GENDER equality at a leadership level can only be achieved if both men and women create avenues for growth to assist those climbing the rungs to success beneath them.
Such was the sentiment shared by panellists of the first-ever Advancing Women in Leadership webinar held by the TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) on Saturday.
This year’s theme “Embracing Change and Transformation during a Pandemic” was thoroughly dealt with by panellists and speakers which comprised of athletes, administrators and medical experts from within the region.
After quoting the figure from the World Economic Forum on gender equality, which stated that it will take 217 years to reach parity, Nicole Hoevertsz, secretary-general of the Aruba National Olympic Committee (NOC) and Pan Am Sports International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, said, “I am worried and frustrated by this figure. It is tooling.”
The former Aruban synchronised swimmer opened by paying homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993, until her death on September 18.
Ginsburg was an advocate for gender equality, women’s rights and an inspiration to Hoevertsz, the first woman on the Pan American Sports Organisation executive committee.
“It is great to be the first in, but I have to make sure I am not the last. So it’s about sending down the elevator and create more opportunities for women. The IOC has been pushing for national federations to have women in leadership positions. On the athletes’ level, it is almost 50-50 but not in the decision-making positions,” Hoevertsz said.
She urged women to do personal training, mentoring and online courses so when the opportunity arises, they are equipped to take up a position in leadership. The ex-athlete also elaborated on managing stress and resilience during the pandemic.
Fellow panellist Jimena Saldana, vice president of the Mexican Olympic Committee and a member of the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organisation (CACSO), advised viewers to learn to never to take things personally and remove politics from affecting their real goals.
She believes men have a huge role to play in achieving gender equality.
“Believe in your inner voice, your instincts. The sports world is controlled by men but there are those who believe in women and have opened up opportunities for women.
“Men have the power to open up opportunities for women and, as Nicole said, it’s about ‘sending down the elevator’ and understand the importance of opening doors for women,” Saldana stated.
Additionally, Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing supported her fellow panellists and zoned in on helping the younger generation progress. She called on women to assist each other on their journey to become leaders.
“I challenge women to help young women. Bloom where you are planted.”
As did national archer Priyanka Dhanie, who dared to launch her business at the start of the pandemic. Her business is about health and wellness, both critically important elements during this time.
“Part of embracing change is sharing with others, sharing knowledge,” said Dhanie, who is helping others manage their mental health as highlighted by Dr Safeeya Mohammed in her feature address.
Like the others, Mohammed has been inspired by Ginsburg and advised all to tap into their superpower, which she hopes is resilience and not fear. Most importantly, she requested that women prioritise their well-being and wellness during this covid19 period.
“Women belong in sport, leadership, business... everything,” declared Mohammed.
Other panellists included Melissa Pascal, CEO Pascal’s Baking Limited and Stacy Ann King, West Indies women’s cricketer.
Delivering the opening address was TTOC president Brian Lewis and Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe, who both championed the cause of the gender equality.
Lewis, however, indicated the novel virus has a significant potential to be gender regressive.
“Because of the systemic and structural inequalities that were already there, the gains and transformations and advances that have been made face a very real possibility of being turned over and rolled back. Sport cannot and will not operate in a vacuum.” He continued, “Covid19 can steal a generation of athletes, coaches and sport administrators if we aren’t careful and we don’t pay attention to it across the globe.
“The burden of unpaid care falls proportionately and significantly on women. It is in that regard that the burden of what is called unpaid care, will fall significantly more on women. What is the impact of that?”
Cudjoe also made a positive impact by stating, “Women belong.”
She believes these words carry with them certainty, speak confidence, epitomise the significance of our roles, speaks to women’s rights to be present, to influence decision, to be an active agent of change with decision making wherever they are.
“With rights come responsibilities. Responsibilities to maximise each opportunity, to not be present but productive, relevant and make your make, make room for other women to join, to chart a new way, and blaze a new trail.
“We have to challenge the status quo, change the culture and make women in leadership normal – a distinctive feature of the new normal. Disruption in our ability to go out and play has created an opportunity for us to examine and improve the rules of play.
“We can now place keen attention on all areas of sport that we had been too busy or too distracted to pursue,” she noted.