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AASP Newsletter - March 2020

WE Lead: A Feminist Intervention in AASP & Sport Helping Professions

Leeja Carter

Leeja Carter, PhD, Long Island University – Brooklyn
AASP Diversity and Inclusion Division Head 

In her 2018 Heyman Lecture at the annual American Psychological Association Convention, Dr. Kensa Gunter critiqued and presented a call to action for sport psychology organizations to address A.I.R. quality: advocacy, inclusion, and representation in their organizations. Dr. Gunter stated:

“Attending to diversity and inclusion should be as automatic as breathing. Something that simple… so no matter how much we talk about diversity, if we're not actively creating environments with good A.I.R. quality (advocacy, inclusion and representation), then we're missing the mark.”

Less than 10 percent of AASP members identify as women of color (WOC). For WOC when few members and leaders “look like you,” it can be isolating, confusing, and cause a woman to question her “place” in the organization and field. As Dr. Gunter noted:

“SEP [sport and exercise psychology] professionals are also people first which means that cultural factors are salient to our experiences as well. So not only do we want to work in a field that allows us to work with individuals in the fullness that they bring to us but we want the space to be able to show up in the fullness of who we are.”

As the largest sport psychology organization, this lack of diversity and inclusion of WOC is disappointing and can contribute to why diverse members, in this case WOC, may leave AASP or be less engaged in organizational activities and governance. AASP clearly has room to improve A.I.R quality and has a responsibility to address the ways in which we have institutionalized the lack of A.I.R. One effort is the creation of the Women of Color Empowered (WE) in Sport Leadership Institute (Lead). WE Lead was a one and a half-day event preceding the 2019 AASP Conference for advanced-level graduate students and early career professional WOC. View last year’s agenda here.

At the 2019 Annual Conference, we hosted our first WE Lead event with this year's theme being self-care and dealing with adversity. Featuring talks from AASP's President-Elect and inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Committee member, Dr. Kensa Gunter, Dr. Taunya Tinsley, and Diversity Committee members Drs. Teri Shigeno and Sae-Mi Lee, our goal was to create a space where WOC are not only seen and heard but could also build community, discuss the unique challenges WOC face in the field, and learn ways to not only survive but thrive in sport.

Examples of WE Lead Institute activities include: group reflection activities on common experiences WOC face in sport psychology, journaling and reflecting on attendees’ personal and professional goals, intention setting, along with discussing opportunities for advancement within AASP. Attendees shared that the event exceeded their expectations and succeeded in curating a space for diverse women’s experiences in sport, academia, and psychology. We have several projects in the pipeline to support WE Leaders with the first being an online community mentoring/support group established to remain connected and offer guidance to our 2019 cohort.

WE Lead is not your typical professional development event; it is a carefully curated event designed on feminist, womanist, and black feminist principles of community, equity, storytelling, learning, and developing consciousness and language around individual and shared experience. Institutes like WE Lead are not new. The American Psychological Association’s Leadership Institute for Diverse and Indigenous Women of Color (LIDWOC) sponsored by Division 35 was our model for WE Lead. Having attended LIDWOC and other feminist-informed convenings, I have experienced and witnessed the transformative, healing, and connecting power of such spaces. Not only are attendees offered advice and insights, but also a space that affirms their unique experiences, allowing them to know they are not alone, and their experiences are shared. WE Lead will occur every other year with the next event planned for AASP 2021. We hope to have our 2019 alumni attend and present while bringing in the next cohort of student and early career professional WOC into a space that affirms their growth in the field.

For more information about WE Lead, upcoming events and Institutes, or to offer an idea for an event, contact  

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