Where Are All The Women?

Published on June 7th, 2017

Sally Barkow, US Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year in 2005 and 2007, continues to push boundaries in a male dominated sport. She has followed her experience with Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 with the launch of The Magenta Project, and shares here her view on the road forward for women in sailing…

Sally Barkow

I have heard the question “Where are all the women?” in many different forms of the press, sailing news, in the boat park, and on the race course, at least once a week for the past I don’t how long….

It is time to build results rather than simply voicing the desire for change or complaining that we are not where we want to be. There are no short cuts in getting to the top, as in any profession the answer comes from hard work, building skills, and gaining experience.

Every member of a successful race team has earned their spot and proved why they should be onboard. Irrespective of gender, it’s competitive to get to the top, and if we want to be the best we all need to play by the same standards.

The Magenta Project is underway for exactly this cause. To accelerate women in sailing and the marine industry by creating pathways, empowering leadership, and driving change. What does that mean? We are on the ground providing opportunities for women to gain experience, develop their skills and have a chance to excel at the elite level of sailing.

This process will not happen overnight. The most recent news highlighted the lack of women in the world’s longest run sporting event, the America’s Cup. Change takes time and effort, but I promise you if we stay on track in a few years we will no longer hear the question: Where are all the women in sailing? We will simply be talking about their performance on the water, as sailors, just as we talk about any other sailor in the America’s Cup today.

The Magenta Project is based on the principle values of collaboration, diversity, opportunity, challenge and performance. The organization fulfills its mission through a wide-scope of programs from club level youth sailors through to Olympic medalists and beyond. We are an organization craving collaboration. There is no going it alone with the mountain we need to climb. Ultimately the goal is to stand on top of the podium, and that will be no easy feat.

In the next month alone The Magenta Project is providing 10 women with offshore experience on a Volvo 65, supporting new teams to compete at the World Match Race Tour qualifying events, running a week of GC 32 training, collaborating with Foiling Week to provide more access to foiling boats for women and running an M32 high performance clinic for 20 girls.

In our sport, we have two clear pinnacles – the Volvo Ocean Race for offshore and the America’s Cup for inshore. Women can and should be competing in both. Now is the time. Together let’s raise the bar, set a new standard and create a legacy that everyone can be proud of.

There is an amazing generation of sailors coming through high performance boats at the moment and thanks to the Olympic committee, mixed sailing is becoming the norm, a preference among a few great sailors. This follows a global recognition of the benefits to a diverse workplace or society.

It’s time to jump on board to support this development, whether it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, or connect talent to opportunity, or simply spread the word and profile those female sailors and support staff to encourage change. We are working every day to make a difference and finally, once and for all, to silence the hovering question ‘where are all the women?’.

Note: The Magenta Project is a collective of passionate, committed female sailors on a mission to accelerate women in sailing and the marine industry by creating pathways, empowering leadership and driving change. Based on the principle values of diversity, collaboration, opportunity, challenge and performance, they are leading a growing movement across oceans. For more information: www.themagentaproject.org.

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