She Moves. She Leads. We Win.

Whilst we’re in a golden era for Women Leadership in New Zealand with the recent election of our third female Prime Minister, there remains significant gaps in female leadership nationally and internationally. The “She Moves. She Leads. We Win.” Symposium in Wellington last Friday aimed to discuss and address the gap. The day served as an empowering platform to realise the role in which physical activity plays in helping developing leadership capacity.

We know through research that sport and recreation builds confidence, leadership and community. It’s a no brainer to me when I reflect the way in which sport has shaped me. I forever grateful to sport for the incredible opportunities I’ve received. Through sport I’ve been able to do what I love, travel, make lifelong friendships and more. In recent times I’ve realised that sport has taught me how to do life. To set goals, to work hard, to be a member of a team, to communicate and to have fun among other things.

Sadly, not everyone is afforded the same opportunity. Not everyone is given the same level of support to recognise the opportunity sport provides in our country and the rest of the world. Particularly in some countries young women never get to see sport, play sport or get the feel goods which come with it.


More than sport! Photo: Sanitarium West-Bix Kids TRYathlon Facebook Page

Why should we make an effort with young women to be more active?

We know that through sport women develop qualities which create leaders and empowerment to lead. We also know there is a tremendous gap between women in leadership positions compared to our male counterparts. So sport and recreation is certainly a means to developing stronger women who feel brave enough to put their hand up, take a seat at the table and be a voice for all.

The issue lies in that the girls are slipping behind the boys in the physical activity stakes!

We need to encourage and inspire our young women to participate in sport and recreation because the participation in physical activity in young women are decreasing. Females have lower participation rates in secondary school sport compared to men in New Zealand. Females are two times more likely to be inactive between 15-17 years old. Sadly, this trend continues with age.

So we need to actively engage and promote young women to continue to participate in sport and recreation for more than just the physical and mental health benefits.


 Sport will teach you to be strong

Thank you Serena!


Sport develops confidence in young women

One of the key messages from the day and highlighted by one of the organisers of She Moves, The Shift Foundation, is that sport can develop confidence in young women. Shift was formed by Fran McEwen who recognised the ability of sport to help our young people in a critical phase in life. Shift aims to to improve the wellbeing of young women aged between 12 – 20 years. Shifting bodies and shifting minds.

Shift does this by:

  1. Increasing awareness about wellbeing through education and role modelling
  2. Reducing barriers to participation through financial assistance, providing low-cost alternatives and access to physical activity
  3. Empowering young women by inspiring and growing leaders to create change in their communities

I love the work Shift is doing in the Wellington and the impact they’re having across the region.


Sport develops leadership in young women. 

The impact of sport is transformative. Sporting experience helps women rise. Dr Sarah Hillyer and Dr Ashleigh Huffman from the University of Tennessee Centre for Sport, Peace and Society delivered a keynote address highlighting some of the significant research. Through their research they recognise that sport is a tool to promote personal and community development. Dr Sarah and Dr Ashleigh stated that girls who play sports have more postivie body image, higher states of psychological wellbeing, lower levels of depression and more achievement orientated behaviours.

Sport grows skills such as teamwork, empathy, resilience, communication, goal-setting and work ethic. Sounds like a good leader right? Also sounds like key athlete skills right?!

By way of example 80% of Fortune 500 Female Executives played Sport. Including Hillary Clinton (old mate!), IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde (France) and the First Female President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet. Further to this an extensive study by EY found former athletes have +7% higher annual wages compared to former non-athletes.


Sport develops communities

The Hon Grant Robertson  opened the day giving his first address as our new Minister of Sport. The Minister clearly realises the value of sport and recreation for our wellbeing, whanau and communities. He stated, “Sport builds strong people, includes people and develops communities”. I couldn’t agree more.

Dr Sarah and Dr Ashleigh reiterated the way in which sport as the power to not only grow communities but to develop links between communities. Both of the change-makers have been involved in research and implementation of sports programmes for women in the Middle East. They have seen positive changes in women as a result of sport and that’s why they’re so passionate about spreading their message.

Dr Sarah Hillyer in action empowering women to move in Cairo, Egypt


So She Moves, She Wins, We Win….

We know it to be true. Channeling the impactful and empowering nature of sport in our young women requires effort, momentum and will. It starts at home within our own families and communities educating and empowering them to continue to play sport. We need our girls to be active.

Finally, we cannot afford to limit encouraging physical activity to the girls. We need active boys and we need the boys to champion the girls. So we can all move. We can all lead and so we will all win.


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