Sport has the power to change lives. By teaching women and girls teamwork, self-reliance, resilience, and confidence, sport is one of the great drivers of gender equality. Women in sport defy gender stereotypes and social norms, make inspiring role models, and show men and women as equals. This week marks International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the achievements of women whilst also calling for increased gender parity. The theme for 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge meaning that we can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. Sport has huge potential to empower women by teaching them teamwork, self-reliance, resilience, and confidence. These skills can then be transferred in many aspects of a woman’s life and give them the confidence to challenge gender norms and roles. Becoming a leader in her community can constitute a challenge for many women and yet it is more important than ever that women get properly represented in leadership roles. For this International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate the women of KCL who take part in a leader’s role. For this occasion, I spoke with Inès Froidefond, who is the second team captain of the KCL fencing team, a combat sport based on the traditional skills of swordsmanship, and Samar Al-Shamaa, the captain of the hockey team.
Samar Al-Shamaa - Pride, Determination, and Empowerment
Samar is a fourth-year medical student at KCL. She plays hockey for the medical school and she’s been honored of being this year’s Club President. She became President last April. She previously was Mixed Captain and Social Secretary. With hockey her passions include running, a sport she discovered during lockdown, working to help her community by working for NHS 111 to help people in London. She also enjoys spending some quality time with her friends, especially during these hard times. She would describe herself as a open person who's friendly, loyal and hard working.
Samar wearing her sport uniform
What aspects of your role as team captain motivated you to acquire this position?
“I have been part of the hockey club for 4 years now and have spent 3 of those in various committee positions. The club holds a special place in my heart and the opportunity to run it has been incredible. The aspects of leadership, values, and family orientation the club promotes are part of the reasons why I love it so much, and it has been a pleasure to uphold these principles. Across the years, we have had wonderful role models in previous presidents and these individuals inspired me to think about what I could bring to the club, motivating me to run for the role.”
Within your team, what are the values/most important values that you share together between teammates?
“GKT Ladies’ Hockey Club stands for a lot of values, and it is these that give me pride in running the club. It is a group of determined, achieving individuals, who do their utmost to empower their teammates to be the best they can be. They are kind, supportive people to be around, who are infectious with their positivity and light.”
Outside of your sport, what does your position give you?
“My position empowers me to be a lot of things – confident, proactive, and determined. These skills are transferable in all aspects of life; they help me with patient interaction on placement, in tackling unexpected problems and finding the positivity in most situations.”
What are the responsibilities of your role?
“As president, I deal with the day-to-day running of the club. I am responsible for recruiting new members at the beginning of the year, liaising with our men’s club counterparts, correspondence with the student union – essentially ensuring that the club is run smoothly and allows our members to get the best experience out of being a part of it all. I am lucky to have a group of committee members that support my decision-making, are innovative with me, and all take on their own roles with just as much pride.”
What are the most important qualities of a leader and why do you think women should take these kinds of roles?
“I think the most important leadership qualities come from putting your group first, understanding their needs and how to implement these. Taking the time to listen to everyone’s opinions and try to make sure everyone feels safe, comfortable, and included in the group activities. Women should take these roles simply because they are just as capable as men. Why should women look at the role of a leader and believe those qualities are not ones they have, that they are qualities only men possess?”
Do you feel that being a female leader can be difficult at times?
“I think we are lucky in a day and age where being a female leader is much more ‘normal’ and that opportunities for female leadership have grown exponentially. At smaller scales, such as universities, I think the empowerment of women is something that is greatly supported, and we are seeing more and more deserving females take these roles and be recognized for their achievements. However, on a more global scale, there are still shortcomings – fewer women in recognizable power worldwide. To change this, we need to work on it from the ground up, and show girls that being a leader is not impossible and show them that they deserve the role just as much as their male counterparts.”
By sharing with us her inspiring journey, Samar demonstrates that as a woman, having the chance to become a leader in her community has allowed her to develop many qualities that she can apply to multiple aspects of her life.
Inès Froidefond - From Introvert to Team Captain
Inès Froidefond is a 20-year-old French-Tunisian student who’s currently in her second year of Biomedical Science at KCL. She had a passion for sports and tried many different kinds from dance to martial arts, but she particularly enjoys fencing and basketball. Apart from sports, she loves science and arts. Since April 2020, she's been the women's 2nd's Team Captain. Inès joined the club in October 2019 and shortly after became a member of the 2nd team. She describes herself as shy but since she got along with the members of the club she felt like she could give it a shot. It was also a good opportunity to challenge herself and to go outside her comfort zone.
Inès practicing her sport
What are the responsibilities of a sports team captain?
“The responsibilities of a team captain are to select the members for the team, decide who goes to the competitions, make sure we have the correct kit brought to competitions, take part in the committee discussions. The most important job is to be the link between the committee and the team members. The most important values we share in the team are respect, reliability, and teamwork. We try to not take ourselves too seriously and have fun, as we have people from all levels in the 2nd teams, but we're still competitive.”
What are the most important qualities of a leader?
“The most important qualities a leader should definitely have are to be reliable, organized, good at listening, and being approachable. It's not difficult, but you need to commit to it, I think being organized and people-oriented are key qualities to have for this role. Unfortunately, this year hasn't allowed me to do much as a team captain, so I can't say I've had any hardships so far, but if I were to speculate I'm sure that having these responsibilities can be stressful in the long run.”
As a team captain, Inès developed interpersonal skills that can be useful in many aspects of her life. This is one of the reasons you should become a leader in your community!
There are many ways to become a leader in your community. At KCLSU we offer the opportunity to all students to become leaders in societies, associations, elections, and sports teams. Explore our website to learn more about the opportunities available to you.