The third international Women in Sport & Exercise conference, hosted by the University of Worcester, has smashed all previous records for participation, welcoming over 700 delegates and speakers from across the world, roughly seven times the attendance of previous events.
The conference drew some of the biggest names in women’s sport, including Clare Balding OBE, who was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Worcester in 2017, former England rugby star Maggie Alphonsi, and ex-England Lioness, University of Worcester graduate and current Head of Women’s Football at Southampton, Marieanne Spacey-Cale MBE.
Vanessa Jones, Director of Academic Partnerships within the School of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Worcester, said: “Originally we had planned for a traditional in-person event, and we were aiming for about 150 delegates, but the pandemic meant we had to take the conference online, and far from being a hinderance, that has opened up the event to a whole new global audience.”
“Obviously it’s pleasing for us at the University of Worcester to host such a large, vibrant and successful conference, but what really matters is the message we want to share,” Ms Jones added. “This year’s theme was ‘Redressing The Balance’, and with the global reach we have achieved with this event, the phenomenal quality of the work being shared, and the inspirational ideas being generated, we have the chance to take a big step forward in doing just that, redressing the balance for women in sport.”
Besides the usual array of workshops and presentations, Ms Jones and her team have been keen to keep the conference as dynamic and interactive as possible to hold the attention of its new-found global audience. Fast-paced five by five presentations, extensive social media interactivity and a conference podcast are just some of the methods they have used to keep things interesting.
Topics have also varied hugely, from discussions on women drivers in Formula 1, to research on the physiological demands that hormones can place on the body, and from women in management and leadership to discussions around coaching and grass roots participation.
Running parallel to the main event was a one-day conference held by the project team behind a pan-European Erasmus research programme, called the Gender Equality Toolkit for Generation Z (GETZ). The three-year GETZ programme has also been led by the University of Worcester, along with partner organisations from across the continent. The GETZ project culminated in the production of an online resource to help educate and empower the next generation to strive for gender equality, both within sport and throughout wider society.
The conference completed a significant week for the University of Worcester in the field of women’s sport and inclusion. Last week, the University was officially unveiled as one of the founder members of the new British Wheelchair Basketball Women’s Premier League. The League will be the first of its kind for women’s wheelchair basketball anywhere in the world, and the first professional parasport league in the UK.
Mick Donovan, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor and Head of the School of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Worcester, said: “We are proud to have hosted the Women in Sport and Exercise conference at the University of Worcester this year. It’s great to see what a huge success the event has been, and the impact much of the work showcased here is having across the world.”
“At Worcester we have always striven to play our part in educating the next generation of sports professionals to be bold and ambitious in aiming for equality of opportunity. We hope the coaches, sports scientists and teachers that graduate from Worcester will be the change makers that bring the joy of sport to everyone, regardless of gender, disability or background.”
“Conferences such as this and the GETZ conference play a vital role in helping to create momentum, share knowledge and develop expertise,” he added. “With the good news earlier this week about our role in the new women’s wheelchair basketball league, there is now a real impetus driving forward the women in sport agenda at Worcester.”