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Nikki Rashan: Women in Sports Symposium

On September 17, 2009, Images of Us Sports held the Women in Sports Symposium at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee. The theme of the symposium, It Takes a Team: Exploding the Myths in Women Sports, explored and addressed issues facing girls and women in sports, including homophobia and discrimination. The symposium successfully created an open dialogue between attendees of all ages and its panel of women leaders in sports business and education.
I had the opportunity to interview two of the panelists, Vera Jones, President of Vera's VoiceWorks, NCAA/WNBA Broadcaster, and author of Play Through the Foul, along with Helen Carroll, Sports Project Director with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). Both women shared insightful and engaging information during the discussion and spoke about their participation in the symposium and Bernell Hooker, Founder and CEO of IOU Sports.
Q: What does being a part of symposium mean to you?
Vera: “I was thrilled to be a part of the symposium because I know what Bernell Hooker does in terms of trying to educate and empower young women. So having an opportunity to have a free-flowing of ideas, to hear some of the controversial things but also to try to come up with solutions so that we can move women in sport ahead was a really awesome opportunity for me.”     
Helen: “For me being a part of the symposium is an opportunity to really talk to people in the community level where it makes the biggest difference. I think that the work that is being done with this organization and what Bernell has put together is what really makes the difference in the lives of girls in sports. It keeps them in sports, it sees where they can go and what they can do and nothing really matters more than that. It was just thrilling to be able to be here to look in the eyes of the girls…it was really fun to be able to do that.”
Q: As you know, the motto of IOU Sports is to Share, Educate and Empower: tell me what these three words mean to you.
Vera: “When I think of share, I think of communication. I think that’s the biggest gift that we have to give each other. Our words are very, very powerful and when we’re using our words to move each other ahead, then we all are better off for it. So sharing for me represents that communication piece. The biggest gift with education is that we’re educating youth as well as linking generations…where we’re talking to parents, we’re talking to administrators and we’re bringing youth together to help understand what women in sport have in terms of opportunity. Empower speaks directly to that opportunity; that women should take advantage of all that is out there and not be discouraged by some of the labels or titles or things they might be possibly discouraged from in terms of the stigma attached to women participating in sport; to be empowered to really grasp all that’s out there and go after it, and then turn around and empower somebody else.”
Helen: “Share means to share each other’s stories, regardless of age and regardless of experience…experience is to be able to give to other people through what you have learned yourself.  Educate is the basis for all of us moving forward; that’s where the share and the experience comes in. The empower is what it takes to break barriers and make the difference to really be able to move forward in women sports. And I think the youngsters that were here tonight got a real feeling of that from the panel and from the community members.”

IOU Sports provides and promotes education through sports, fitness opportunities, health education and leadership development, to enhance the overall health and well-being of all girls and women.
Bernell Hooker

Bernell Hooker is the Founder and CEO of Images of Us (IOU) Sports; a non-profit organization that empowers girls and women through education and sports. "Think of yourself as an athlete. I guarantee you it will change the way you walk, the way you work, and the decisions you make about leadership, teamwork, and success." - Mariah Burton Nelson