Tennis icons and key influencers champion gender equality at ITF Advantage All Forum in Seville17/11/2023 11:23
Billie Jean King, Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario were among the guests at the ITF gender equality summit, with title sponsor Gainbridge, the Tory Burch Foundation and the Region of Andalucia also represented on panel discussions on the final day of 2023 Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals
Tennis legends Billie Jean King, Conchita Martinez, and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario amongst other influential guests, converged at the Estadio La Cartuja in Seville for the Advantage All Forum, an initiative which is part of the International Tennis Federation’s Advantage All gender equality programme.
The Forum took place on Sunday 12 November, before the final of the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals.
Hosted by Katrina Adams, Chair of the Billie Jean King Cup Committee, and ITF Advantage All Committee, the Advantage All Forum featured two compelling panel discussions, delving into the paramount importance of gender balance in women’s tennis and sport.
The first panel, titled, ‘Champions of Parity,’ brought together influential figures such as Dan Towriss, CEO and President of Billie Jean King Cup title sponsor Gainbridge, Gabrielle Raymond McGee, COO of the Tory Burch Foundation, and Jose Maria Arrabal, General Secretary for Sports in the Region of Andalucia. Inspirational strategies and ideas for achieving gender parity in tennis, sport and the wider world were shared.
The second panel, ‘World Champions: History in the Making,’ witnessed a historic gathering of tennis legends: Billie Jean King, a 39-time Grand Slam champion, advocate for equity and global icon; Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the first Spanish woman to win Roland Garros in 1989; and Conchita Martinez, the first Spanish woman to win Wimbledon in 1994. All International Tennis Hall of Fame members, these iconic players and role models offered the audience a unique insight into their careers as groundbreaking women players and, as multiple Billie Jean King Cup champions, discussed their experiences in the women’s World Cup of Tennis.
During the ‘Champions of Parity’ panel, Gainbridge underlined their commitment to allocating 40% of their sponsorship spend to women’s sports and why this is important, The Tory Burch Foundation’s mission to create more opportunities for women entrepreneurs and with a commitment to underrepresented industries such as sport. Jose Maria Arrabal highlighted Andalucia’s aim to actively target female sports events to be staged in the region and increase the profile of women’s sport.
The ‘World Champions: History in the Making,’ panel delved into the speakers’ personal journeys and memories, reviewing their achievements, the evolution of women’s tennis and attitudes to their success.
Sanchez Vicario and Martinez’s reflected on their five Billie Jean King Cup title wins in 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1998, which inspired a generation of female players in Spain and paved the way for the Spanish men’s first Davis Cup win in 2000.
Conchita Martinez’s trailblazing career, including becoming the Billie Jean King Cup captain, the first woman to lead the Spanish Davis Cup team, and more recently holding the position of Tournament Director of the Billie Jean King Cup Finals, underscored the strides women are making in coaching and leadership roles.
Billie Jean King, a pioneer in professionalising women’s tennis, expressed pride in witnessing the groundbreaking success of Sanchez Vicario and Martinez, and emphasized the ongoing importance of achieving gender parity in the sport. The discussion highlighted the creation of the WTA in 1973 and the evolution of Billie Jean King Cup over the years.
Conchita Martinez said: “I think it [Spain’s multiple BJK Cup titles] had a huge impact. Let’s not forget that it was five times winning, and five times in the finals, so those ten years were amazing. I think there were a lot of young girls – and boys – that by seeing us play and doing so well… they would pick up a racket and then go on and play, and that’s very important.”
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario said: “We were pioneers, on the women’s side, and in a country like Spain, that we all know was more like a macho country… I think we did great for sport, and probably now we’re the inspiration for many more, that they can maybe achieve what we did.”
Billie Jean King said: “Women’s sports is a microcosm of society, and how we do spills over into other areas, business in particular, and whatever accomplishments of any kind – whether it be in music, art, doesn’t matter – it encourages others. It takes many generations to change things, but the generation today can start changing by what they tell their children. And men have a lot to do with it with their daughters.”
“We’ve had unbelievable male allies, but my dad believed in me as much as my brother. He gave me as much time as my brother, and that sent a really, strong message to me as a girl.”
Gabrielle Raymond McGee, COO of the Tory Burch Foundation, said: “We’re proud to partner with ITF’s Advantage All and the Billie Jean King Cup to spotlight women changing the game through entrepreneurship in sports. Our Breaking Barriers grand prize winner, Kimberly Selden of Black Girls Tennis Club, is diversifying the sport to break stereotypes on and off the court. Our Sports Fellow, Trisha Goyal of Break the Love, is leveraging technology to reshape the game and to prioritize social, mental, and physical health through tennis. The Tory Burch Foundation is thrilled to team up with Billie Jean King to spotlight these game changers, creating a platform for impactful stories that inspire transformation in sports and beyond.”
Dan Towriss, CEO and President of Group 1001, the parent company of Gainbridge, said: “At Gainbridge, we want to be leaders in supporting women’s sports, so it’s an honour to be associated with this event, with Billie Jean King, and to support the ITF’s Advantage All initiative. Our Parity Week celebration was designed to link three legends of sports – Billie Jean, golf legend Annika Sorenstam, and race car driver Lyn St. James – because we believe that by creating platforms that elevate women’s sports, we will attract more attention that will lead to more money for the athletes.”
Jose Maria Arrabal, General Secretary for Sports in the Region of Andalucia, said: "Andalusia has gone from eight sporting events in 2018 to more than 50 this year...It isn't just about the main sporting event, but it is also about the combination of values and will that come with it. We want to send a message to the world that we are passionate about sports, and we want to have them as the main driving force of our society and community as that’s how we feel we can better serve our country, Spain."
The ITF’S Advantage All gender equality programme aims to make tennis an exemplar of equal opportunity, both on and off the court, fostering gender equality in all aspects of the game. By empowering women in leadership roles, enhancing the commercial appeal of women’s tennis, improving media representation, and cultivating an inclusive and inspiring generation, Advantage All seeks to set an example for all Olympic and Paralympic sports.
The Advantage All Forum is an important part of the journey towards gender parity in tennis, uniting industry leaders, sponsors, and tennis legends to advocate for a future where everyone experiences equal advantages within the sport. The lasting impact of this event is poised to catalyse positive change for years to come.
The ITF wants to acknowledge the support of the ‘Foundation for Global Sports Development’ whose funding continues to support the global development of the ITF Advantage All programme.
Both the Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals and Juniors Finals took place in Andalucia as part of a wider agreement between the ITF and the Region of Andalucia, which will also see the Davis Cup Final 8 take place in Malaga (21-26 November). USA won the Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Juniors Finals, while Czechia were triumphant at the Davis Cup Juniors.