Why deloitte is standing up for gender equality in sport | Deloitte UK has been saved
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Ulster Rugby’s Men’s and Women’s teams will wear the same home jersey design for the first time in the province’s history during the 20-21 season. Jackie Henry, office senior partner at Deloitte, talks about the company’s commitment as the lead sponsor of the Ulster Women’s Rugby team and explains why now is the time for everyone to take steps in the right direction for greater equality in sport.
According to World Rugby, women's rugby is growing faster (if not as fast) as men's rugby and it is estimated that by 2026 40% of the total number of rugby players will be female.
Thanks to a number of great initiatives, this statistic is being reflected locally within the domestic game, where female rugby is currently the fastest growing area of the sport in Ulster.
Ulster Rugby has played a fundamental role in helping to attract and retain female talent by providing them with new opportunities from a grassroots level upwards, including fun taster sessions for women who have never played before. The organisation took another symbolic step towards equality in the game when it announced that Ulster Rugby’s Men’s and Women’s teams will wear the same home jersey design for the first time in the province’s history this season.
The home jersey, worn by the Men’s Team in 2019/20, will continue for the 20-21 season while the new Ulster Women’s jersey, featuring Deloitte as Women and Girls sponsor, also went on sale for the first time in a limited range of sizes and in women’s fit only.
In 2017, the first year Deloitte started sponsoring the women’s team, we recognised that there were a number of synergies between what Ulster Rugby was doing for women’s rugby and Deloitte’s own commitment to gender equality within our company. Deloitte has implemented an inclusive leadership culture founded on fairness and respect that has seen the firm set an ambition of having a 50 per cent female leadership by 2025.
We think it is important that female participation in rugby continues to grow steadily, and we believe that in sponsoring Ulster Women’s Rugby that our backing can further develop the game here by helping to increase visibility and introduce rugby to a younger demographic.
There are many steps being taken to create a better environment for women to compete in rugby. World Rugby has rebranded its men’s and women’s World Cups in an effort to achieve gender neutrality in the sport. The competitions will now be referred to simply as Rugby World Cups with gender no longer included in their titles in a move that World Rugby has heralded as “the ultimate statement in equality”.
Gender equality is one of Deloitte’s core values and we have a target of 50% female partners in the UK firm by 2030. Delivering this target is the key to our broader aim of reaching gender parity across all levels. Through this target we will build a strong pipeline of successful women who have the confidence and support to succeed in promotion to the most senior levels in the firm.
We are also committed to playing our part in helping to raise the profile of women’s sport and helping to get more women and girls take part. The last Women’s Football World Cup showed how popular female sport has become and seeing tournaments like that on national TV can only help to encourage female participation in sport.
Of course, there is a lot more to be done to change the unconscious bias we all have from years of men’s sport dominating, but change is happening. Since 2007, male and female Wimbledon champions have received equal prize money. We now see women’s football reported every day on the BBC Sport website and, significantly, the Football Association in England has taken the decision to pay its men and women the same match fee for international appearances.
Every small change is a step in the right direction and that’s why we welcome the kit decision by Ulster.
We are proud to sponsor Ulster Rugby’s Women’s team and to play a part in achieving gender equality in sport.
Jackie Henry MBE is managing partner for people and purpose at Deloitte. Since stepping into her new role in May 2021, Jackie has been providing strong leadership of Deloitte’s UK people strategy and purpose agenda, including a focus on inclusion and wellbeing. She has spent her career with Deloitte and started out in the Belfast office, her hometown, 32 years ago. For the past eight years she has been lead partner for the Northern Ireland practice, and remains so today. She has also served as people and purpose lead for Deloitte’s UK consulting business for the last three years. Jackie has been a passionate advocate of diversity, inclusion and social mobility throughout her career, and in 2019 she ranked in the ‘OUTstanding 50 Ally Executives List’ which highlighted non-LGBT+ executives who are outspoken in developing and supporting their diverse workforces. Jackie is also focused on building skills and providing access to education for people across Northern Ireland, and had the honour of receiving an MBE for services to the economy in 2017. This included setting up the Belfast Delivery Centre and the creation of Deloitte’s BrightStart Degree and Graduate academy programmes. Jackie is inspired daily by her family, her husband and three children, and she credits her late-father for teaching her about business with his corner shop in Belfast.