“This is an important conversation because gender disparity does exist. Gender inequality is associated with slow economic growth.”

She also highlighted that women were underrepresented in sport governing bodies.

“How do we change the landscape? We need targeted recruitment and promotion of females.”  

CEO of National Horse Racing Authority Lyndon Barends said sport was business and that companies needed to change their cultures in order to be fully transformed.

Mr Barends admitted that his industry was still not transformed and that women were particularly underrepresented. He urged women to demand inclusion. 

“Don’t feel like I’m lucky to be here. Demand respect.”

Women who work in sport were also represented. Rosella Marrai-Ricco, who’s the head of social media at Soccer Laduma, spoke about her love for football.


She said it was good to see more women getting into the industry.

“There’s progress but we still have a long way to go. Females in the industry are questioned all the time. You have to work twice as hard to prove that you deserve to be in the same press conferences as men.”

Ms Marrai-Ricco also advised up and coming female sport reporters to read the work of their colleagues in order to improve. And to put in the hours.