Leading sportswomen inspire audience at Coram’s ‘Crossing the Line’ event

Published: Friday 9th December 2016

On 8 December, Coram held the latest event in its ‘Inspiring Women’ series at the Aon Centre. ‘Crossing the Line’ focused on the role of women in sport, which is finally beginning to achieve the recognition it deserves.

L-R Phil Clement, Chief Marketing Officer, AON, Dr Carol Homden, CBE, Chief Executive, Coram, panellists Fiona Ghatt, Sarah Outen, MBE, Francesca Brown and Niamh Briggs, and Annika Symonds, Executive Sponsor of AON's Women's International Network and Vice Chair of the Inspiring Women Committee

The event, attended by 100 guests, centred on a panel discussion hosted by Dr Carol Homden, CBE, Chief Executive of Coram.

The panel featured four exciting high-profile speakers who have been hugely successful in their fields: adventurer Sarah Outen, MBE, captain of the Irish Women’s Rugby Team Niamh Briggs, CEO of developmental programme Goals4Girls Francesca Brown, and Para Sailor Fiona Ghatt.

Aon’s Chief Marketing Officer and ambassador for Diversity and Inclusion, Phil Clement welcomed guests to the event, followed by comments from Annika Symonds, Executive Sponsor of Aon’s Women’s International Network and Vice Chair of the Inspiring Women Committee.

Competing on a level playing field

Carol Homden opened the discussion with the question: 'What will it take for women to compete on a level playing field in sport?' before inviting questions from the audience.

The panel reflected that whilst huge strides have been made in the awareness of women’s sport, there is still gender imbalance in terms of media exposure and sponsorship opportunities and within the school curriculum.

Sarah Outen described how early experiences and family attitudes to sport can be crucial in encouraging participation. Fiona Ghatt added that parents should encourage children to try all types of sport to find their niche and what they enjoy.

Francesca Brown highlighted the barriers young women often face in continuing sport, from educational pressures to concern over body image. Niamh Briggs explained the ‘mental burden’ young women can feel in choosing to play a sport they enjoy but fearing they will miss out on time with their friends. The panel agreed more needs to be done to ‘normalise’ sport and make it fun.

Role models

The panel discussed the importance of both male and female role models. Niamh Briggs shared how playing rugby alongside boys when she was younger boosted her self-confidence, and how she always strived to be seen as one of their peers.

Sarah Outen said that participation in sports where there are no barriers to inclusivity should be encouraged and sports should be integrated where possible. She also commented on the importance of actively seeking mentors and building a team. Francesca Brown added that having someone to encourage girls and celebrate their achievements was crucial for engaging them in sport.

When addressing the role of competition in women’s sport, the panellists felt it was important for young women to be told ‘it’s ok to win’, but at the same time, as Fiona Ghatt noted: "not to be afraid of failure". Francesca Brown’s advice was “anything is possible, never give up and remember that every obstacle faced is only temporary.”

Niamh Briggs concluded: “As women we often question ourselves and we don’t give ourselves enough credit. We need to embrace our abilities and remember we are stronger than we think.”

The evening also included a look back at women’s involvement in sport through the ages, and guest speaker Carol Harris, Coram’s Social History Editor, shared insights in to key milestones from women’s participation in riding and shooting in 1788 to the rise of women’s football during the First World War.

Women throughout Coram’s history

It was originally a petition in 1739 led by 21 pioneering women which helped to secure the creation of the Foundling Hospital, as Coram was originally known. Without it, Thomas Coram, the charity’s founder, might not have been granted the Royal Charter from King George II, which officially established it.

Through the Hospital’s creation, tens of thousands of abandoned children’s lives were saved. The role that these women played stands out as a crucially important aspect of Coram’s history.

Thank you to Aon, our host and sponsor for the event

Aon is the leading global provider of risk management services, insurance and human resource solutions. Aon is the official shirt sponsor of the Irish Women’s Rugby Team and official partner of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, Ireland 2017. We're proud to call the players our partners and support them as they join our mission to help our communities grow.

Diversity and inclusion is at the very foundation on which we have built Aon's world-class organisation, delivering distinctive value to our clients. We believe that by empowering colleagues to fully realise their potential, they can empower results for clients as they grapple with two of the most important issues in today's economy: risk and people.