08/03/2016 12:05 GMT | Updated 09/03/2017 05:12 GMT

Why We've Made a Man Our First Patron at Women in Sport

This morning, Women in Sport revealed the news that we have appointed England women's football manager, Mark Sampson, as the Charity's first patron.

In addition to the strength of having a high profile sports figure championing our mission and work, our news intentionally invokes the power of the UN's 'HeforShe' approach of standing together with men to achieve gender equality.

Our patrons' unpaid roles are to speak out on behalf of the charity - in Mark's case, sending a message that there is an important role for men to play in promoting and supporting women's sport. And although Mark is our first patron, he won't be our only one. We intend to announce others who will join him soon - a small group of high profile women and men who care about gender equality enough to dedicate some time, free of charge, to the Charity.

But the decision to announce a man as our patron, on International Women's Day, has sparked some controversy - and rightly so. Why not a woman, today of all days? Why a man for a cause that is about gender inequality?

We are currently an all-female team at Women in Sport, our board is dominated by women, we continue to work with inspiring women spanning sport and other sectors. For the majority of women we encounter in our mission, we're preaching to the choir. They get it. They're in.

But ridding sport of sexism is not something that women can do alone. The fight for gender equality in sport - from the field of play to the boardroom - is not something we can, or want, to do without engaging and involving men in the battle.

Whilst we at Women in Sport celebrate women's achievements every day, we decided to use this unified global moment to send a different kind of message: that we need men to take a stand for gender equality as much as women and it is our collective voices that bring about change. It remains contentious for some, but we need men spearheading this movement as much as we need women. There are still more men playing, working in and leading sport than there are women and we mustn't overlook the influential role they have to play as agents of change.

Not everyone will agree with our approach, and as a charity campaigning for change, we're comfortable with that. Challenging perceptions, creating debate and making the point that inequality in sport is as much an issue for men as it is for women may be controversial, but it's necessary if we are to truly transform sport for the benefit of every women and girl in the UK.

Women in Sport: