Donna Raynor answers calls to empower women in sport
Donna Raynor is determined to keep pushing the positive shift towards female empowerment after being selected as a keynote speaker at the World Athletics Global Conference.
The event, entitled Inspiring Women Leaders and which will take place virtually tomorrow, brings together all the women who have attended either a gender leadership seminar or women’s leadership workshop run by the area development centres around the world to discuss issues women are dealing with in sport.
The president of the Bermuda National Athletics Association will be one of several keynote speakers from former top athletes whose impact has extended well beyond the world of sport, to powerful governance leaders in athletics.
“I was delighted when they asked me to be involved,” Raynor said. “I see it as a big acknowledgement not only for what I’ve being doing, but what we have been doing positively in Bermuda as well.
“I guess they want to learn more about my own personal journey from athlete to administrator, but also my thoughts on the women’s movement in sport and in a wider scope.
“I’ve always been passionate about athletics and I can lean on my experiences of competing abroad before returning home and making that transition into administrative roles.
“For me, it’s never been a case of allowing the fact I’m a woman define what I can do. There were areas I knew I could make a valuable contribution, whether I was male or female.
“I have come across obstacles over the past, more so in a professional capacity rather than in sport, but it was about jumping over those hurdles.
“Because of positions I have taken up in different committees and organisations, I guess you could say I’ve become a real cheerleader for women in sport and empowering women in general.”
As chairwoman of the North American, Central American and Caribbean Gender Leadership Working Group and chairwoman of Women In Sport for the Bermuda Olympic Association, Raynor is in the ideal position to give her views on the topics surrounding female empowerment.
While she feels there has been a positive shift surrounding the topic in the sporting sphere, particularly on island, she is well aware that is not the case globally.
“In Bermuda, we have a really strong and positive representation of women in both the Bermuda National Athletics Association and Bermuda Olympic Association, but unfortunately that is not the case across the world,” she added.
“A lot of nations still don’t have female leaders within their boards and in some cases they’re not represented at all higher up within organisations.
“Overall, there is still an underrepresentation of women, and for me it’s all about how I can help to create female leaders globally.
“That discussion needs to be had more and it’s even something that we are discussing within the Bermuda Olympic Association. Lord Sebastian Coe [president of World Athletics] is an advocate for female empowerment and I think it comes down to who the leaders are within organisations.
“Within sport it is important to help mentor women to help keep them within sport and show them there are opportunities. It’s key to continue to shine a light on women in sport across the board to try and help females grow their confidence to take higher positions within organisations.
“Across the board, I would say the movement is growing and it is something that I remain passionate about. My hope is that recent trend continues and we see more women taking up more prominent positions, both in sport and out.”
Although Raynor’s focus remains prominently within sport, she is keen to help fight the cause for female empowerment farther afield, citing the groundbreaking emergence of Kamala Harris, the United States’ first female Vice President-elect as a key turning point.
“In athletics that movement is definitely moving in the right direction,” she said. “I’ve been involved in loads of webinars about gender leadership and there has definitely been a positive shift where women are concerned.
“However, it is a different story in the corporate world still. It is important to keep having these conversations and highlighting the situation so we can help create a change. I want to keep reflecting on the movement because we are seeing more women taking up higher positions; you only have to look at someone like Kamala Harris
“My ultimate aim is to help encourage women not only in Bermuda but also farther afield across the board. There is so much potential out there and it is imperative to help give women the confidence to take those steps forward.”