This episode of the Strong Women. Better World podcast travels to Argentina, where Martina Bartolucci (Sports Management MBA candidate; former Chief of Staff, Sports Secretariat of the Argentina National Government) and Luz Amuchastegui (Director, El Desafío Foundation) team up to unpack their shared love of field hockey, and how they’re helping women to sit at the decision-making table -- not set the table -- through sports.
Carole (0:05): Hello. Hello. I am your host and ref, Carole Ponchon from Lyon, France, and it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the ring as two fearless women spar about their trailblazing journeys in sport. In today's episode, we travel to Argentina to hear from two women who share a passion for field hockey, women's leadership and social change. We are live from the Strong Women, Better World Sister to Sister ring. And in the right corner is Martina Bartolucci. Martina is known for her great work to advance women's leadership in sports. She has been working for several years for the Argentinian government supervising the strategic plan of the secretariat of sport. She's now based in Madrid, studying an MBA in sport management and working as head of marketing for a real estate company. Martina is always on the move and that's a skill that will be useful in the ring.
Martina (1:04): Hello everybody. I am Martina from Argentina and I'm really happy to be here today, so let's do it. I'm ready to roll.
Carole (1:11): Thanks a lot. Martina. In the left corner, we have another highly committed Argentinean, Luz Amuchastegui. Luz does it all. She is a field hockey superstar, a social rights activist, a consultant, an accomplished entrepreneur, and an amazing mom. Luz is currently the director of El Desafio Foundation, an NGO that empowers youth to fight poverty. As a former field hockey goalie she has a great vision and an ability to get back up after she has been knocked down. Welcome Luz.
Luz (1:47): Oh, thank you. Hello. Hello, Carole. Hello, Martina and hello to all of our listeners. I'm truly honored to be here.
Carole (1:56): Ladies, I cannot wait for you to take us to Argentina and help us understand the cultural and political context of your fight for gender equity in sports. The floor is yours. So off we go for round one of this episode.
Martina (2:13): Okay, ladies, here we go. I want people to understand a bit about you so I’m going to start with two fun questions. So please let me know the first things that comes to your mind. To start, if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life. What would it be?
Luz (2:30): Ah, you touched my nerves there. I'm a food fan. It's a question I've been asked a lot and I will go with milanesa, or for the rest of the world that would veal schnitzels.
Martina (2:43): Whoa, that's a good one. I really liked milanesa. Let's go to the second one, Luz. So the people will get to know you better. If you could time travel, where would you go?
Luz (2:56): Huh, it's funny because usually you would go back to the past. However, I probably go to the future and see and check on how my family is doing. Especially my son, everything has been put in perspective since my son was born. So probably to the future and see how he's doing once I'm gone from this world.
Martina (3:18): Lovely. That's good. So if you're ready, let's now get into the core of this episode. Are you ready Luz?
Luz (3:24): Yeah, sure. Let's go.
Martina (3:26): We have a lot in common. And one of the things that hasn't been mentioned yet is our participation in the Global Sports Mentoring Program or what we call the GSMP. The GSMP is a sports diplomacy women’s empowerment initiative sponsored by the US Department of State and implemented by the unique and inspiring team at the University of Tennessee Center for Sport, Peace, and Society. I'm sure we will talk about this life-changing experience, so I wanted to give the audience this important background. It's a pleasure to meet again with you, Luz, and to keep learning about your work inspiring girls in Argentina, as director of the Sophia Foundation. You have been working for almost a decade now to empower girls in the poor neighborhoods of Rosario, and what I love about your approach is that you include boys. You work equally to empower and educate the boys in our community, it's all about changing mindsets. In Argentina, football--soccer for our American audience--is a key element of life. I'm wondering if you have seen any changes since the women's national football team made their voices heard at the 2019 FIFA World Cup. Speaking up about unequal treatment, pay, and much more. Have their actions helped to move the needle toward greater equity for women in sports and mainly in football?
