Day one of the International Canoe Federation Women’s Symposium in Malahide yesterday was a perfect mix of inspiration, action and putting women centre stage in the sport.

A combination of impactful speakers, workshops and lively conversation has brought women and a number of male allies together from 35 countries around the world to the event being hosted by Canoeing Ireland Chair Linda Byron and CEO Moira Aston.

They have allowed their teams to shine with Emer Carton, Hannah Craig and teenager Cleo Pitcher-Farrell all taking to the stage to talk about projects and programmes here that are having a real impact. Bridge the Gap and Teen Connect are two best in class programmes designed to bring more women and girls into the sport for the right reasons for them at different stages of their lives.

Dr Una May from Sport Ireland referenced the Her Moves, My Time and Her Outdoors Weeks as practical and effective initiatives that are continuing to do the same.

Minister of State for Sport Thomas Byrne doubled down on the Government’s intention that all sporting bodies should be led by a gender balanced group of at least 60/40 by the end of this year with the threat of up to 50 per cent cuts in funding streams to ‘encourage’ those not stepping up to the mark.

IOC President Thomas Bach dialled into the meeting from Switzerland emphasising the importance of the additional supports being managed through the Olympic movement as part of its expanded motto of ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together’.

Zelda La Grange, former private secretary to Nelson Mandela, was the key note speaker talking about the importance of the shared journey in creating lasting change and referencing the Aouth African concept of Ubuto and it’s shared approach to creating the society that is open to all.

The day was capped off with a panel of three leading women in global sport – Dr Cecilia Farias, Vice president of the International Canoe Federation, Maree Burnett, ICF Executive Committee, and Nora Stapleton, Sport Ireland Head of Strategic Programmes at NGB’s and Women in Sport Lead, chaired by Rob Hartnett of Sport for Business.

They explored what equality has looked like on their personal journeys and how it can be for those in the room and far beyond.

They considered the gender split in doctors around the world ranging from a 46 per cent female base in New Zealand to a 54 per cent base in the United States (It’s 41 per cent in Ireland) and seeing this as an ambition that sporting leadership should be reaching towards as well.

Canoeing Ireland Women in Sport lead Emer Carton had spoken earlier in the day about being an ‘ordinary woman who just loved sport’ and the group urged those in the room to step forward and become extraordinary women in their own environments to be the living example to others of what equality looks like.

We will be back for more throughout Wednesday at an event that has brought the world to Ireland and the hope of an equal future for women and men in sports leadership to vivid life.