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Equality Diversity and Inclusion

#WePaddleTogether Commitments

British Canoeing believe that everyone should be able to access and enjoy paddlesports, regardless of their identity, background or circumstances, whether they wish to paddle recreationally, represent their Country on the world stage, or give back to the community through coaching or volunteering. For us, equality, diversity and inclusion are integral to our organisational values:

  • Every person matters

  • Striving for excellence

  • Always with integrity

  • Enjoying the journey

  • Individually committed  

  • Stronger together

Equality involves changing the culture and structure of sport to ensure it becomes equally accessible to all members of society as well as ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to realise their talent and full potential. We recognise that this has not always been the case in paddling, and we are committed to working to change this.

British Canoeing believes that we are a stronger paddlesport community when #WePaddleTogether, which is why as an organisation, we are committed to ongoing work to create equal access to paddlesport, championing diversity in all paddling spheres, and creating inclusive paddling settings for all. We will ensure that equality, diversity and inclusion is embedded in our strategy, Stronger Together, committing to addressing these topics across our ambitions. We are committed to the following:

  1. Building our insight and understanding of how communities access our sport and how we can work to remove barriers for under-represented groups in all paddling settings

  2. Listening to diverse, intersectional voices from our paddlesport community on a range of issues to implement change and provide equitable services for all

  3. Maintaining good governance through inclusive policy, helping to create more opportunities for a broader range of people to access paddling, from the boardroom to grassroots

  4. Celebrating our diverse role models and sharing examples of inclusive practice as learning opportunities for the wider paddlesport community 

  5. Taking opportunities to improve our knowledge on all aspects of equality, diversity and inclusion, and share this with relevant stakeholders and the paddling community to support a positive cultural shift and empower them to join us on this journey

Helping to build a more equal, diverse and inclusive sport is everyone’s responsibility, and that includes British Canoeing. We also recognise that our work is ongoing and ever-changing, and we will review our work and commitments on a regular basis, and share them with our members and wider community.

How can you get involved in #WePaddleTogether?

As part of British Canoeing’s commitment to becoming more inclusive and representative, we are delighted to launch our Annual Inclusion Survey. This survey will help us to understand, monitor and improve diversity within our sport and our organisation as a whole. Through conducting the British Canoeing Inclusion Survey, we hope to be more informed about:

  1. The paddling community’s view of our sport and British Canoeing as an organisation

  2. The experience of the paddling community based on protected characteristic groups

  3. The key barriers to participation

  4. Whether our actions match the needs of the communities across paddling to make those settings more inclusive

  5. Changes in opinion and perception of equality, diversity and inclusion in our sport and organisation over time 

  6. The impact and effectiveness of our work in the area of equality, diversity and inclusion.

By taking part in this survey, you will ensure your voice is heard and you will help to shape our equality, diversity and inclusion agenda. We encourage anyone who is involved in paddling to complete this survey regardless of whether or not you are a current member of British Canoeing. Whether you are a competitive athlete, deliverer, coach, volunteer, committee member, Delivery Partner or recreational paddler, we would love to hear from as wide a range of backgrounds and communities as possible. We encourage you to share this survey widely with your fellow paddlers. 

Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete the Inclusion Survey 2021. The Survey has now closed, and we are working to analyse the responses. The results will be shared in due course.

Are your details up to date on the JustGo Membership portal?

Did you know that you can provide equality monitoring data through your membership profile online? This data enables us to better understand the demographics of our membership, provide services that are fit for purpose, and help to improve the delivery of our programmes and initiatives as an organisation to ensure our sport is open and accessible for all. 

