Celebrating women in sportstech initiatives

Date: 4-Oct-2023
Over the past few months ASTN has had the pleasure of hosting several key events with a focus on providing a platform for women in sportstech to debate important issues and share their stories and expertise on the rapidly changing sports technology landscape.
Celebrating women in sportstech initiatives
Panelists (from right to left): Angela Dahlke (Moderator), Stephanie Bofinger (FemPro Armour), Kerrie Mengersen (QUT), Louise Broekman (Advisory Board Centre), Martin Schlegel (ASTN)

ASTN Panel Discussion - Women in Sportstech

As part of Australian Sports Innovation Week, ASTN hosted a panel discussion at The Precinct in Brisbane on Friday, 1 September 2023. The event explored the dynamic trends in sportstech and the entrepreneurial spirit driving innovation in the industry. The panel also delved into critical themes of diversity and inclusion as well as the growing awareness and need to address biases in technology, particularly in algorithms and data collection.

The panel, moderated by Angela Dahlke, Manager of Industry Engagement - Data Sciences at QUT and ASTN Board Member, included:

  • Stephanie Bofinger, CEO and Founder, Fempro Armour
  • Louise Broekman, Founder, Advisory Board Centre
  • Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen, Director, QUT Centre for Data Science
  • Dr Martin Schlegel, Executive Chair, Australian Sports Technologies Network

Some of the key takeaways from the panel discussion include:

Diverse backgrounds bring fresh perspectives: A diverse and inclusive work environment fosters innovation. By embracing different perspectives, sportstech companies can come up with creative solutions that cater to a wider audience.

The power of networking: Networking plays a pivotal role in sportstech entrepreneurship. Building connections within the sportstech community opens doors to collaborations, mentorship, and opportunities. It's essential to be proactive in seeking out connections.

On advice to help more women get into sportstech, Stephanie notes women should “not be afraid to jump in and just give it a go… you just have to start and there are people out there that want to help, I truly believe that my success came from people that just want to help connect me with people and offered me their advice and their time, and then it all comes together,” Stephanie Bofinger, CEO and Founder, Fempro Armour.

Learning from failure: Panellists shared their experiences of setbacks and failures, highlighting the importance of resilience. Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow, and it often precedes success.

Opportunities in STEM: The panellists spoke about the challenges of getting women in the door and especially keeping women in STEM. “When it comes to data, we actually have an opportunity because there is a better gender balance in the area of data {sciences and analytics} and that’s where we can really bring that to the table for sports and sportstech,” said Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen, Director, QUT Centre for Data Science.

Data-driven insights: Data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming sports performance and fan engagement. Advanced data collection and analysis allow athletes to enhance their skills and provide fans with more engaging experiences.

Addressing biases in tech: There is a growing awareness of the biases present in technology, particularly in algorithms and data collection. It's crucial to develop and use technology that is free from bias, especially when it comes to female athletes and their performance data.

"When you activate a wearable and as part of the setup selectyour gender, you expect the algorithm to take the selection into account. But unfortunately, that is not what happens - algorithmic bias is one of the problems if training data is not representative and therefore predictions are poor,” said Dr Schlegel, Executive Chair, ASTN.

Sustainability matters: Sustainability is a growing concern in sportstech, and companies are increasingly focused on eco-friendly solutions and responsible practices to reduce their environmental impact. Sustainability is not only ethical but also financially prudent.

To learn more about the panel members and to watch the full discussion see here.

Women in Sports Tech (WiST) “Culture Matters” Masterclass

ASTN hosted an online Masterclass in August for ASTN’s newly selected QLD-based female founders who are taking part in ASTN’s Pre-Accelerator program, as well as several members of ASTN’s recently completed accelerator cohort. Led by Marilou McFarlane, WiST Founder and CEO, an experienced founder and leader of venture-backed startups, and Alysse Soll, WiST Chair – an experienced venture capital investor.

More than ever, managers and employees care about working in a culture of inclusivity, where everyone feels like they belong and have equitable access to growth opportunities. The Masterclass delved into how to build diverse teams and how individuals from various backgrounds can contribute and the influence the culture of not only a company, but also the sportstech industry overall. Whilst sportstech is primarily associated with elite level athletes and sports competition, it has far broader applications. Skills from various fields, such as business, data science, marketing, and creative talents are necessary to enhance the entire industry of growing businesses.

The Masterclass sought to demystify DEI and allow for discussion around the difference in inherent and acquired diversity, steps to building a more inclusive culture, and recognising and addressing unconscious biases.

Marilou McFarlane, WiST Founder and CEO said, “For eighty percent, four out of five of adults today, diversity and inclusion are not a preference, they're a requirement when seeking their next career move. The best talent today is more attracted to organisations that have a diverse workforce, a clear path to promotion, and a commitment to creating an inclusive environment.”

“The time is now - women's sports are exploding, there is so much more recognition of the value of female athletes as sponsors and the value of having women on your leadership team,” added McFarlane.

“In today’s world, investors are looking for diversity because they understand, appreciate, and recognise that companies they invested in early on who had more success are the more diverse in either founders or founding teams,” said Alysse Soll, WiST Chair.

Future programs: Paving the way for a more inclusive sportstech sector

ASTN’s women in sportstech initiative and ongoing partnership with WiST continues to provide a platform for women to excel, innovate, and drive positive change within the sportstech sector.

The sportstech industry is continuously evolving, with new trends and challenges emerging. However, one constant remains: the need for diverse voices and perspectives to shape its future. As we move forward, it's clear that women will play an increasingly pivotal role in driving innovation, making sport more inclusive and diverse to take the sportstech sector to new heights. The outcomes of these recent events and discussions are a testament to the fact that the future of sportstech is brimming with new opportunities.

See here for more information on ASTN’s programs for women in sportstech.

Louise Broekman (Advisory Board Centre) and Kerrie Mengersen (QUT
Louise Broekman (Advisory Board Centre) and Kerrie Mengersen (QUT
Stephanie Bofinger (FemPro Armour) and Angela Dahlke, panel moderator and ASTN Board Member
Stephanie Bofinger (FemPro Armour) and Angela Dahlke, panel moderator and ASTN Board Member