Luz (4:43): It's interesting, Argentina, it's quite a strange country. And for many years, women have had equity in many aspects of life and when it comes to rights, it has been quite a pioneer. However, it really depends on where you're born. I would say that if you're living in poverty, your family will most likely expect you to become a housewife, take care of your family. And maybe if you were born in a better economical situation, you most likely have every opportunity that you desired and been provided with more opportunities and not being as chained as in other areas, but when it comes to sport, it is strange again, and you would say that the women hockey team is known everywhere and it's so popular for girls and ever since they won a national championship, all girls went into playing field hockey. And yet with men's teams, they won the gold medal in Rio, something that, that the women's team never achieved and they are not known at all or the popularity of the sport hasn't grown. And when it comes to soccer, Argentina breathes and lives by football or soccer, and yet when it comes to women’s football and soccer, I didn't even see the news on the newspaper. So about the struggle of the Women’s World Cup and their fight that the US National Team as, as they fought for equity, there was no mention at all in the local news. So it's weird, and I would say that there was some sort of recognition because there, there was the first professional league for women and they started showing on TV, but there was no mention on the equality on the payment. So I'm guessing it's starting to go on that direction, but there's definitely a, still a long way to go.
Martina (6:33): That’s so true Luz, I think it's just as you've mentioned, I completely agree. So let's move to another question. I know you're highly committed to bringing about social change. And I admire your work with the kids from shantytowns some of the poorest and roughest neighborhoods in Rosario, in particular. I love the way you are providing them opportunities to learn job skills through playing sports. So 10 years ago, when you started the program, that was pre-teen innovative approach. Can you tell us how you got this idea and how it relates to the life skills you learn as a field hockey goalkeeper?
Luz (7:07): Within the organization, we've always believed that that sports has great potential to change the world and to educate, we are not saying anything new. Mandela already said that, but in my case, sports has allowed me to learn the most valuable lessons that I could never learn in a classroom. Like, how to get up after being knocked down, understanding that no matter what you do, even if you're doing your best, when your teammates do, or what they do, it affects you directly. And this particular idea is why we develop a theory of change that serves as a compass on how to fight poverty. Poverty is not just a problem of those who are living in poverty, but it is something that affects all of us. You can’t expect to win the world cup if you're just playing with, with seven players instead of the with, with 11 on your whole team. And that is sort of what's happening with the country and how it approaches people living in poverty. You need everyone and that is why we developed this theory of change that we work with young kids who are living in poverty and we empower them so that they can change that situation. But we are also working with the rest of the society on how to generate more social cohesion, how to make them more aware of the situation. So that the whole society is working on how to create a better future and how to create a better society for us all. Everywhere it's teamwork. Yeah. It applies everywhere and that's the magic of sports.
Martina (8:43): Okay, Luz, I've got another burning question for you. So obviously as a mom, an entrepreneur, and an activist, you're an extra busy and active lady. Can you tell us what a typical day in the life of Luz looks and how you manage all of your responsibilities?
Luz (8:58): Yeah. Sure. Well, ever since I've become a mum, I've been living with my mentor, Joan Coraggio’s mantra, which is you can't always be an A student in all subjects. Sometimes a C goes a long way, as long as it's not always on the same area. So, I accepted that sometimes I'm a C plus mom, sometimes I’m a C plus professional. But basically on my every day, well, I wake up, I have breakfast with my baby and husband who has been working for the past year at home--also a big change for all of us since the lockdown. Then I kind of escape to work during the whole morning, I run to a local co-working space and I try to cross down as many things on my to-do list as possible in my limited time, then go back at home and become a mom during the afternoons. That's how it's been going for the past months. Usually, yeah, then probably around seven, we would go on a family walk with husband, kids, dogs, everybody so that we can relax a little bit. And then if there is some energy left after baby has gone to sleep, maybe either I get a book or I would go and watch something on Netflix. It's a long day, definitely, but it's a fun one. I manage on how to uh, balance things. It's been a struggle though.
