What does the word ‘balance’ mean to you; what phrases or images does it conjure up? Stability? Equality? Proportion? Fairness? What does balance mean for you in the context of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2019? #BalanceforBetter is the theme for this year’s IWD. It implies we need greater representation of women to even up areas of society that have historically been homogenously white and male. It also implies that we will improve society when we have such gender balance and that means all social groups, different groups of men and women, have a part to play. Gender equality is not just a woman’s issue or battle. Equality and equity benefit us all. Therefore, there is responsibility and accountability for all of us. Whatever role you play at work, whatever your family set-up, whatever your relationships are, wherever you are, however you self-identify. We each have a part to play in making areas of our lives more equal, stable, fair, and more balanced. Within the research I lead here in the Carnegie School of Sport into improving gender equity in sports coaching, the messages we drive forwards chime with this theme for IWD that #BalanceisBetter. I talk a lot on the issue of diversity in coaching, and not just having diversity for diversity’s sake. We are not just in the business of counting heads. But making heads count. Therefore, it is imperative to not just have diversity but to be inclusive of that diversity. We have a significant lack of that in sport coaching. But it is not just having different groups of women, in this case, for having women’s sakes. It is not a tick box exercise, an outcome, a PR exercise, or because we have been told to do so. Within the research we lead here in Carnegie, it is driving home the message that to be better as an organisation, national governing body, or club, that we require a variety of skill sets, abilities, thinking, decision making, and faces in order to connect to the communities and individuals we serve. We cannot improve organisational performance or be more successful in an ever-changing world if we have same-ness within our ranks. Therefore, having a culture of inclusive diversity can not only offer diversity of face, but diversity of thought too. We are working towards understanding what diversity can do to improve coaching and sport organisational performance; it is still an under-researched area. But what we do know from other sectors is that it disrupts people feeling ‘safe’ and not thinking outside of the box in the workplace, it improves decision making, productivity is higher and faster, it attracts new talent particularly younger people, it reduces staff turnover, and leads to higher job satisfaction. This shows that having a balance in the workplace, and a culture that is inclusive of that balance, is more than a moral judgement. Having #balance makes good business sense. It benefits us all.
So I am very pleased to edit a collection of stories from a sample of women who are working to make society inclusive in one way or another. The blogs this week come from a variety of disciplines - from social sciences to sports medicine to change management. We are also very lucky to have four guest bloggers that kindly took up my invitation to write for the School as part of our celebrations of International Women’s Day. So in addition to blogs from our valued colleagues and students, we are very pleased to be joined by Natasha Stromberg, CEO of GenderBuzz; Vivienne Aiyela, non-Executive Director of The London Association; Shelley Alexander, editor of women’s sport at The BBC; Annamarie Phelps, Vice Chair of the British Olympic Association; and Ruth Holdaway, current CEO of Women in Sport and soon to be Chief Executive of Tennis Victoria in Australia. Take your time to read all our blogs and see what questions and implications they raise for whatever role you are playing to bring about #BalanceforBetter.