Letter: Bias in sport has a long history | Opinion


Our Lady of Guam Cougars Academy players celebrate their victory over the Saint Paul Christian School Warriors in the 2022 IIAAG Women’s Basketball Championship game at the University of Guam Calvo Field House on March 3 2022.

International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world.

This year’s theme, #Breakthebias, challenges us all to speak out against gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping whenever we see it. Bias can be implicit or unconscious and we all need to take a closer look and recognize our own unconscious biases. We then need to help others overcome their biases, which will be an ongoing process of changing perceptions.

Bias in sport has a long history. Personally, I remember very well being asked in 1972 why Australia had not sent men, after my appointment as technical official for the Olympic canoe slalom events in Munich . It was also implied that the task would be too difficult for a woman (me)! Undeterred, I stayed the course.

Fast forward to the Tokyo Olympics, where we saw the highest percentage of female athletes in Oceania (50% or more in over 70% of National Olympic Committees), women and men as athletes. common flags and women in the highest positions as technical officials and team management (33%). In my sport, canoeing, there were also equal events for men and women in a revolutionary moment that had taken many years of diplomacy and negotiations at the international board level.

So my message to all of you – men and women in Oceania – is to stay for the long haul. Be aware of the unconscious biases in yourself and address the issue, then point out the biases in others. Look for opportunities to help women in your (National Olympic Committee) rise to the challenge.

As we celebrate the women of Oceania, especially those who have achieved so much over the past year, let us be part of the change that embraces respect and equality at all levels of sport.

Helen Brownlee is an Australian leader and member of the International Olympic Committee’s Women in Sport Commission, Chair of the Oceania National Olympic Committee’s Equity Commission and Vice-Chair of the Australian Olympic Committee.


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