Women in Sports

Oregon women's track
UO launching initiative to increase gender equity globally
within track and field
by jim murez

The effort, which aims to address the lack of women and under-represented communities in the sport’s leadership positions, will get underway with a forum July 19

One of the core beliefs of the University of Oregon Sport and Wellness Initiative is that sport and society are inherently linked. The University of Oregon, USA Track and Field, World Athletics, and the local organizing committee for the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 are holding a forum during the event in an effort to increase gender equity globally within the sport of track and field.

“Out of the Blocks,” as the forum will be called, is meant to spur change in the sport by pushing for the increased representation of women in the sport’s leadership positions as well as to promote greater inclusion of underrepresented individuals in terms of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, disabilities and more.

UO President and Professor of Law Michael H. Schill will open the forum, to be live streamed here at 10:30 a.m. on July 19. Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, the international governing body of track and field, will also speak in support of the effort at the event, which includes a panel discussion on the gender representation in sport.

“Women are significantly underrepresented in leadership in athletics. For example, they hold less than 20 percent of leadership roles in NCAA division I and II athletic programs,” said Schill. “As a leading public research university, we are pleased to take advantage of the World Athletics Championships being the U.S. for the first time to explore how to increase the number of women and other underrepresented communities in leadership positions across sport.  We appreciate USATF’s and World Athletics’ engagement and action around this important topic.”

Provost and Senior Vice President Patrick Phillips added that this effort aligns well with the university’s Sport and Wellness Initiative.

“We recognize the power of sport to promote social change, particularly by bringing communities together and fostering goodwill,” he said. “The World Athletics Championships are a powerful platform for the university to leverage our research and scholarship for the greater good.”

Stephanie Hightower, former president of USA Track and Field and nine-time national champion in the hurdles, will moderate the panel, which will urge those in leadership positions within the sport to take meaningful action. The forum will be available via livestream.

The effort dovetails with the strategic initiatives of the local organizing committee, which hopes to establish a blueprint for organizing and delivering future World Athletics Championships. As part of a theme of driving change, the local organizing committee has focused on developing a strategy for diversity and inclusion that delivers clear actions and results; implementing a sustainability strategy that builds on the already established practice in Oregon; and defining clear legacy objectives and putting in place the optimum structure and team to achieve those objectives.

Along those lines, UO Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Dr. Yvette Alex-Assensoh offered training to WCH Oregon22 staff and volunteers on cultural humility, equity and the L.A.C.E. (Love, Acceptance, Courage, and Empathy) framework in use at the UO. It focuses on embracing lifestyles, relationships, leadership styles, and systems that prepare people for a more just future.