Networking, self-belief, and mentoring were the dominate themes at the second Women in World Athletics (WIWA) seminar hosted by European Athletics and British Athletics in Kenilworth, England, over the weekend.
Attracting 52 women from 26 countries, the three-day seminar programme featured lectures on leadership development, inspirational guest speakers and a half-day project to create video advertisements for key leadership roles within athletics.
In her welcome speech, European Athletics Council member Sylvia Barlag called on the participants to aspire to leadership roles and express their ambitions and then emphasised the long-term nature of European Athletics support for women leaders.
“We want to create a network of ambitious women that will sustain itself and grow by a chain reaction,” she said, “We need to build relationships during this seminar and through peer-to-peer mentoring so that more women can have the confidence to apply their abilities.”
One of Britain’s highest ranking sport leaders, Baroness Sue Campbell, who chairs the elite sport umbrella body UK Sport, then described her own career journey, including her role in the London 2012 Olympic Games, highlighting the importance of trust and authenticity and what she called the ‘four Rs of leadership’: resilience, resourcefulness, responsiveness and responsibility.
“Leadership is not about being out at the front, it is about galvanising individuals to get the best out of them,” she said. “Don’t accept that what has been done before is the best way. Everybody leads in different and very distinct ways.”
Saturday’s work was chaired by Stuart West of the Derby Business School at the University of Derby, who led a breakout group work session on profiling leadership roles before moving on to discuss theories and techniques of leadership.
Professor Christine Coupland of Loughborough University spoke about the meaning and nature of leadership and the elements of gender that are involved.
Guest speaker Dr. Emma Rosamond, a senior manager in the oil and gas industry as well as a qualified sports coach and official, told the story of her multifaceted career, which included transitions from gymnast to coach to scientist to business leadership roles.
The day ended with Professor Coupland returning to the stage to talk about career planning and mentoring.
On the Sunday the WIWA delegates took part in the 11th British Athletics Officials’ Conference, which featured keynote speaker Alan Bell, one of the world’s top starters, and a selection of thematic workshops.
For the final half-day of work, the participants were again assigned to groups and given their video project. The aim was to give them the perspective of decision makers and the criteria for selecting individuals to fill key roles.
The WIWA programme is a five-year series of seminars initiated by British Athletics as a part of the pre-legacy for the 2017 IAAF World Championships in Athletics in London. Top women officials and other women aspiring to leadership positions from Europe and around the world are invited to attend based on nominations by their Member Federations.
All participants from 2013 and 2014 will be invited to a follow-up seminar in the next two years.
Researchers at the University of Derby are currently planning a long-term research project to track the career paths of the participants and the development of the support network established during the first two seminars.
In addition to European Athletics and the British Athletics, the WIWA programme is supported by UK Sport and the IAAF Regional Development Centre in Moscow.