Lifestyle | 19 March 2024

Victoria Pendleton CBE and Laura Jackson on the power of women in business and sport

To mark International Women’s Day, we brought together triple Olympic gold medallist and champion jockey Victoria Pendleton CBE and broadcaster and entrepreneur Laura Jackson. They discussed gender equality, being in business and the importance of role models.

“Sometimes I’m asked if I consider myself a role model for women’s sport, which makes me extremely uncomfortable,” says former triple Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton. “I did what I could with the opportunities that I was given and if I inspired one person, then that’s very flattering.”

Undoubtedly, though Victoria is now inspiring many girls and boys looking to take up sport, in the same way she looked up to the likes of Denise Lewis and Sally Gunnel as a young athlete.

“I just thought they were marvellous when I met them,” she says. “They were incredible human beings – that inspiration they gave me was brilliant.”

Now, as an entrepreneur herself, Victoria cites the importance of having similar idols. “Role models in business are critical for women who want to be entrepreneurs. It’s really important to have someone to look up to and inspire you,” she says.  

Laura Jackson agrees and says that inspiration is often close at hand. As a broadcaster and columnist who’s interviewed some of the leading lights in business, Laura says the women really reshaping British business are the people she meets every day.

“Whether they’ve got a café or a small family business, or a restaurant. Even being a mother is difficult. Those are the people who really inspire me,” she says.

Laura adds that she sees the same control and discipline in entrepreneurs as she sees in Olympic athletes like Victoria. “They’re both incredibly tough jobs and I think you’ve got to have grit and tenacity, I do see a lot of similarities.”


Inequality – “It’s not fair and that’s that.”

On inequality, Victoria is forthright that it should never be a barrier. “There shouldn’t be any inequality,” she says. “I don’t understand why there should be a difference between what I can do as a performer and what the next person can do.

“Yes, there are physical differences between men and women, but I don’t feel that in many aspects of the world that should even be taken into consideration. It’s not fair and that’s that.”

We are now seeing some clear positives on this though, says Victoria, as the gender pay gap in sports is closing and women’s sports are rightly getting more coverage – “the athletes themselves are getting more visibility, so I think that’s a really good thing.”

Speaking on a more personal note, Victoria mentions how she never wants to feel like she’s resting on her laurels, especially now she’s moved into business. It’s a sentiment that Laura echoes – “I honestly don’t think that people ever think they’ve made it.” That shouldn’t ever be seen as a negative thing though, says Victoria. Indeed, it’s something to harness and master.

“The one piece of advice I would give a female entrepreneur struggling with their mindset would be to never, ever give in” she says. “Don’t give up. Don’t listen to that negative chat in your brain. That’s my number one rule. There are plenty of other challenges you’re going to come across in your life, so you want to be your biggest supporter. Be kind and patient to yourself.”

Likewise, combining self-belief with a thorough business plan is critical to help visualise progress, says Laura. “Take every day as it comes. You absolutely have to forecast and think about the future, but you also have to be in the here and now. It’s something that you’re passionate about and it’s something that you love – so just take the positives step by step.” 


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