THE BLOG

Why Do We Need Women's Only Sport Awards?

14/11/2014 17:18 GMT | Updated 14/01/2015 10:59 GMT

I've worked in football for nearly a decade now and have seen the treatment of women involved in the game change dramatically. Women's football is getting more coverage, there are more professional women footballers and participation levels and television audiences are growing.

When Sky Sports News started, female sports news presenters were the exception to the rule. Sky has helped it to be seen as the norm. Over 30% of our sports news production staff are women and almost half of our sports news presenters.

Female broadcasters are no longer a novelty. At the start of my career the first question I'd be asked is, "So do you actually like football?" A question asked by both men and women. I'll admit this still happens, but only occasionally and certainly not within the industry.

You will see a range of women across sports on Sky Sports, for example Natalie Pinkham in the F1 pitlane, Sarah Stirk on the golf course, Annabel Croft in the tennis studio and Angela Powers at the rugby league pitch.

On our football coverage, Kate Abdo is presenting this weekend's European qualifiers, Natalie Sawyer is a regular presenter of our Football League coverage, and Hayley McQueen for the Champions League. I present the weekly Premier League show, Saturday Night Football alongside David Jones and Jamie Redknapp. We have also seen former England footballer Rachel Yankey as a regular guest on Sky Sports News HQ.

It's getting better and again one day this will be commonplace.

Sky Sports are championing women's sport and by putting it in the schedule alongside their male counterparts bringing it to a wider audience. Last year we showed women's sport across more than 200 days and our seven sports channels are watched by six million women every month, giving sports a huge platform to tell their stories and reach new fans.

Our coverage of this year's Hockey World Cup was a fantastic example of how male and female experts can commentate on a sport together regardless of whether it's played by men or women - we need more parity across the board.

We've seen sport be used as a vehicle for socio-economic change across the world, whether through its role in helping to end apartheid in South Africa or helping children avoid gangs. So why can't it do the same for gender equality?

Our job at Sky Sports is to give women's sport the platform and the opportunity to grow. The Sportswomen of the Year Awards are a crucial part of that.

The awards give sport fans - men and women - the chance to discover more about women's sport and the incredible athletes and support networks that drive them to success.

Much like the 'Olympic effect' where one summer every four years the world discovers a new sport or a new sporting hero, Sportswomen of the Year showcases the very best female sporting talent to a wider audience to help inspire others.

Some might ask, why isn't there a men's only awards? The simple answer is, they don't need one. Men's sporting success is well supported and celebrated, and sadly women's is not to the same degree.

Whilst I'm not a fan of positive discrimination, women's sport needs a platform to highlight its achievements and to encourage change. The recipients of next week's awards are the trailblazers that will get us there.

Maybe in the future we won't need women's only sport awards, but right now without it some of these incredible athletes, stories and successes will not be given the recognition they deserve.

There have been some wonderful female sporting moments in 2014.

My personal highlights include Williams test driver Susie Wolff becoming the first woman in 20 years to take part in an F1 practice session ahead of the British and German GPs. It was headline news and showed young women that there are opportunities in F1 and that a career in driving is a possibility. By the time they get there though, hopefully it won't be such a big deal.

Jo Pavey is another inspirational sportswoman, in fact just an inspirational woman - the age, work, baby debate rages around women over the age of 30 and this summer she became the oldest woman at 41, to win gold at a European Championships with her 10,000m victory, 10 days after a 5000m bronze in the Commonwealth Games, and less than a year after giving birth to her second child. Not only is she now looking at competing at her fifth Olympics in Rio but she hasn't ruled out having another baby either.

Jo Pavey is one of a number of athletes shortlisted for the 2014 Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards, celebrating women in sport at all levels.

As well as rewarding success, the awards will look back on what has been a fantastic year for women's sport. I'll be presenting the awards live on Sky Sports 1HD from 8pm on November 19.