Are We There Yet? Sport, Diversity and Inclusion
Many argue that in 2012 the London Olympic/Paralympic Games brought our diverse country together in a display of national unity. London was described in the Games’ 2012 report as ‘a world in one city’ and our successful athletes reflected these aspirations. It appears from Sport England that we still have work to do because on Monday 8th October we were invited to join around 60 of the key stakeholders in sport to discuss diversity and inclusion and how we might create impact at all levels of the industry.
The guests included senior representatives of sport from national governing organisations, national governing bodies, equalities organisations, local government and charitable organisations. To get a sense of the gravitas of the proceedings the first speakers included Jennie price (CEO Sport England), Baroness Valerie Amos (Director, SOAS University of London and Former Under-Secretary-General, UN), Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Chair, ukactive. These speakers reflected on ‘the power of diverse teams’, ‘inclusive and psychologically safe spaces’ and ‘the need for white men to have more than diverse conversations’. Delegates were challenged to identify ideas, recommendations and actions for leaders in sport to commit to as the day began purposefully.
Research staff in our centre for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion have been active in supporting many of these organisations as critical friends and through our books and articles to establish intellectual and professional spaces for such activities to thrive. Our collective efforts reinforce the view at this meeting concerned with i) gender and racial disparities at the highest levels of sport ii) the prevalence of racism and sexism in recruitment and selection processes iii) blindspots in regards to issues of disability and issues of intersectionality with race and gender iv) the need for further research ‘insight’ to inform policymakers and practitioners on these issues v) transparent strategic interventions at all levels designed to challenge points i-iv.
René Carayol (CEO, Inspired Leaders Network) did indeed inspire in his work with multinational organisations seeking support with their equalities work. He talked about going beyond statistics to engage senior leaders in conversations about ‘what equality means’ for them as individuals as well as in their everyday business. He encourages a culture of inclusive ownership, for want of a better term, to begin change processes in organisations. Like him we would love to have our services retained ‘because things are going right!’. Alas, this has never been the case. In light of such aspirations we remain optimistic that the sport industry can walk away from such conversations to create impact at all levels where diversity and inclusion are concerned.
One of the last speakers was Richard Lapchick (Human Rights Activist, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant and Author) described as ‘the racial conscience of sport’. He is internationally renowned for his racial and gender report card; an annual study of the racial and gender hiring practices of major professional sports, college sport and the media in the U.S. That report shows long-term trends over a decade and highlights organizations that are notable for diversity in coaching and management staff. We will be talking with Richard about adopting his methodology to apply to the UK context and hope that by further evidencing such trends and continuing our work in the centre for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion we can continue to create impact at all levels of sport in regards to diversity and inclusion.
Leanne is a Professor of Sport and Sociocultural Studies and Director of the Research Centre for Social Justice in Sport and Society within the Carnegie School of Sport. Her research utilises a critical sociological lens to examine sport organisational and coaching cultures to address gender equity and diversity within sport coaching workforces.