As a member of British Canoeing, you can update the equality monitoring data you provide to us by logging in to your account on JustGO Membership, visiting the 'My Profile' section and completing the ‘about you’ information. This data is stored in line with GDPR regulations, and will only be used for monitoring purposes.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead

Helena Russo is British Canoeing's equality, diversity and inclusion lead to contact Helena regarding any equality, diversity or inclusion queries, please email [email protected]

Expand Inclusion Advisory Group

Inclusion Advisory Group

Inclusion Advisory Group

The Inclusion Advisory Group (IAG) first launched in 2021, and is an important element of our organisation’s commitment to work within equality, diversity and inclusion. The IAG is an advisory function, made up of a Chair and up to eight members. Members can be independent (they are not involved in paddling, but have experience and knowledge around equality, diversity and inclusion) or non-independent (they are from the paddling community, and have an interest in driving equality, diversity and inclusion). This mix of different types of members means that we can bring in external expertise on wider equality, diversity and inclusion issues, and also ensure that representative groups and communities amongst our paddling membership have their voices heard.

The IAG reports to the British Canoeing Board, and has some of the following functions:

● To provide advice, guidance, and make recommendations on equality, diversity and inclusion matters or programmes.

● Provide lived experience recommendations to strengthen the equality framework of the organisations, and make suggestions for improvements to organisational delivery.

● Advise British Canoeing on the content of the Equality Action Plan;

● Make recommendations on what and how we reduce incidences of discrimination in any paddlesport setting.

Scroll down to read the profiles of the current Inclusion Advisory Group members. Any queries regarding the IAG should be sent to [email protected].

John Mc Calla Leacy
John McCalla-Leacy (Chair)

John is a UK Board Member and Partner in KPMG’s Mergers and Acquisitions practise. He sits on a number of leadership committees within the firm and is a global leader in his area of specialism.  As co-sponsor of KPMG’s African Caribbean Network and sole sponsor of national partnerships with the Princes’ Trust and the institute of chartered accountants, John is a strong advocate for Inclusion, Diversity and Social Mobility. He is also a former GB slalom kayak junior team member and former GB junior team slalom coach.

Anna Stishova
Anna Stishova (Non-independent Member) 

Anna, also known as KayakingHijabi on social media, is a full-time mother, fitness instructor and an occasional copywriter. She loves arts, cycling and taking part in charity fundraising sports events. Anna has been paddling in the UK since 2011, concentrating on marathon kayak racing by finishing the DW Race in 2019 as a female JV K2 team. Anna has joined IAG because as a Muslim woman and a stepmom to a girl with ADHD, she would love to make paddlesports more accessible and inclusive to BAME girls and women and people with invisible health conditions.

Eilidh Gibson
Eilidh Gibson - she/her

Eilidh is a canoe slalom athlete from Scotland and she trains with the British Canoeing Programme in Lee Valley. Eilidh's passion for equality led her to create Slalom Inspires in 2018, an organisation to empower women and girls through canoeing. Eilidh believes in the power sport has to shape lives and she is committed to creating opportunities for more people to experience this life-changing magic. In her free time, Eilidh enjoys being creative and crafty.

Rachel Hudspith
Rachel Hudspith - she/her 

Rachel has been involved in Paddlesport for over 48 years, having coached and led for 36 years, and competed in many disciplines in both men's and women's divisions. Through her coaching experience, Rachel understands the importance of being inclusive, accepting and treating people equally. In 2010, with support from many including her immediate family, she made a decision to start her transition and start living my life as Rachel, followed by Gender Reassignment surgery and being awarded a Gender Recognition Certificate. This journey has given Rachel the confidence, experiences and knowledge where she can support and help others from the LGBT+ community to be themselves. Rachel is well-placed to advise on the content in policies, documents and support material that will help others in our sport to participate or compete and enjoy our great sport.

Dave Hunt
Dave Hunt (Non-independent Member) 

Dave has worked in the outdoors for over 20 years across a range of disciplines and settings. He currently works for Carnegie Great Outdoors at Leeds Beckett University instructing on Outdoor Education, PE and Sport Degree and Masters courses. He is a provider of a number of British Canoeing courses including Paddlesport Instructor and Leader awards, Safety Training, Disability Awareness and Mentoring. Inclusion and the importance of each individual is at the very forefront of his practice.

Benji Evans
Benji Evans (Independent Member) 

Benji has a wealth of experience of promoting equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in sport. Benji has held various sport development and coaching roles with an EDI remit within NGBs and across the public, education, community and voluntary sectors. A qualified lecturer, Benji has previously taught in both Further and Higher Education settings and he has also contributed to various publications and insight papers related to EDI in sport and leisure.

