Increasing the visibility of female leaders in the exercise and sports science industry

8 March 2021


In light of International Women's Day being recognised annually on 8 March, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is once again increasing the visibility of women within the exercise and sports science industry by celebrating the achievements of three pioneering women, as nominated by their peers.

“ESSA’s Female Leaders in Exercise & Sports Science campaign is run each year to support the development of female leaders in our industry and to shine a spotlight on those who may not always have the chance to be recognised for their commitment and hard work,” explains Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive Officer.

Reports have indicated that for women to thrive in leadership they need to see other women achieve and demonstrate the possibilities that they all have, a statement that both ESSA’s CEO, Anita Hobson-Powell, and ESSA President, Kirsty Rawlings strongly lead by.

“There is no textbook journey to leadership. It’s important that a woman’s unique skill set that allows them to succeed is recognised, and that women are inspired to follow their own leadership journey no matter how big or small it is,” says Kirsty Rawlings, ESSA President.

“Within our industry, we are inspired to have a wide range of passionate and hardworking members, however, in celebration of International Women’s Day, ESSA is recognising the following three women who portray true leadership and influential change within their professions and in their day-to-day lives,” adds Anita.

ESSA is proud to recognise our 2021 Female Leaders in Exercise & Sports Science:

Clare Minahan – It’s hard to go past Clare’s name when thinking about women in the sports science industry who are leading the way and making positive changes in our profession. Most notably, Clare has applied her knowledge of female athletes to lead the development, implementation, and delivery of ‘GAPS’ (Gather Adjust Prepare Sustain); an inclusive sports pathway programme for emerging athletes in developing countries of the Pacific. GAPS has been highly successful and is now formally recognised and supported by the Commonwealth Games Federation. Clare is influencing a new generation of professionals to seriously consider the physiology unique to female athletes – she’s a pioneer within the sports science industry.

Without titles or labels, sport produces natural leaders while science teaches us to minimise the unconscious bias and to challenge the status quo. That is why women in sports science are well placed to take up leadership roles and should be vigorously encouraged to do so. Although we know women's participation at senior levels is good for business, dismantling the barriers to women in leadership remains a challenge that requires clear aspirations, initiative, and accountability from current leaders.” – Clare Minahan.

Bonnie Furzer – Bonnie has shown true leadership by playing key roles in some significant projects to benefit not only ESSA, but the wider industry. This includes driving the Children’s Pre-Exercise Screening Tool, working as a Co-Chair on the Research to Practice Conference Committee, as well as providing important services as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Thriving Exercise Rehabilitation Inc. which aims to ensure all young people have the opportunity to take part in exercise (and who also won ESSA’s Practice of the Year Award in 2020).

Our world is evolving rapidly – with it needs to evolve our concept of leadership, acknowledging the benefits of diversity in differing styles and approach, and that we are stronger when we work together. Encouraging women into leadership roles cannot be accomplished without first focussing on removing barriers where they exist – on IWD we celebrate our achievements, while acknowledging how far we still have to go. And no one can say it better than Ruth Bader Ginsburg, ‘I ask no favour for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks’.” – Bonnie Furzer.

Caoimhe Scales – Working as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist in the hospital sector, Caoimhe has been a fierce defender of the industry, as demonstrated in her work as a member on the Allied Health MBS Review Committee where she actively worked with ESSA to lobby for essential changes to the MBS and represented the needs of AEPs. Caoimhe has also worked on the COVID-19 front-line providing on-site exercise rehabilitation to patients recovering from the pandemic within the Sydney Local Health District (SLHD) COVID-19 quarantine hotels. Not only is this an important role for the community, it continues to spread the important message that exercise is medicine and AEPs are best placed to prescribe it.

Having women in leadership roles provides a seat at the table for women in our industry, and further enhances the opportunities available to the individual as well as the women who may follow in her footsteps in the future.” – Caoimhe Scales.

“As we all continue to work and help forge a gender equal world, ESSA would like to thank these three women for all of their hard work, dedication and passion as leaders driving continuous excellence in our industry,” says Anita.

“ESSA also reaffirms our commitment to identifying and supporting women as leaders within our industry and organisation such as aiming for gender-balanced Boards, Councils and Committees, the Leader’s Academy, and so forth.”

If you would like more information on International Women’s Day, please click here.

To continue supporting good health and well-being in women, ESSA previously published a free Exercise & Women’s Health eBook that can be downloaded here.




All media enquiries can be directed to media@essa.org.au.