Road To The Olympic Games

Opinion

Sport empowers women, but equality remains elusive

For Olympian Deidra Dionne, International Women's Day offers a chance to reflect on both the benefits and challenges that sport presents.

International Women's Day a reminder of benefits, challenges of competition

The physical and emotional payoffs of participating in sport are many, but equality for women can still seem out of reach at times. (Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images)

Every girl and every woman deserves equality in life, and sport should be no different.

A chance to learn through play. The opportunity to sweat without judgement and dream beyond the imaginable. The right to be a champion without the qualification of gender. My belief in the benefits of sport for women runs deep, mostly because sport made me who I am today. 

It was movement that taught me how to love my body — a body I perceived for way too long as imperfect. Yet, as the physical demands of my sport increased, so did my appreciation for the movement my body enabled me. My physical insecurities began to take a back seat to an appreciation for what my body could do. Sport taught me to love what I could do as opposed to hate what I looked like.  

My sweat showed me just what I was capable of. With every drop, I learned how to push myself beyond what I thought was possible. My sweat became a daily reminder to strive harder.   

I pride myself on my persistence and my determination. These traits were challenged and developed on the field of play after injury catastrophes. Sport can be dangerous (freestyle skiing isn't for the faint of heart) but instead of fear, my injuries developed my understanding of what it takes to climb to the top. I learned how to commit daily to small improvements, even if they were only visible to me. I developed a work ethic, even when no one was watching.


Equal opportunity

Competition taught me to hold my head high, both in victory and defeat. To mute doubters and always bet on myself. But sport hasn't just taught me about myself, it's also taught me about others — how to communicate within a team and find common ground with competitors from different countries, languages and religions.

Unfortunately, sport also serves as a constant reminder that women still don't have the same opportunities as men. Gender equity remains an elusive goal because the playing field remains anything but fair. Despite decades of success, the platform for female athletes continues to be lesser and the opportunities fewer and less lucrative than their male counterparts'.

On International Women's Day, I choose to use my voice and the platform afforded to me through sport to continue the conversation; to advocate for the value of equal opportunity for women to access, work in and play sport. 

The goal of achieving equality in sport can only be realized when both men and women engage in the conversation. Change can only happen when we all become part of the solution. Today, I honour and thank those who fought to get us this far — the women and men who believed we should all have the same opportunity to play. 

About the Author

Deidra Dionne

Deidra Dionne is Senior Director, Strategic Development and a Legal Associate at Cimoroni & Company, a sport and entertainment strategic sales group. Her unique outlook on the business of sport stems from her experience as a two-time Olympian and Olympic medallist in freestyle skiing aerials and from her education and experience as a lawyer.

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