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  • Writer's pictureBen Capell

A leadership lesson from surfing on the impact of Equal Opportunities on Performance.

There is a lot of debate about the need for and efforts required to foster equal opportunities. A recent surf competition in Hawaii serves as evidence of the critical impact equal opportunities have on driving performance. It underscores why it is so important for organizations and leaders to eliminate barriers impeding employees' potential and contributions, and the benefits of doing so.

The magnificent surfers in the video are Caitlin Simmers and Molly Picklum, two fantastic young female surfers. They rode the waves captured in the video at the Pipe Pro —arguably the world’s most prestigious surf competition, held at the renowned and very dangerous Banzai Pipeline beach in Hawaii.

Until very recently, the Pipe Pro was an exclusive domain for male surfers, with its daunting waves and shallow waters deemed too demanding for women.

Meanwhile, women competed at a different beach, offering less challenging waves.

It all changed in December 2020 when, following a shark attack near the women's competition area, event organizers ended up relocating the women's event to the Pipeline.

In the first couple of years, disparities in performance between men and women were very visible. Yet, with access to adequate training, coaching, and support, the tide began to turn. Three years on, some women surfers now showcase a level of performance previously deemed beyond reach.

Equal Opportunities = Better Performance

This story prompts reflection: What barriers must you dismantle to ensure all your team members have equitable opportunities to perform at their peak? Are you waiting for a “shark attack” to take action, or will you take an initiative to make it happen?

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