Wednesday 27 September 2023, 08:30

Christine Holgate: “We need to invest in women”

  • Team Global Express CEO says the FIFA Women’s World Cup inspired a ‘cultural change’ in Australia

  • Shared statistics that only 2% of Australian CEOs are women, yet 65% of honours graduates are female

  • “To make women’s football viable, we really need to invest in facilities. We need to invest in women, and we must address the pay.”

“As a passionate advocate for women in the workplace and the development of women in sport, I am very excited for Australia and New Zealand to host the single biggest women’s sporting event in the world.” Those were the words of CEO Christine Holgate on 18 April 2023, when FIFA announced that Australia’s leading logistics provider Team Global Express had signed on as a FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ Official Supporter. Four months later, Holgate was a panellist at the FIFA Women’s Football Convention in Sydney on the eve of the final, discussing ‘The Cultural Movement of Women’s Football’ from an investor’s perspective.

After sharing the stage with Andrea Fairchild of Visa and David Neal of Fox Sports USA, we asked Christine whether the tournament had lived up to her expectations. Her response was emphatic. “It’s blown them away. This event, just watching women doing something that’s normally done by a man and seeing the massive support behind it, has, I can honestly tell you, changed that conversation. But it’s done something more than that. “It’s more than inspired women to create cultural change. The people on the other side of the equation, the men in my organisation, were super important. It’s made them fall in love with women’s sport. And now, be open to collaborating with women in a much bigger way.”

Holgate took on the role of Team Global Express CEO in September 2021 and has long been an advocate for equality in the workplace. On International Women’s Day in 2022, she notably joined forces with eleven other prominent Australian businesswomen to address the country’ leaders. The attention that the FIFA Women’s World Cup created in Australia could become a pivotal catalyst for change for Holgate. Change that extends far beyond the number of spectators in stadiums or television viewers. “I just want women treated with respect. Three out of five women in Australia are going to be sexually assaulted, abused, or bullied in the workplace in their lifetime. Two in five have been sexually harassed in the workplace. Who feels proud about these numbers? We’re twice as likely to be living in poverty. It’s just not right. We will never have this opportunity in the next decade again in Australia, to change the voice for women,” she continued.

In Holgate’s own industry, only 20% of employees are female, with most in what she describes as admin back-of-office jobs. “In Australia, only 2% of CEOs are women, and yet we’re 65% of honours graduates, and we have the highest ranking in an OECD [The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and development] country for academic achievement. “These games have proved that women can do it. We can put that jumper on, we can put that suit on. We’ve got to believe in ourselves, and not let anyone hold us back,” she said. Becoming an official supporter of the tournament as far as Holgate is concerned is the start, not the end of a journey. Looking to the future, she expressed some caution, while at the same time issuing a rallying call to her industry counterparts. “I think in many parts of the world, it’s always been argued that women don’t get paid the same money because women’s sport doesn’t get the same eyeballs, the same media programmes, the same sponsorship support. But England-Australia reached 11.15 million Australians across the country, making it the highest rating TV program on record since the audience measurement system started in 2001.

“Engagement with women in women’s sport on social media, is significantly high too. We are (women) 83% of shopping decisions. Of course, other companies should get behind this. We need to do some things to make women’s football viable here first. We need to invest in facilities. We need to invest in women, and we must address the pay. “When you’ve got a woman only earning $20,000 and playing for a major soccer team, it’s not enough to pay her rent. She can’t even get a bond for a rental, so she ends up sofa surfing. They can’t buy a car. If you don’t have all those things, we lose women from sport, and they go into environments where they can earn a living. So, to ensure longevity after this tournament and to keep this interest of sponsors, we all must unite, and find a way to invest in the sport.”