Julie Robbins Portraitside
Julie Robbins she/her (Independent Member)

Julie is the Head of Inclusion at the National Charity Youth Sport Trust, lives in the North West of England and is mum to two secondary age children. Over the last 25 years Julie has had various management positions in sport and community development and is passionate about ensuring everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the life-changing benefits that come from play and sport. Julie has a wealth of experience supporting vulnerable children and young people and working within disadvantaged communities and is “looking forward to working alongside staff, board members and the wider community of British Canoeing to ensure that Paddlesport is a sport that people are inspired to try, able to easily access, and retains everyone’s continued interest and enjoyment.

Alex Laybourne
Alex Laybourne (Independent Member) 

Alex is Deputy CEO for Power2Inspire, a charity which champions inclusion through sport and has a vision of “nobody left on the bench”. He is also the Head Coach for the Swedish men’s rugby National team, having previously coached Scotland Women’s U20s. Alex enjoys spending time with his young family and has a passion for sport, taking the opportunity to participate in (or watch) as much as possible!

Expand British Canoeing Policies and Partnerships

British Canoeing Policies and Partnerships

As we continue to expand our equality, diversity and inclusion work, we will update and release policies which are relevant for the paddling community. You will also find information here about any initiatives or schemes we have joined or any partnerships that we have formed that are helping us drive the inclusion agenda, and which you may be able to get involved with.

Our Transgender and Transsexual Competition Policy was updated in April 2019 and a copy of the full policy can be found here.

British Canoeing Equality Policy

The Equality Policy will be reviewed and revised in 2021, and will be renewed biennially thereafter. We also regularly review and update our guidance to clubs, coaches and volunteers on equality. Club documents can be found on our ‘Information for Clubs’ pages. You can find out more about the work we are doing in order to make paddlesports more equal, diverse and inclusive below.

If you would like to request any of the documents in this section in an alternative format please contact us by emailing [email protected] or calling 0300 0119 500.

The Equality Standard for Sport

The Equality Standard is a framework which provides guidance to sports and community organisations about how they can widen access and reduce inequalities within their sport. This includes encouraging participation from under-represented individuals, groups and communities.

There are four levels of achievement – Foundation, Preliminary, Intermediate and Advanced. British Canoeing achieved the Foundation Level of the Equality Standard for Sport in 2006, the Preliminary Standard in 2008 and the Intermediate Level in 2012. We will be working towards the Advanced level of the Equality Standard once Sport England and Sports Structures has finished its review of the Standard, and our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead will be managing our submission.

Code for Sports Governance

British Canoeing is a national governing body for sport which is awarded public funding. The organisation is required to comply with the Code for Sports Governance, launched in 2016. The Code contains important changes to the governance of sport including creating a single set of 58 mandatory governance requirements across five themes: structure, people, communication, integrity and policy. The requirements include:

  • Greater transparency, enabling participants and fans to better understand the decision-making of those leading their sports
  • Reforms to board membership, including at least 25% independent members
  • Commitments to greater diversity, including at least 30% of each gender on boards
  • Establishing boards as the ultimate decision-making authority within a sport rather than traditional councils
  • Tighter term limits for board and council members to ensure a regular renewal of ideas and expertise

Governing bodies will have to remain compliant with the Code and be expected to put action plans and commitments into practice, particularly those in relation to diversity.

Expand British Canoeing Initiatives

British Canoeing Initiatives

British Canoeing have developed initiatives that target under-represented groups in paddling, whilst providing resources, training and schemes to support delivery by coaches, leaders and volunteers. Our initiatives include:

  • Paddle Ability: our inclusive programme that focuses on increasing regular participation for disabled people in paddling. We have also included information on Paracanoe here, which is the competitive pathway for disabled athletes.
  • #ShePaddles: our initiative designed to encourage more women and girls to participate in paddlesports

Paddling for disabled people

Paddle Ability

Paddling is a fantastic sport for people with a disability with a wide range of opportunities, activities and adaptations to meet individual needs. Paddle-Ability is our inclusive programme that focuses on increasing regular participation for disabled people in paddling.

