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Julia Symons

Year of Award: 2017 Award State: Victoria Community > Gender Equality
Community > Diversity
Sport And Recreation > General
To investigate elite sports environments that enable culturally diverse women to thrive - New Zealand, USA, UK

Women from cultural minority groups in elite sporting environments can experience challenges beyond those faced as a result of their gender. Walking in two worlds between collectivist and/or cultural values, whilst managing the demands and requirements of the often individualistic focus of an elite sporting can require constant navigation and negotiation.

My investigation found that cultural and psychological safety were the common features of elite sports environments where culturally diverse women thrive. The result is an environment of inclusive excellence, which is a term used by some university in the United States to describe their approach to diversity. Exploring inclusive excellence in elite Australian sport environments creates exciting opportunities to discover high performance elements of diversity in action.

Inclusive excellence manifests in sport environments where diversity of all kinds is demanded and celebrated, ongoing learning and knowledge is sought from a variety of sources, innovation and change is not feared, and inclusive leadership is demonstrated through key behaviours including emotional intelligence, courage, curiosity and vulnerability.

Infrastructure supporting such environments includes board and executive-led diversity strategy, measurement and reporting, effectively implemented policies, and education and training that creates brave spaces for reflection and empathy. It does not sacrifice high standards of performance, accountability and transparency. It offers spaces for robust and respectful debate, innovation and risk taking, in the pursuit of better ways of working and a ‘best practice’ approach.

The following recommendations highlight the ways that elite sporting environments in Australia can develop inclusive excellence to support culturally diverse women, as well as the broader sporting community through the exploration of (in no particular order):

  1. Ways to enable culturally diverse women to bring their ‘whole selves’ to the high performance sport.
  2. Repositioning diversity strategy and activity in sport. 
  3. Opportunities to ensure that culturally diverse women in sport have a seat at the table. 
  4. Sport and cross-sectoral diversity forums to share and gain knowledge and information.
  5. Understanding and connection with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and communities. 
  6. Development of policies, systems and structures that protect individuals, embeds diversity considerations and monitors change. 
  7. Driving diversity agendas from executive and board level. 
  8. See the sporting arena as a classroom. 
  9. Forums to hold and share brave conversations. 
  10. Explore conduit roles to support culturally diverse women. 
  11. Representation of culturally diverse women at all levels, in all areas of sport. 
  12. Principles of inclusive leadership across sporting environments.
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