Embracing diversity: Lessons from the field
But if, on paper, this universal language has the power to bring people together and be a means of expression for society, does it really reflect reality when it is supposed to be a motor of integration and living better together?
This is the question we tried to answer at AMOS London during our masterclass: Diversity and Inclusion in the Sport Industry. Jamie Love (CEO Monumental Marketing) hosted the discussion around diversity in sports with four special guests who supported this talk and shared their stories, to express their point of view on the perspectives of their perspectives on diversity and inclusion in sports.
Jamie Love: CEO of Monumental Marketing, a digital marketing and PR agency and Lecturer at AMOS London. Jamie is also an influencer and a public figure for the LGBT community as well as Marketing, PR & Entertainment Director of Pride Edinburgh.
Ryan Atkins: Professional football referee and senior manager within the railway industry. He has operated on the EFL Championship and Leagues 1 and 2. In August 2017, he decided to come out, making him the only out gay man in professional football on the pitch. Ryan has used his role to open dialogues within the world of football and to drive change. He can often be seen in the media campaigning for LGBT equality in sport.
Jon Holmes: Digital media editor and journalist. As part of the team at Sky Sports Digital, he manages and maintain the SkySports.com website, their apps and other products, and perform a variety of editorial tasks. He is passionate about LGBT+ inclusion in sport. At Sky Sports, he co-ordinates and writes content relating to the media’s support of the Stonewall's award-winning Rainbow Laces campaign. He is also the founder and lead of Sports Media LGBT+ - a network, advocacy and consultancy group that is helping both his industry media and sport in general to become more welcoming and inclusive. He is also a committee member for both InterMediaUK and the Sports Journalists’ Association.
Claire Danson: Paraplegic Triathlete - She had an accident just over a year ago when she was competing at a high level as a Triathlete and she is now working her way back as a paraplegic athlete.
Jamie Bowie: Scottish track and field athlete who won a silver medal at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships as part of the Great Britain’s 4 × 400m Relay.
Sport for all: a source of tolerance, social cohesion, and commitment
The Masterclass revolved around several topics about diversity and inclusion, with a focus mainly on disability and LGBTQ+, feeding with the experiences of the guests. But before going further, it is important to give a definition of the different areas of the subject discussed that day:
What is diversity? What is inclusion?
If we refer to the Cambridge dictionary, diversity is “when there is variety or things or people are included in something, or in a range of different things or people”. And inclusion stands for “the act of including someone or something as part of a group, list, etc., or a person or thing that is included”.
Diversity aims to recognise, understand, and value the individual differences of everybody. As we can see diversity exists everywhere, we are all different. Age, gender, education, social background, race… we have all our inherent differences. There are no two of the same women or men. But even though diversity does exist, the fact is: inclusion is not yet integrated in our society.
Back to some of the highlights
The first part of the conference was a reflection on how to organise the discussion and a perception of our speakers over the last few years. This involved an inventory on: what is diversity and inclusion in the world of sports today and what are the different changes across the industry?
Diversity in sport has been a driver of positive social change for years. Even if customs are changing, and we are seeing more and more success stories on diversity in sport at different levels, there is still a long way to go so before the world of sport becomes more inclusive. Sport mirrors how we behave in society. When looking at the sports coverage, the media is sometimes far from reflecting social and cultural diversity which indicates that there is still no fair representation for all.
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair. Sport speaks to people in a language they can understand.” – Nelson Mandela
So, what can be done to achieve more diversity?
Four main points emerged from the discussion:
- Educating from the top to grassroot level
- Using media and platforms to raise profiles, sports, and groups they represent
- Emphasizing on inclusivity and diversity
- Community support
An educational approach can help to negate many fears that people have when it comes to addressing diversity; “I think if we can educate people who have not thought about the importance of diversity, and get them on board as well, so it does become all inclusive.” Claire Danson.
Educating people around diversity and inclusivity, needs to come from the top and also people coming from more popular backgrounds need to use their voices, get out there to champion themselves and it takes a lot of confidence. As Jon Holmes mentioned: “We need to have people with the confidence to talk about their experiences in sport. More and more people understand the impact they can have and be prepared to use that platform and use their voices more not just to raise their own profile but also to raise the profile of their sports.”
“if we get more diversity in boards and in governance, where people shape the sport and lead certain decisions, with people who really understand what the challenges are it will help to push the snowball up the hill. If we get to that point, then it will help the ball to roll down the hill.” Jamie Bowie.
If we wish to create equal opportunities for all, the next step is not just to move on about diversity it is also about inclusivity and bringing everyone together under one banner. Diversity and inclusion need to work in synergy to achieve this.
There is still a great deal that can be done for sports to be more inclusive, and this is something everyone involved in sports, at all levels, can contribute towards achieving it.
This is how this conversation ends, the guest speakers shared with our students some tips and career advice to use in their future careers, to be more diverse and inclusive:
“Be the change you want to see”, this is the main idea that stands out. Whatever role you decide to take in sport and if you want to move forward in your career, there is an opportunity for you to change sports, you have the opportunity to make a difference. Regardless of what level you end up in sport, you can still influence the pathway of sport and make it more equal and inclusive.
“It is not just about yourself; it is allowing other people to talk about their journeys as well. That is something everyone in the panel was able to do, inspiring others. People need to understand today, they have influence and can use their positions and allow people to trust them, and it will help them to flourish too.” – Jon Holmes
“And remember that sport is such a powerful tool to make an inclusive community. I think if we can get sport to be truly inclusive and have that diversity, it will run through in all areas of life and then in the roles you end up in; you actually have an important place in society to bring people together, to educate people, to enable people to feel part of a community. And I think for mental health it is vital. So…Your role to include people is ever so important.” – Claire Danson
You are the next generation of individuals coming into sport and you really do have power to drive change and whatever role or aspect you are moving into. If you keep remembering the power of sport, then you would not want to deprive any individuals no matter their differences.