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See, hear and empower women: it is time to ‘walk the walk’ to eliminate manels in sport and exercise medicine/physiotherapy
  1. Kay M Crossley1,
  2. Karen Litzy2,
  3. Jackie L Whittaker2,3
  1. 1 La Trobe University—Bundoora Campus, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2 Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  3. 3 Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, Richmond, Virginia, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Professor Kay M Crossley, La Trobe University - Bundoora Campus, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia; k.crossley{at}

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The ‘manel’—all-male panel1—in sport and exercise medicine/physiotherapy is a powerful and visible symbol of gender inequality.2 The ‘manel’ normalises the absence of women leaders (role models),3 erodes women’s confidence and ambition2 and stunts the depth and development of sport and exercise medicine/physiotherapy.3 To combat this, the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) developed its conference ‘stamp of approval’,4 which requires more than 40% women faculty and scientific committee members. Perhaps the best example of a ‘manel’ elimination strategy is affirmative action by the International Federation of Sports Physical Therapy (IFSPT). IFSPTs’ intentional efforts to ‘walk the walk’ resulted in the proportion of women speakers rising from 14% (2017) to 53% (2022).5 Despite these meaningful steps, the ‘manel’ is stubborn and defiant. A recent review of sport and exercise medicine/physiotherapy conference speakers reveals that many organisations could learn from the BJSM and IFSPT examples.

Organisations often claim barriers to speaker gender equity, but deliberate and thoughtful planning can overcome these barriers. We provide examples of intentional strategies that relate to women (figure 1), but also apply to other equity-deserving groups.

Figure 1

Graphical representation of …

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  • Twitter @kaymcrossley, @jwhittak_physio

  • Contributors KMC, KL and JLW contributed equally to the conception of the editorial. KMC drafted the manuscript. All authors contributed to the revision of the final draft and approved of the final version submitted.

  • Funding JLW is supported by a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research a Scholar Award (SCH-2020-0403) and an Arthritis Society STAR Career Development Award (STAR-19-0493).

  • Competing interests JLW is an Associate Editor of the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM), and Editor with the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. KMC is a senior advisor of BJSM, project leader of the Good Life with Osteoarthritis from Denmark (GLA:D)—Australia’s not-for-profit initiative to implement clinical guidelines in primary care and holds a research grant from Levin Health outside the submitted work.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.