Canada hosts female leaders at Agitos Women in Sport Leadership workshop

Eight-month project for the Americas region kicks off in Ottawa

OTTAWA – Several female leaders from the Americas region travelled to Canada’s frosty and snowy capital city last weekend for the first Agitos Women in Sport Leadership workshop. 

A group of 30 women from Canada, Peru, Suriname, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Mexico, Jamaica, Grenada, Colombia, Chile, Aruba, and Argentina gathered for three days of discussion and learning about topics like leadership, networking, mentorship, and the way forward for women in sport.

‘’I feel like I learned a lot about how to analyze myself and use the characteristics that define me as a leader more strategically,” said Erica Castano, one of the representatives from Colombia. “I know this will help me build what I want in the future of my country.”

Karen O’Neill, CEO, of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, says the participants were all passionate, committed, and ready, which made for a productive workshop that she expects will only be the beginning of an exciting time for women in sport in the Americas. 

“It was incredibly powerful to get all of these women in sport, in Para sport, in a room for three days getting to know each other. We are trying to build not only individuals, but also the community. We really kick started some exciting opportunities and support for women in their own leadership to do some really good things in the Americas.”

A presentation at the Agitos Women in Sport Leadership workshop

The project was born out of a survey conducted about 18 months ago in partnership between the CPC and Americas Paralympic Committee, which saw that the representation of women in senior leadership roles in the Americas region was at about 36 to 38 per cent, while technical roles such as coaching was even less at about 17 per cent. 

“When we saw some of those gaps, we were looking at the ways that Canada can contribute to building our own region,” said O’Neill. “What we want to do is support the depth and building of our community so we can really enhance the competition, our linkage, and the entire Paralympic Movement.”

It was decided to focus first on leadership in administration roles. The Ottawa workshop was the kick-off for the Agitos Women in Sport Leadership project, pioneered jointly by the CPC and National Paralympic Committee Peru. The program will ultimately last eight months, concluding with another workshop in Lima following the 2019 Parapan Am Games. 

In between, the participants will work on developing a project in their home country related to supporting women in sport, receive advice from a mentor, work on their own leadership learning path, and participate in a number of webinars on key topics. 

‘’It’s been a fantastic experience connecting with women from all over the Americas, learning so much information and being inspired by all the stories and all the knowledge in the room,” said Gail Purcell of the Grenada Paralympics Committee. “I’m just loving the interactions. It has been a fantastic time.” 

O’Neill is confident in a bright future for the participants. 

“I think we’ll see more of these exciting female leaders in sport over the next eight months,” she said. “I think we’re going to see some neat projects that will have impact. And I think with the nature of this group, they’re savvy and with social media and their sharing of information, I can’t help but think this will create a giant ripple effect for change, for transformation, and how we even cast sport in the Americas.” 

Agitos Women in Sport Leadership was made possible through support from the Agitos Foundation, the development arm of International Paralympic Committee dedicated to changing lives through Para sport and contributing to an inclusive society for all.