Breaking barriers with the APSO Women’s Leadership Course

With gender equality and women’s empowerment high on sporting agendas, the Association of Paralympic Sports Organisations (APSO) held the second edition of its Women’s Leadership Course from 13 February to 6 March, to support the development and active participation of women in decision-making within para sport organisations worldwide.

Following four intensive online training sessions, 42 participants from 24 countries have completed the 2023 programme, aimed at skill-building in communication, negotiation and networking along with development of self-confidence and personal leadership styles.

Created by award winning trainer and professional coach Gabriela Mueller, the Women Lead Sports programme included participants representing 17 International Para Sport Federations, hailing from 25 countries covering all continents. This year’s participants included executives, former Paralympians, committee and board members from Summer and Winter Paralympic sports federations, as well as coaches.

“The APSO Women Lead Sports Leadership Programme is designed to tap into the individual strengthens of each participant and to explore ways of making them more effective leaders,” Gabriela Mueller said.

“Through these courses we want to empower women to take more calculated risks in their leadership positions and have the confidence in themselves to grow and adapt personally, so they can build strong relationships with other women as well as men.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion is as much a mindset as it is a process. And having women leaders who are confident to express their ideas and concerns, and speak up with questions, is a key element of positive change.”

A total of 82 women have graduated from the course since 2022, with some participants already promoted within their organisation or elected President or Executive members of their respective national federations.   

“These leadership courses are important because they provide participants with the space and tools to really dig deep and discover the type of leader they want to be, as well as what inspires, challenges and encourages them in their daily work,” APSO President Sabrina Ibáñez explained.

“Why is this necessary? Because research has shown that instead of adopting a personality based on other people’s expectations, leading with greater authenticity helps women to unlock their leadership potential and accelerate their impact within their respective organisations.

“If the world of sport is to experience sustainable organisational and structural change that fully embraces diversity, equity and inclusion, then we need to give our female leaders the confidence in themselves to bring about these changes alongside their male counterparts.”