The programme is currently undergoing a review and update, and further details of the programme and how to get involved will be released in due course. Whilst the review is taking place our free Introduction to Disability eLearning module and foundation Paddle Ability module are still available - please click here to find out more.


Paracanoe is a paddling discipline for athletes with physical impairments, raced over 200m. Athletes can compete in two types of boat, depending on their classification. The Paracanoe programme supports individuals who aspire to compete at the Paralympics.

You can find out more about the programme and how to find a club that delivers paracanoe activity on the Paracanoe page of the website.

Paddling for women and girls


#ShePaddles is our initiative designed to encourage more women and girls to participate in paddlesports. #ShePaddles works in lots of different ways, from creating role models in the paddling community to supporting clubs to understand how they can make their environments more welcoming to new members. To find out more about each section, follow the links.

#ShePaddles Ambassadors

Each year we choose ten inspirational women who share their love of paddlesport via social media and on the ground. Information on the 2021 application process will be published shortly. You can learn more about our #ShePaddles Ambassadors here.

Facebook Women's Paddling Community

This group was created to allow female paddlers (and those who want to become paddlers!) a space to share ideas, make new friends, meet up, swap advice and stories and discuss paddling more generally. The group can be found here.

#ShePaddles Club Champions

Funding from the Sport England Diversity fund is enabling us to create 100 opportunities in clubs and organisations across England for women and girls to develop as Paddlesport Instructors. The project aims to improve the paddlesport provision for women and girls in clubs and organisations and focuses on those near to cities. Applications will open on March 8 2021. To learn more click here.

Engaging Women in Paddlesport document

This document was produced to provide guidance to clubs, centres and other organisations who want to gain and retain more female members/participants. You can download it here.

Expand Diversity in Our Organisation

Diversity in Our Organisation

Organisational Diversity

British Canoeing is committed to ensuring that as an employer, we create a culture whereby inclusion is embedded in all we do, and recognise that diversity is essential to our success as an organisation.

British Canoeing undertakes Equality Monitoring of our staff annually, as well as conducting a staff survey. Equality Monitoring allows British Canoeing to understand where we have under-representation of any demographics, and monitor how changes to policy and delivery has impacted on the make-up of our staff body. The staff survey collects information from staff on their thoughts about our equality, diversity and inclusion work, both as an employer and our delivery to the paddlesport community.

Board Diversity

British Canoeing supports and recognises the importance of diversity in its broadest sense throughout its organisation, including on its Board. The Board undergoes regular Equality training in order to ensure that the organisation's approach to diversity and inclusion is up to date and in keeping with best practice. This will next be delivered in 2021.

A diverse organisation will value and benefit from differences in paddling and sports skills, regional and industry experience, background, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, belief and age, as well as culture and personality. Currently, in accordance with the mandatory requirements of the Code for Sports Governance, 33% of the British Canoeing Board is female. British Canoeing will continue to proactively encourage diverse candidates for Board roles and improve gender equality.

British Canoeing recognises that leadership and decision making is greatly improved when a Board is able to draw on, and harness, a diverse range of opinions, and in order to drive greater diversity, the Board has agreed this action plan which will be reviewed annually. During this review, the Board will monitor progress against the actions below and discuss updates required for the next year. The Board is firmly committed to progressing towards achieving gender parity and achieving greater diversity on its Board, including, but not limited to, ethnic diversity, LGBTQ+ representation and disability representation. Our objectives for board diversity are:

  • Focus on encouraging diverse high calibre candidates for Board level roles. 
  • Consider candidates for Board appointments from a wide pool. 
  • Ensure Board appointment ‘long lists’ include diverse candidates. 
  • Report against these objectives and other initiatives to promote diversity annually. 
  • Report annually on the outcome of the Board evaluation including progress on achieving gender parity and greater diversity on the Board.

Useful downloads – Board Diversity Statement and Action Plan