Martina (10:27): So I think we have some minutes more. So I got a final question. At what point during your GMP experience, did you stop and say, “Whoa, I am really doing this?”
Luz (10:39): I would say I had many of those moments during GSMP and every now and then I found emails that I was sending, but then I would, I would write a daily email telling everybody what was going on with my day when I was there. But I guess the one I remember the most was when I was invited to have lunch with Oprah, which was really cool. And after that lunch with Oprah, I was invited to a business meeting with the Saatchi and Saatchi executive team and the Oprah CEO and CFO, which were like, I, you know, it was a big deal. They were discussing on a Oprah tour, and John Lisko, who was the head of the agency, invited me to be a part of that meeting. And at some point of the meeting, John asked me like, what was my opinion and he asked me for my point of view and I was like, “Wow, this really happened.” You know, he was asking for my input, it was really something that I could have never imagined. It was out of the blue and unexpected and crazy to believe all the things that happened during that month.
Martina (11:42): Definitely, yeah.
Luz (11:43): The greatest experience.
Carole (11:46): And that's the end of round one. We are now moving to round two.
Luz (11:51): I cannot wait to ask you more deeper questions. I want to know about you, but I also want our audience to discover a little bit about your personality. So let me return you the favor in trying to catch you off guard with some random questions. So what is one song that always makes you want to dance whenever you hear it?
Martina (12:12): Uh, I really love music. I love dancing too, but, um, I think that the song that always makes me dance is “Don't Stop Me Now” by Queen. I think it's the song that makes me happy, always.
Luz (12:27): It's a really good song. It's one of the, it's one of those songs that you would also be screaming out loud while you're listening to the radio.
Martina (12:35): Yes, it doesn't matter where you are.
Luz (12:37): Exactly.
Martina (12:38): Maybe, maybe driving in your car and singing. It's, it's a great song.
Luz (12:42): It's a great feeling. Love it. So another one, if you had a warning label, what would yours say?
Martina (12:50): Warning label? I think I never thought about this, but maybe something that says, “May bite before coffee.” I really need my morning coffee to start with the right foot.
Luz (13:04): Oh, I like that one, yeah. The day doesn't start till you have your first cup, right? Thank you for that, it says a lot about you and I'm guessing we have more in common than I imagined. What has field hockey meant to you growing up? And is there a special, a special memory you can share with us that exemplifies why it is so special?
Martina (13:25): Sports has always been part of my life since I was in school where I practiced every sport just for fun. But I think I can tell that hockey, field hockey, was for sure, my very first passion. And when I was growing up, field hockey taught me one of the most powerful lessons of my life and that we were talking about before that is teamwork. It allowed me to be training values that I consider utmost important: respect, cooperation, solidarity, tolerance, empathy, and understanding each other's place in the field. And I believe that that is what field hockey gave me. And it also showed me that sports, not only field hockey, it's like a universal language. I think we talk about this before, and it doesn’t matter, does not matter your gender, your nationality, or the color of your skin when you have a hockey stick in your hand, in any part of the world, you don't need to talk, you just need to play. And I think you all will understand this because you are, you were also part of this field hockey family, right? So I think that's what hockey gave me.
Luz (14:28): Definitely it's, it's really inspiring. And, and I've got goosebumps just thinking of it. Yeah. I mean, I don't think anyone can really imagine it until you actually played it. And you just mentioned many of them. You learned a lot of useful and transferable skills through playing field hockey. Many of those were probably very useful in your role as a Chief of Staff to Argentina, as Secretary of Sport, and I've seen you there, we had a meeting while you were at the cenar. From my perspective, you must have faced a lot of challenges as you were one of the only women or you are the only one, I don't remember that. How do you deal with mobilizing teams, mostly men with more experience than you, you were, well, you're still really young. How old were you when you were at that role? 20-something?
Martina (15:16): Yes, I was 27.
Luz (15:18): Okay, 27. And the pressure of being one of the women pioneers at the decision-making table in Argentina. What was, what was that experience like?
