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WorkPride Panel: Hit Me with Your Best Shot! The Reality of Sports for the LGBTQ+ Family

Studies from Out on the Fields (2015) and OutSport (2019) show some shocking, though not surprising results: 80% of both queer and straight people have witnessed or experienced homophobic behaviour in sports, while 43% of football fans have witnessed homophobic behaviour while attending a game. 


Being LGBTQ+ in the sports industry is still a difficult reality, as prejudice is still very much present and often associated with toxic masculinity performed by straight counterparts. This panel promises to explore the obstacles of being queer and participating in sports, as well as strategies for sports organisations to help the community overcome these obstacles. 


In Partnership With


Speakers:

  • M
    Nikki Symmons
    Nikki Symmons
    Global Content Studio Operations and Planning
    Philip Morris International
    Nikki is a former international hockey player at elite level, a teacher, an author, a public speaker and a global LGBTQIA role model. In 2020, Nikki co-wrote a chapter in 'When the World Stops Watching' by Damian Lawlor, about her experience as the first female athlete in Ireland to "come out" as gay, and what it meant for her career. Nikki brings her life-long advocacy experience in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to whatever environment she finds herself in. Currently, Nikki works as a Communications expert at Philip Morris International, where she recently established the company's first international LGBTQIA Employee Resource Group (ERG). Employee-led groups foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organisational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives. In her chapter of 'When the World Stops Watching', success can only be measured by the success of the team, not the individual. A leader that understands the power of relationship building, Nikki serves as a trusted adviser to senior leaders in all matters DEI and advocacy. Looking for an impactful and passionate speaker that is fluent in 'digital' and organisational advocacy? Feel free to get in touch! 2020 OUTstanding Top 100 LGBT+ Future Leader, by Yahoo Finance 2020/21 Ambassador for Valencia Gay Games 2026 bid 2020/21 PMI Stripes Global Head of Programs and Events (LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group) 2018/present - Athlete Ally Ambassador 2017 EY Women Athletes in Business Mentee 2015 EuroHockey 'Hall of Fame' inductee 2015 Sport for Business list of most Influential Women in Irish Sport 2013 First Irish athlete to reach 200 caps in any sport (male or female) 2013 First Irish Female athlete to 'come out' publicly - Diversity and inclusion role model - Women in sport influencer - Public speaker - Digital sports media - Sponsorship management - Digital strategy & multi-channel content strategy - Experience working in a global organisation with varied backgrounds and cultures
  • Devin Ibañez
    Devin Ibañez
    Professional Rugby Player and Public Speaker
    New England Free Jacks
    Devin Ibañez is the first openly gay Major League Rugby player and is dedicated to LGBTQ+ advocacy in sport. He hopes to inspire the next generation of LGBTQ+ athletes and make sport an inclusive space for them. Raised in Boston, MA, Devin played for Major League Rugby team, the New England Free Jacks, in their 2019 exhibition season. He won a gold medal while representing Team USA at the 2017 World Maccabiah Games in Israel. He also won the 2018 D1 National Championship with his club team, Mystic River Rugby Club. When not playing, Devin has coached rugby at Westlake Boys High School in New Zealand, his alma mater Brookline High School and most recently with the Northeast Academy. He holds a degree in sport management and education from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Devin was announced Global Ambassador for International Gay Rugby (IGR) in May 2021. He is now looking towards a career in Public Speaking and Community Engagement.
  • Shola Aminu
    Shola Aminu
    Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
    DAZN
    Shola Aminu is the Head of DEI at DAZN, depending on where you are in the world you may know us as the global home of boxing , or the home of the best European soccer leagues. At DAZN I drive the company-wide DEI strategy, actively work towards fostering an inclusive and equitable culture so everyone can be their authentic selves in the workplace. I am extremely passionate about LGBTQ+ issues in sports, and the intersectionality of being Black and LGBTQ+.
  • Rhys Gray
    Rhys Gray
    Trampoline Gymnast / Data Analyst
    British Gymnastics / Hometree
    In sport, I'm a European and World Medallist representing Great Britain as a gymnast in double-mini trampoline (DMT). After completing my Geophysics degree in 2017 I moved into the startup world, where I currently work as a data analyst at an Insurtech (Hometree), specializing in data warehousing, SQL, and Looker.
  • Grace McKenzie
    Grace McKenzie
    Operations Lead
    Gordian Software
    Grace McKenzie is a 26 year old Operations Lead for a technology start-up in San Francisco, CA who uses she/her/hers and they/them/theirs pronouns. She plays flanker for the San Francisco Fog Women's Rugby Football Club. Before COVID-19 ended the season prematurely, Grace was the Rookie and Recruitment Coordinator for their old rugby club, San Francisco Golden Gate, where she started playing rugby in 2019. As a transgender woman, Grace has found an inclusive and welcoming support network within the women's rugby community. When World Rugby announced its plans to ban trans women from the sport earlier this year, Grace decided to take action by organizing a global movement in opposition to the ban. They started a petition that has accumulated over 18,000 signatures, and has engaged hundreds of clubs and dozens of international athletes around the world to join in keeping rugby open to all. In her spare time, Grace enjoys riding her motorcycle along the California coastal highway and playing guitar.
  • Bonnie Thurston (she/her/hers)
    Bonnie Thurston (she/her/hers)
    Director, Player Programs
    WNBA
  • Melissa Raymond
    Melissa Raymond
    Associate Director, Social Media
    Zwift
    Hi! I'm Melissa, the social media Associate Director at Zwift. My career in digital strategy has allowed me to work with some of the biggest brands in entertainment & sports including: Brooklyn Nets, International Champions Cup (ICC), Barclays Center, FOX Broadcasting, DreamWorks, Warner Bros and more. I look forward to connecting!
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