To the Ultimate Community,
Thank you to the many folks who have signed the statement of support for Gender Equity in ultimate, and to those of you who continue to use your voices to engage in this ongoing discussion. In response to our statement of beliefs, USAU invited representatives from the Gender Equity Action Group (GEAG) to engage in an in-person discussion with members of the USAU staff and DeAnna Ball, the President of the Board of Directors, in Colorado Springs. This meeting occurred on November 14, 2016. In attendance for the GEAG: Chip Chang, Jimmy Mickle, Leila Tunnell, Rohre Titcomb, Russell Wallack, and from USAU: Andy Lee, DeAnna Ball, Julia Lee, Stacey Waldrup, Tom Crawford, Will Deaver.
We are deeply grateful for USAU’s invitation and their willingness to discuss our concerns, and we see that we all have a lot more work to do in ensuring that our sport’s community evolves in a way that contributes to what we see as necessary social change in the world.
Throughout our five-hour meeting, we tuned our conversation with three cues:
- An aim to develop the relationships in the room: we knew that very little of our first major conversation could be pointed at solutions, so we instead focused on hearing varied perspectives and growing our shared consciousness.
- Assume best intentions: While there was not going to be unanimous agreement on all topics, we see it as valuable that all voices are heard with open minds.
- We represent a variety of elite athletes: we wanted to focus on representing and honoring the feedback we received.
With these cues in mind, we asked all in the room to engage in an agenda that began with discussion of the gender equity policy and then worked to topics such as media deals, involvement with the IOC and USOC, USAU’s strategic vision, representation of diversity in the board and staff, and board/USAU transparency. As productive as this initial meeting was, we see very clearly that more discussion is needed, and that a more engaged membership is needed to carry the conversation forward. During our meeting, a few ideas received repeated air time. We’ve highlighted these critical issues that need ongoing attention below.
- A gender equity lens for the full organization. There was unanimous agreement that the Gender Equity Policy needs to be reviewed, re-written, and updated to an Equity and Diversity Policy with an expanded scope. We support this, and we feel there is additional need for USAU to build more internal mechanisms to ensure staff have gender equity front of mind when making all decisions (i.e. allocating funding for youth programs, staffing, scheduling and tournament formats, media contracts, partnership proposals, etc).
- Dramatically increased membership engagement. Everyone in the room agreed that USAU needs a more engaged membership. Trust and information need to flow freely among the membership and USAU in order for USAU to be effective in operating in the best interests of the sport. We have already begun to reflect with them on how we can support their hard work on this matter, and we need to hear from you. There are 2,220 signatures on the statement of support that we published, and yet only 750 people voted in the board elections. How can we amplify the voice of USAU’s members to give meaningful input on the important issues they face? Of the same token, how can USAU communicate effectively and provide transparency to their operations and decisions? Over 100 people showed up to the Gender Equity Forum held in the rain and darkness in Rockford. What powered that turnout, and how do we encourage similar turnout for future conversations?
- There is a distinct challenge involved with growing our sport and continuing to uphold our values. How can we grow without sacrificing the things which we hold dearest about ultimate? How do we protect and prioritize gender equity and self-officiation while still maintaining a focus on visibility, legitimacy and growth?
Clearly we all still have a lot of work to do. Everyone who was in the room on November 14th wants to hear from you. Are there systemic changes that you see as necessary to support your full participation in this sport? What would encourage you to share your voice? USAU recently announced an 11-city town hall tour to engage with community members as they discuss their strategic plan for the next 3 years. We encourage everyone to attend if you are able.
As always, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
With love and belief that we can all play a role in making this world a better place,
Gender Equity Action Group
**We intended to include discussion of the semi-pro leagues in this meeting, but we did not get to that topic in our agenda. We believe that this is a necessary portion of the gender equity conversation, but one that should primarily be directed at AUDL and MLU leadership. In addition, specific discussion of how the mixed division factors into these issues was not addressed to the degree that we would have liked. We endeavor to bring this piece of the conversation more to light moving forward.