As I mentioned in my last column, I’m going through the Asian Racing Conference-related material I have and I’ll be sharing some of the more relevant information here.
This year’s ARC was recently held in Seoul, Korea, and there were quite a lot of timely topics tackled in the various discussions held. I was interested in the talk given by Victoria Carter, deputy chairperson of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, on relevance and diversity.
“If racing wants to expand its participant base and get more fans – the fastest way is through diversity. More women in racing at all levels, not just on-course, will mean that we have a greater chance of innovation, collaboration and transformation. If you can’t see it, how can you be it or believe that it is possible?” she challenged the audience.
This is something that resonates deeply with me. When I began my career in Philippine Thoroughbred racing media in 2002, I was faced with some degree of sexism – not so much from industry insiders, who mostly believed it was high time for racing to be more inclusive (and the more hands to work, the better), but from racing fans.
One thing I was criticized for was admiring the colorful silks of the jockeys. “Ang cute ng kulay ng diviza!” I might have said. I was called shallow, pa-cute. But later on I received messages from women race aficionadas – “Thank you for being you. It makes me feel better about enjoying racing myself.” Representation, after all, is key to acceptance and belonging in a group.
Carter also said, “Having more women in racing shows all women that it is possible. It means you do not need to be unique, exceptional, or chosen and it becomes more of the norm. Remember half the world is women.
“For racing to gallop ahead we need women in leadership roles. If you want good decisions, good strategies and good outcomes, you need people who are different from you. Hence diversity, or gender-balance, matters.
“Change will make our industry stronger. There isn’t an industry today that doesn’t need innovation and new ideas; racing is not alone here.” Hear, hear!
At the same forum, Megumi Ichiyama, Chief of Staff of the Japan Racing Association Publicity Department, shared JRA’s strategy for attracting women to the racecourse.
“The project was launched when the JRA realized that less than 14% of all racegoers in Japan were women,” she said. “Research showed that women not only wanted to race in comfort, but also wanted to be provided with information and to be guided on racing when attending as a newcomer.”
They created the Umajo Spot, an area exclusively for women, at every JRA racecourse.
Here women are offered concierge services, introductory brochures, refreshments and even educational tours. The strategy grew female attendance to 17 percent in 2017.
In my various business and marketing analyses for the racing industry, I’ve always advocated reaching out to untapped markets such as women. Hopefully now that many voices around the world are clamoring for diversity, Philippine racing can get on the trend and look to promoting to female racegoers as well. As they say, the more, the manyer!
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My deepest condolences to the Cua family of Philippine Racing Club, Inc. on the recent passing of PRCI Chairman Emeritus Santiago Cua.
Drawing on his business acumen honed through decades of experience, he put Santa Ana Park and its operations on a solid corporate footing through modernization and other strategies. Chairman Cua was ably aided along the way by his sons Santiago S. Cua Jr., Solomon Cua, and Simeon Cua and grandson Santiago Cualoping.
My personal memory of Chairman Cua is that he was unfailingly kind. I was surprised and honored that he knew me and would call me by name whenever he saw me at racing events at Santa Ana Park. His remains lie at the Heritage Chapel, Taguig. Interment is on June 9.
Dr. Ortuoste is a writer and communications consultant. Facebook: Gogirl Racing and @DrJennyO, Twitter: @hoarsewhsprr and @jennyortuoste