Women Leaders, Athletes, Blow the African Horn as Call for Greater Support Intensifies at gsport Business Breakfast

Women’s sport has seen immense growth globally and definitely here in South Africa, and that has been evident in the rooms and spaces women are occupying. The latest door to open was the acclaimed Johannesburg Stock Exchange, the venue for the 2023 gsport Business Breakfast. 

Just 10 days after celebrating women in sport in an extravagant and inspirational evening at the 2023 Momentum gsport Awards, 22 September marked another historic day. For the first time in history, Wheelchair Double Grand Slam champion Kgothatso Montjane sounded the African Kudu horn to signal the opening of markets on the day. 

Michaela Whitebooi, Commonwealth Games gold medallist in Judo, was one of the esteemed guests at the JSE and joined Montjane on stage when the clock hit 09:00 and history was made. 

“Being a part of greatness is an honour, but being a part of history is a gift from God. God has blessed me with another opportunity to see what we as women are capable of. JSE is a world-renowned business platform for stocks, and now women’s sport is a part of that. A young girl out there can now go compete without the stress of how will I get transport to the event, how will I pay the entry fee. These big moments are for all the women in sport.”

The commercialisation of women’s sport has been an Achilles heel for women’s sport and was one of the biggest talking points during the auspicious morning in Sandton. As we seek to continue advancing women’s sport, how can we position our athletes in a way that they attract the big cheques from sponsors in corporate and the like? What goes into building an attractive and sustainable brand?

The guest of honour, KG, weighed in on where we can start as a country. “Development is where you put money. If you can put money in development, you’ll see a lot of champions coming up. It’s truly a sad story in our country that you need to win a Double Grand Slam to get recognised. Imagine if they started nurturing talent from a young age, one could really become what they aspire to be. I’m grateful for my team at Optimize.” 

Whitebooi, also a dominant force in the continent, added: “They say to walk the walk, you have to talk the talk. Women have, for many years, walked the path of success, but the recognition was not shined as bright. Yet, we still continued walking because we knew one day that the world would talk about us. It is a historical day at the JSE, where women are breaking down barriers for the next generation to walk that proud walk.”

Using the case study that is the story of Montjane, her agent Emy Casaletti-Bwalya took us through a Masterclass of how they achieved the success they’ve acquired thus far for the “KG Montjane brand”. 

Speaking symbolically, when that horn sounded at the JSE, it was as if women’s sport has made a call to the universe that now is the time for women to enjoy greater commercial investment like Montjane. 

One of the most amazing, heart-warming and assuring moments of the Breakfast was seeing the wheelchair ace flanked by female leaders that have taken the bold steps of buying into women’s sports early on while many were and still are skeptical. 

gsport headline sponsor Momentum Metropolitan Holdings Limited was represented by Group Chief Marketing Officer, Nontokozo Madonsela. Brand SA Acting CEO Sithembile Ntombela, Head of Production Operations at SuperSport Dhesnhie Naidoo and Niki Cronje, Director Partnerships sub Saharan Africa for DP World were all in attendance. 

The incredible leaders mentioned above, women that have against all odds also pushed boundaries and made strides in their own personal endeavours in corporate, highlighted the importance of women leaders standing together to help advance women’s sport. 

SuperSport’s Naidoo said: “It lies in our collective ability to drive positive change, promote gender equality and provide role models for aspiring athletes. By uniting in our influence, women leaders can advocate for increased visibility and greater support.”

“It was a truly proud moment – important for us to acknowledge that this was never the norm and clearly an indication that we are in a changing landscape.”

Reflecting on #gsport18, Madonsela said: “While we can’t sponsor every team due to our limited resources. We are definitely advocating for gender-balanced sponsorship strategies and we believe that corporate leaders should really do all they can to empower women athletes.”

“Increased representation is pivotal when strong women excel in sport. They serve as powerful inspiration for others to pursue athletic careers. Additionally, diverse role models challenge stereotypes. They break down barriers. They reshape societal perceptions about women’s physical abilities. Recognising these parallels allows us to better appreciate their achievement, the challenges that they are facing, fostering gender equality and empowerment in sport and beyond.”

Ultimately the goal is to see women in sport enjoy the same benefits their male counterparts enjoy, for the playing field to be level. The destination is a place where women’s sport is professionalised and well sponsored, that women don’t need to work a 9-5 job while representing a club or country. 

Photo Caption: In a historic shift, women’s sport in South Africa takes the spotlight. From the horn sounding at the JSE, signifying a new dawn for female athletes, to poignant reflections on the journey of progress and advocacy for greater inclusivity – it’s a time of transformative change. Photo: Rebecca Hearfield (c) gsport 2023

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