Martina (15:26): It's just, as you were saying, being a really young woman in the Chief of Staff of Argentina, Secretary of Sport position was really, really, really challenging professional achievement or professional opportunity. And I was working and coordinating a team of older men with much more experience. I believe it was, for sure, an everyday challenge. It was quite difficult at the beginning. I had so much pressure and all my teammates, mostly men, were expecting for me to fail. I think they felt uncomfortable with me, a young woman sitting at the decision-making table right next to them and sharing my opinion with them and saying that I didn't like what they were saying. So, I think they felt uncomfortable. And I, for sure, I felt uncomfortable at the beginning too, but I really grow in that position. It took several months for us to understand that we can build a great team, but we made it. We understand that respect should prevail among team members. I love to use a metaphor, “It takes two to tango,” as we say here in Argentina in order to realize that we, we, both women and men are made to make things work. So I think that we, in the industry of sports here in Argentina, we've got to make that work.
Luz (16:43): Last, but not least. I am curious to know, based on your past experience, coordinating activities between the government, the sports club and the national sports federation, what is the biggest change that's benefited Argentina women in sports management over the past few years? And why?
Martina (17:00): I believe that having a woman as Argentina’s Secretary of Sport for the first time in history is the biggest change. When we look back some years ago, it was impossible to imagine a woman leading the sports field. I'm really proud of this progress, and convinced that we need to work harder in order to have more women sitting at the table and not setting the table.
Luz (17:21): Yeah, definitely. Oh, great.
Martina (17:23): Yes, for sure.
Luz (17:24): Well, we're on the right track then. So I've got one final question and what's one piece of advice you, you've received from the GSMP mentor, Val Ackerman? One of the United States’, more prominent female sports leaders on how to influence decision makers to invest in women's sports?
Martina (17:41): Whoa. You mentioned Val Ackerman, and then I see one of the most empowered women that I've ever met. She's my mentor and I can spend hours talking about her. And I believe that one of Val’s main pieces of advice was, she told me to take the risk, take the risk of working for women to be part of the principal decision making tables, not to be satisfied with self-imposed minimums of women representation, to try to change those minimums that should turn into maximums of women sitting together as a team and working in, in these decision-making bodies.
Luz (18:17): Well that was definitely a great piece of advice. How, how could you not celebrate taking risks?
Carole (18:24): That's the end of round two. We are now moving to round three, with ladies discussing about empowerment.
Luz (18:32): We're running out of time, so let's do a lightning round. So what's your definition of empowerment?
Martina (18:38): Empowerment. I think I will define empowerment in three words. I will say freedom, self-confidence, and inspiring. I think that a person that is empowered is a person that is free to make his or her own decisions, that is self-confident, and that for sure inspires the ones around him or her. And you Luz, what's your definition of empowerment?
Luz (19:03): I loved yours. I'm gonna say it's, it's creating the necessary environment and giving people the tools necessary to take control of their future. I would, I would go on that direction on, on creating structure and environment and, and providing tools.
Carole (19:22): Ref speaking here, I could not help, but end this friendly fight with a sincere thank you to our audience. And guess what? The winner of today's episode is communities around the globe who are benefiting from greater equality and inclusivity. Thank you ladies for your priceless time and energy. You're the stars here and today, so I leave you with the final words.
Luz (19:46): Well, it was wonderful to share this episode with you, Martina, and thank you so much for stepping into the ring and helping us learn more about your work to advance gender equity in sports, and thanks to our audience for tuning into this week's episode. We hope you learned something new about women in sports in Argentina, and that you leave feeling inspired to make a difference in your own community. Social change is a team sport and we're counting on you to join in as we celebrate the global impact of Title IX. Here are some easy ways to get into the action. Click the “like” button, subscribe to our channels and share this podcast with your family, friends, and colleagues, and leave your questions and comments on social media. And remember, you can listen to more episodes of the Strong Women, Better World Podcast Series on your favorite podcasting platform.