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Bay stadium management adds distinctly feminine flavour to the field

Bay stadium management adds distinctly feminine flavour to the field

Working in a corporate world is hard enough, but add sport to the mix and it becomes even more difficult for women to rise beyond the ‘stadium’ ceiling.

Focus on women’s role – and support of women – in the working world is back on the agenda after a riveting speech by British actress and United Nations (UN) Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, who recently launched the UN’s HeForShe campaign.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, there are a number of women working in the sports world that are bucking this trend and Access Management, operators of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, are dominating the scrum for woman empowerment in the corporate sports industry. 

Working for Access Management are four women in senior management positions, including a chief executive officer. Outsiders often ask these stereotype-busting women, ‘what do you know about soccer or rugby?’. They also field comments like, ‘be honest, you’re only watching the game to ogle over the players’.

Unfortunately, some people think women are clueless and know nothing about sport, says Chantal Du Pisani, Access Management chief executive. “But there is more to sport – and business – than what meets the eye.

“Women are capable of being career-orientated, even in the sports industry which is traditionally the terrain of men. We are competent, and confident, in our positions and are doing well in our chosen careers. The business of sport is just like any other business, except that on game day you get to be part of exhilarating moments on and off the field as a bonus to business as usual,’’ says Du Pisani.

Access Management was appointed to run the then newly - built Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in 2009, ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. It has since made major strides in to offering support to sports event organisers and has secured a varied sports and event offerings for the people of the city, including national and international rugby and soccer fixtures.

Du Pisani says that the toughest part of her job is dealing with the demands of sometimes capacity crowds – in excess of 40 000 people at times – and ensuring that they are happy.

‘’It’s not an easy job, but I enjoy it, I get it done and guess what, I’m a woman and I am keeping sports fans happy,’’ added Du Pisani, who has worked closely with a range of partners to ensure that Nelson Mandela Bay has both a local rugby and soccer team resident at the stadium.  

The stadium is home to two anchor tenants, the Eastern Province Rugby Union’s (EPRU) EP Kings side and Chippa United Football Club.

Du Pisani was recently named the 2014 Corporate Winner by the Business Woman’s Association (BWA) at their Regional Awards Event in June. 

Also making waves at Access Management is Sales Manager Yolanda van Rensburg. An avid athlete herself, she has participated in the gruelling Ironman South Africa five times and she’s currently training at the Raynard Tissink coaching academy. Tissink is a serial Ironman champion.

 “On a broad spectrum, women do not receive the same respect in the workplace as men and this is truly unfortunate,’’ said van Rensburg. “But the best way to deal with this is to lead by example and change one perspective at a time.”

Mariane van Rooyen, General Manager: Finance at Access Management, also hard at work in the sports world says, ‘’Women aren’t respected as much as men in the workplace. But despite this fact, I know a few women who are the breadwinners in their home, rather than those baking bread. It’s inspiring to see how things are changing, albeit slowly.”

General Manager: Human Resources at Access Management, Thuli Mtila, a fourth woman in the stadium’s management fold says: “Women can do anything we set our minds to. People who think we cannot do it are in trouble because we will always prove them wrong.”

A series of women in Nelson Mandela Bay are also ensuring their place in the corporate sports world. These include Marieka Barnard, who at the young age of 25 is driving a massive marketing campaign to profile the Ironman South Africa suite of events.

“We need more women in the sports industry, but there are already many making their in-roads. It’s tough, but totally worth the effort to break boundaries and make a difference in an industry that is also close to women’s hearts,” added Du Pisani. 


Photo caption: Chantal Du Pisani shares her views of women in the Sports Industry.