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Katrina Adams named global winner of the 2023 IOC Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Champions Award

The former professional tennis player and now tennis executive, Katrina Adams (USA), is the Global Winner of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s 2023 Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (GEDI) Champions Award. This was announced today on International Women’s Day to celebrate Adams and other trailblazers who are working tirelessly on advancing gender equality, diversity and inclusion in sport.

Adams has been at the forefront of exceptional developments in all areas of the sport, particularly for girls and women.

“Sport has the power to go above and beyond the sporting arena. It needs individuals such as Katrina to make this happen,” said IOC President Bach on Adams’ commitment to advancing gender equality.

“She has done outstanding work to improve opportunities through sport for girls, women, ethnic minorities and disadvantaged youth. She continues to raise standards and truly deserves to be celebrated,” Bach added.

The 2023 continental winners alongside Adams are:

  • Africa: Irene Limika (Kenya)
  • Americas: Marialoreto González Jaque (Chile)
  • Asia: Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala (Sri Lanka)
  • Europe: Aurélie Bresson (France)
  • Oceania: Patrick Johnson (Australia)

Discover the profiles of all the 2023 GEDI Champions winners

Advocating for gender equality from the tennis court to the boardrooms

A trailblazing WTA Tour player, Adams is a woman of many firsts. She was the first African American and former professional tennis player to become Chief Executive Officer, Chairperson and President of the United States Tennis Association (USTA). Throughout her career, she has never been afraid to take action on and off the field to advance equal opportunities and representation.

“Sport has the power to go well beyond sports,” said Adams. “It’s the equaliser where race, gender and ethnicity don’t play a role. The best athletes are out there competing; it doesn’t matter what you look like or who you are. It’s about how hard you have worked,” she said.

As Chair of the US Open from 2015 to 2018, she championed diversity and inclusion by launching the Hispanic initiative, which led to an immediate 15 per cent growth in the number of Latino tennis players in America.

And as Vice-President of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) from 2015 to 2023, she was the architect behind the Advantage All initiative. This creates gender-balanced programmes based on five key pillars: Empower, Balance, Culture, Value and Voice. Among its key achievements are the introduction of the Women’s Leadership Programme, balanced men’s and women’s events on the World Tennis Tour, equal prize money, and gender parity on the Board of Directors. Chaired by Adams, it’s an initiative that continues to deliver remarkable results.

“I was very fortunate to have IOC Member and ITF President David Haggerty as a huge supporter of the Advantage All programme. He is a true example of what male allyship is all about, being a mentor and supporting the initiative, engaging other men to mentor female leaders. Under his leadership, I was able to gain much support from my peers to support our gender equality efforts across all nations.”

Adams is passionate about the value women bring to the table and their right to a seat. In 2027, at the next ITF election, at least five women and five men will be elected to the Board.

“Unless there’s diversity of thought in the room, we’re going to go around in circles,” said Adams. “We’ll never reach a different conclusion. We need women to be making decisions for other women; only then will we really start to move the needle.”

Levelling the playing field

For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, an equal number of female and male athletes will compete at Paris 2024. The NOCs and IFs have played a key role in helping the IOC reach this milestone by driving the number of girls and women pursuing careers in sport through dedicated initiatives.

“We’ve come a long way from where the girls were once just on the sidelines, aspiring to be out there competing,” said Adams. “Now here we are on a level footing. It’s inspiration for the next generation to say to themselves, ‘Hey, I can be there; I can do that, too.’

“It starts at the amateur level. If we can make competition at the junior, youth and collegiate levels that much stronger, we can provide more opportunities for girls at a younger age to work towards becoming future Olympians.”

“Every four years, we have seen the changes, the developments and the growth to where we are bringing in equality. Paris 2024 will level the playing field, but we’re seeing so much more balance around gender beyond that, particularly with officials and events. A conscious effort has been made, but hopefully over time it’ll start to happen naturally.”

Changing the culture

What’s clear to Adams is that sport is moving in the right direction. With Advantage All also inspiring the recent announcement that the IOC and the ITF would be sending an equal number of women and men to officiate as International Technical Officials for the Paris 2024 Olympic tennis and Paralympic wheelchair tennis events, she believes sustaining such positive messaging is crucial.

“As Billie Jean King has always said, ‘You have to see it to be it,’” reflected Adams. “For the next generation who will watch the Olympic Games this summer, they’ll start to view equality as normal.

“We just need to continue to sell this messaging. We have worked so hard to reach this stage. We can’t stop; we must keep telling these positive stories. That’s where the media comes into play by making sure that there’s balance in our opinions and messaging. It’s about changing the culture of what we’re doing.”

Celebrating inspiring changemakers

Known as the IOC Women and Sport Awards from 2000 to 2021, the newly named IOC GEDI Champions Awards celebrate the outstanding work of inspiring changemakers who are committed to using their platform to promote the advancement of gender equality, diversity and inclusion in and through sport.

Six GEDI Award winners are announced each year – one at world level and one each for Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Adams was chosen as the Global Winner in recognition of her outstanding contribution across the areas of participation, leadership, portrayal and resource allocation.

“To be recognised by the IOC as the Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Global Winner really sums up what I do,” said Adams. “I’ve tried to use my platform to not only represent my sport but to stand up for others in the world. I’m truly humbled by this honour.”

For more information on the IOC GEDI Champions Awards, click here.

Credit: International Olympic Committee 

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