WRITTEN FOR THE BRITISH ATHLETICS WEBSITE
The fifth annual and final Women in World Athletics seminar took place at London’s Excel Centre last month (May 19th-22nd) to conclude a highly successful five-year pre-legacy programme for the London 2017 IAAF World Championships.
A total of 55 delegates from 22 countries including the UK, Europe and across the world attended the closing session, with 120 women having been through the WIWA course since it’s 2013 inception.
Together with European Athletics, British Athletics has worked to ensure a mix of female coaches, officials, event volunteers, competition administration staff and event management staff have been represented on the programme, and the weekend received all-round praise for an inspiring ending to a highly successful development plan.
Delegates took part in a number of sessions including academic content on Mindfulness and Vision, Making Change Happen and Action Planning, led by Stuart West with Orla Kelleher, and Amanda Harrington.
Guest speakers including Liz Nichol, Anne Dickens, Donna Fraser and Cherry Alexander spoke about their personal and professional journeys, and six returning delegates – Moira Aston (IRL), Sue Maughan (GBR), Linda Turner (GBR), Jane Pidgeon (GBR), Laurie Ann Boemker (USA) and Elisabete Costa (POR) – shared their WIWA tales.
The closing seminar was about celebrating success and sharing journeys, and it focused on vision, inspiring others, how to effect change and to become an agent for change, and moving forwards. The purpose of the final three seminars was to move participants from reflection to action in pursing their goals.
Jean Gracia, the Vice President of European Athletics gave a welcoming address to open the four-day event and he duly thanked British Athletics and London 2017 for the excellent organisation of all five editions.
Crediting UK Sport and the IAAF for their permanent support over the years, he discussed the proposed changes following concerns regarding gender equity within the EA Council and revealed that the 14% to 31% increase of women on the European Athletics Commissions in the past 15 year period still requires work.
Liz Nichol, the CEO of UK Sport, meanwhile talked about female high-achieving athletes using their profiles to have a voice and inspire other women, as well as acknowledging five-time Olympic rowing medallist, Katharine Grainger – the now Chair of UK Sport – for her leadership.
Nichol explained that four out of five senior management positions at UK Sport are currently held by women on merit but that a more developmental culture is needed in business.
Anne Dickens, a para canoe gold medallist at the Rio 2016 Paralympics told her inspiring tale of able-bodied endurance cyclist to Paralympic canoe champion, following a motivational epiphany whilst volunteering as a Games Maker at the London 2012 Games.
She spoke of pushing the boundaries, remaining positive and chasing a dream – all with a smile.
Elsewhere, Sydney 2000 Olympic 400m fourth placer, Donna Fraser – the Vice President of UK Athletics – discussed the Olympic values of determination, courage and inspiration, and the importance of giving back to the sport by mentoring.
The two-time world 4x400m relay bronze medallist reflected:
“Although I was at WIWA for a short time, I was able to meet the great women in our sport and thoroughly enjoyed sharing my journey.
“The audience was fully engaged and they definitely have the drive and determination to achieve great things. This event is a great platform to empower our women in athletics for the future.”
Cherry Alexander, Major Events Director at British Athletics and Managing Director of London 2017 spoke of the importance of having a good support team, taking every opportunity, having a positive inner voice and trusting yourself.
She too spoke highly of the WIWA programme:
“The Women in World Athletics seminar has been an incredibly successful development programme for all the women who have attended from around the world.
“A strong network has been an important part of the journey throughout the programme and it is inspiring to see the strength of that network grow and continue to get stronger, providing an invaluable tool for the development of each delegate.
“What is apparent and incredibly inspiring is to see the journey that each and every delegate has been on and just how much they have grown in confidence during the programme and in sharing their personal aspirations for the future.
“Each and every woman recognises the impact of the seminar and the network that has been created, with many keen to be involved in developing a wider women’s leadership programme in the future.”