Karen O’Neill and CPC among 2024 IPC International Women’s Day Recognition Award winners

Canadian Paralympic Committee

March 08, 2024

CPC CEO O’Neill receives Leadership Award


OTTAWA – The 2024 IPC International Women’s Day Recognition Award were unveiled Friday and winners included Karen O’Neill, the CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Committee for Leadership while the CPC itself was awarded the IPC Member prize. 
“I am so proud of the Canadian Paralympic Committee for its recognition in advancing gender equality and inclusivity and the support for all of our leadership efforts,’’ said O’Neill.
‘’These accolades underscore our collective dedication to achieving excellence in Paralympic sport and to our strategic commitment over the next decade to fostering an environment where everyone has equal opportunity to succeed.
‘’As we look forward, our focus remains on building a more inclusive sporting community, aligning with our long-term vision of an inclusive world through Paralympic sport.”
The IPC lauded O’Neill’s effective programs to help women sports leaders.
‘’Congratulations to Karen O’Neill for developing and implementing the trailblazing Women in Sports project that has empowered females across the Americas to become leaders in Para sport,’’ said Andrew Parsons, the IPC’s president. ‘’And the Canadian Paralympic Committee for their commitment to gender equality at every level of their organisation.’’ 
The IPC stated that ‘’O’Neill has been outstanding in reimagining the Para sports environment and having hands-on experience spreading leadership for women in sports.’’ 
She successfully led the pioneering Women in Sports (WIS) project for the Americas region for much of the last decade. This initiative, aligning with CPC’s 2023 – 2033 Strategic Plan, seeks to create equitable opportunities for women, enhancing their participation and leadership in sports.
To help build the next generation of female leaders, more than 40 women, including representatives from National Paralympic Committees (NPCs), athletes, and individuals involved in sports, participated in this programme focused on training women in leadership, project development, and empowerment. 
Virtual and in-person sessions were held over several years. Thanks to grant funding, in-person training sessions took place in Canada and also in Lima during 2019 Parapan American Games.  
In the subsequent years participants have continued to receive guidance and material provided by dedicated mentors throughout the programme.  
‘’The WIS project has not only empowered women but also brought positive change toward a more inclusive and diverse sports community,’’ said the IPC. ‘’A record number of women in the region have been elected and are running for leadership positions at the national, regional, and international levels.  
For the Member Award, the IPC said the ‘’CPC champions women in leadership, with a 50/50 gender balance in their Executive Leadership Team and Board of Directors. Their Senior Leadership Team has 60 per cent female representation, and their Athlete’s Council Chair, Erica Gavel, is a testament to their commitment at every level.’’ 
This mirrors the CPC’s strategic priorities of developing best-prepared teams and fostering an inclusive environment. 
Through partnerships with the Americas Paralympic Committee, the CPC has a significant global impact. Initiatives like the “Women in the Americas” workshop, led by O’Neill, and the involvement of Chelsey Gotell on the IPC Governing Board, underscore its role and long-term commitment in fostering female leadership internationally. 
CPC actively promotes female athletes and is committed to equitable representation in online and offline content. This commitment to visibility is coupled with achieving a 50/50 gender balance in most sport teams, a notable achievement in Canada’s sports landscape. 
‘’ CPC’s approach to gender equality integrates strong leadership, international collaboration, active promotion of female athletes, and support for emerging leaders. This holistic strategy showcases a commitment not only to parity but holds them up as a standard bearer in the Paralympic Movement.’’ 
O’Neill is the third Canadian to win the award since its inception in 2013. Carla Qualtrough won in 2016 and Chantal Petitclerc in 2015. The Member award was added in 2020. 
Karen O’Neill Bio 

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