A year to the day since the first Gender Leadership Moderators Seminar was held, many of the sport’s most prominent figures and prospective leaders came together online on Wednesday for the World Athletics Global Conference: Inspiring Women Leaders in Athletics.
The Gender Leadership Programme undertaken by World Athletics has helped women from around the world prepare for leadership roles within national, area and global federations, with the ambition of creating a level playing field at the decision-making levels of the sport.
There have already been tangible outcomes at a global level. More women ran for Council – and were elected – in 2019 than ever before. Ximena Restrepo became World Athletics’ first female Vice President, and female representation among area and national federations is greater than it has ever been.
Last year’s Gender Leadership Moderators Seminar and this week’s global conference will ensure the positive momentum continues as the sport aims to achieve its longer-term targets of 40% female representation on the Council in 2023 and 50% representation in 2027.
Almost 300 attendees from across all six continental areas logged on to the global conference. Along with talks from four keynote speakers, there were also break-out sessions and panel discussions.
Donna Raynor, President of the Bermuda National Athletics Association, said that becoming chairperson of the NACAC Gender Leadership Working Group brought out a passion that she didn’t realize she had.
“Women must have a voice, they must be heard, they must stand strong and it is our obligation to make sure we provide them with the opportunity and the environment to prepare for leadership positions,” she said. “We must show leadership and lead the way.”
World Athletics Vice President Restrepo offered some words of wisdom to any other women looking to take on a leadership role in athletics.
“My advice would be to surround yourself with good people, and not to be worried or scared of people you may think are better than you,” said the 1992 Olympic 400m bronze medalist. “A good support network can help you become a leader. It's a hard journey and nothing in life is free. Just work hard day after day and in the morning think to yourself, 'today I'm going to be a better version of myself'. And that's how we'll advance.”
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe, CEO Jon Ridgeon and Council Member Beatrice Ayikoru also joined the conference. They were unanimous in their support and advocacy of the work being done by the Gender Leadership Taskforce.
Raynor also said, “I would like to thank everyone who congratulated me on my keynote speaking opportunity for the World Athletics Global Conference - Inspiring women in athletics. What an awesome experience with 169 persons on the zoom. I hope my presentation inspired other women to shoot for their goals and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. As I said in my speech I have had a lot of hurdles and roadblocks put in front of me but I leaped over them and left them in my wake. This is a great time to be a woman. The Conference was awesome and so much positive discussion amongst the women. I am looking forward to more opportunities and mentoring our up and coming aspiring young women. I am so grateful to have our World Athletics leader President Lord Sebastian Coe who is a strong advocate for the empowerment of women.”