The Women’s Sport Trust has revealed the 35 elite female athletes who have joined its ‘Unlocked’ initiative for 2021.
The programme, now in its second year, aims to help athletes ‘accelerate change’ across the industry and tackle the issue of diversity in sport.
This year’s cohort of 35 athletes from across 27 sports includes England footballers Nikita Parris and Caroline Weir, world champion wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft, England rugby league international Jodie Cunningham, and England netballer Kadeen Corbin. The group will been given access to experts from across the sport, business and media worlds as well as their own ‘activator’, an industry figure to act as a mentor.
As it launched the initiative for 2021, the Women’s Sport Trust also released a short film (below) featuring a poem by Commonwealth champion boxer Stacey Copeland, who took part in 2020, and wrote about her experience. The poem ‘Our Time’ charts the rise of women’s sport and the importance of women coming together to inspire change.
Tammy Parlour, CEO and co-founder of the Women’s Sport Trust, said: “It has been a challenging year for many, but as we come out of Covid-19, there is no better time to turbo-charge our effort and continue to unlock the value of women’s sport.
“We believe the best way to do this is by supporting these elite women and connecting them together. Individually they are strong advocates for change but together they are unstoppable.”
The initiative provides workshops and opportunities for the group to hear from industry insiders as well as their ‘activator’, and aims to create a ‘lasting network’ of those working within the sport industry, and those shaping elite sport on the pitch.
Parlour added: “Unlocked has proven to be a gamechanger for the sports industry providing a model for how to empower sportswomen effectively, showing the power of actions, not words, in tackling diversity. We can’t wait to see what this year’s group will achieve.”
Great Britain hockey player, Sarah Evans, is one of the athletes on the 2021 programme. She said: “I strongly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to play sport, be a coach, or hold positions of power in sporting institutions and in boardrooms.
“It is not good enough that the sporting landscape currently looks like it does. Many sports, like my own, are not diverse enough. I want to be able to enact positive change to help sports become more inclusive.”
Para-rower Lauren Rowles MBE added: “I wanted to be part of Unlocked to understand how I can tackle the detrimental impact social media can have on young athletes. Having experienced this, growing up in sport, I know how dangerous it can be. I hope to be able to understand what systems and schemes I could help develop within sports organisations to improve their understanding of the issue and strengthen the support given to athletes.”
The 35 athletes are: Ali Collins (tennis), Alice Masterman (sailing), Amber Keegan (swimming), Beth Partridge (athletics), Caroline Weir (football), Emma Wiggs (para-canoeing), Emily Appleton (tennis), Emily Currie (surfing), Francesca Jones (tennis), Hannah Burke (golf), Hannah Cockcroft (wheelchair racing), Jenna Downing (skating), Jodie Cunningham (rugby league), Jodie Ounsley (rugby union), Jodie Williams (athletics), Kadeen Corbin (netball), Lauren Rowles (para-rowing), Lucy Shuker (wheelchair tennis), Melissa Wilson (rowing), Mhairi Maclennan (athletics), Montell Douglas (bobsleigh), Nabila Tejpar (motorsport), Nikita Parris (football), Panashe Muzambe (rugby union), Phoebe Graham (cricket), Robyn Love (wheelchair basketball), Ruth Mwandumba (shooting), Samantha Kinghorn (wheelchair racing), Sarah Evans (hockey), Sarah Jones (hockey), Shaunagh Brown (rugby union), Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (athletics), Stacey Francis (netball), Stef Twell (athletics), Yoana Yankova (gymnastics).