Sports innovator and University of Bedfordshire Honorary Doctor, Lisa Wainwright, discusses authenticity when it comes to leadership and tells Bedfordshire students to ‘be confident in who you are’.
In July 2019, Lisa Wainwright was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science in recognition of her services to Sport Education at Bedfordshire’s Civic Graduation ceremony, and went on to join the University Court shortly after.
In an interview with Sky Sports, Lisa highlighted the vital need for LGBTQ+ visibility in senior leadership. She spoke publicly about being gay for the first time at Stonewall’s Rainbow Summit in 2017.
When we spoke with her, she explained: “I’ve never felt the need to be public about it. Then I suddenly thought, it is an issue for a lot people and as a leader I should do it.
“I’ve been very fortunate, and I’ve been supported throughout my whole career, but I know that isn’t the case for many other people. People fought the way for me. There have been trailblazers that have helped me, and it’s time I stood up.”
Lisa is an innovator of sports education. She has spent more than 30 years in the sport and physical activity sector and held roles such as CEO of Volleyball England, Head of Sport at Sport England, Chair of the Institute of Swimming, CEO of GB Basketball, and is now Sport and Recreation Alliance CEO.
Sport is a “lovely” and “open” industry to work in. She explains that following the Sky Sports interview, she received text messages of support from peers in the sector. Lisa wishes and hopes that going forward the sector is able to continue building an open attitude by more CEOs and senior leaders “celebrating” being LGBTQ+.
Lisa joined Bedfordshire’s graduating class of 2019 last summer, where her speech quoted Dr. Seuss, ‘There is no one alive who is youer than you’.
Her message remains: “The one thing Bedfordshire students can do is learn who they are, because it is only them who can be that. That strength will get them through. Whether you’ve got a Yorkshire accent, your family haven’t been to university, your black, Asian, female, gay – whatever hits you, you will be strong enough because you are you. That is what I would’ve said to an early Lisa as well.”
After joining the University Court, Lisa is keen to remain connected to Bedfordshire. “The University is close to my heart and it meant a huge amount receiving the honorary doctorate.
“Staying a part of the community means you’ll always be part of the family and I’m delighted to help as much as the University needs me.”
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