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Club and Community | 06 March 2023

#EmbraceEquity - Tamara Sheppard

This International Women’s Day, Swimming Australia is joining the millions of people worldwide collectively seeking to #EmbraceEquity. The 2023 theme asks us to Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

One of the many avenues through which to #EmbraceEquity is to celebrate women’s achievement and, while Australian swimming is fortunate to have countless examples, both past and present, of incredible female achievement in the pool, we also have a number of inspiring female leaders driving the success of the sport out of the water.

In the lead up to International Women’s Day, Swimming Australia is going to highlight those women forging change in the workplace. The sixth woman to be profiled in the #EmbraceEquity series is a respected career sporting administrator and Swimming Australia’s current High Performance Director, Tamara Sheppard.

Who did, or continues to, inspire your leadership style?
The leaders that inspired me the most are obsessed with creating more leaders. They have inspired me to be purpose driven and consistently chase performance whilst supporting others. I have been fortunate to have bosses that believed in me when I couldn’t. Through being generous with their time to nurture me and at times telling what I needed to hear not what I wanted to hear. I have learnt that you don’t need to be someone that you are not and embrace your authentic self. All those that inspired me to find the fun in the journey, be purpose driven and be brave in the pursuit of performance. Those that I am grateful to have worked for, with or in a system to learn and be inspired by – Alex Baumann, David Crocker, Chelsea Warr, Greg Shaw, Kate Hutchison, Rohan Taylor, Jess Corones and Jonathan Grady.

My Dad, who passed away recently, was and is my biggest inspiration. He was a primary school principal who worked in remote communities to create environments that impacted communities to ensure everyone had access to an education. Education and learning changes lives. He taught me to be curious, kind and always put your hand out to help others. He was my biggest fan and my toughest critic but lifted me up at every opportunity to help me be who I am today.

What brings you the most satisfaction in your role?
I am really fortunate and grateful to work with many talented coaches, athletes and staff in the pursuit of performance when it matters the most. It is uncompromising and requires a commitment to the process. I get the most satisfaction when I am able to lead an environment that is focused and calm to enable others to feel confident and joyous to achieve more than they thought possible. To be able to play a small role in creating this environment for others to achieve more than they thought possible brings me the most satisfaction. It isn’t about the medals but the process of how we can support and grow our people to be the best versions of ourselves in and out of the pool.

What more needs to be done to foster the pathway for female leaders?
Continue to create and promote structures to find and nurture women on their journey as leaders. If we get this right we can inspire women across the system to follow their dreams and realise that with talent, passion and determination, there is no limit to what they can achieve.

Everyone has a role to play in nurturing talent, investing your time to help others on their path. What we do as leaders when no one is watching to support others can be more impactful and meaningful to nurture the talent that exists in the system. Everyone has a role to play to lean in to help future leaders explore and achieve what they never thought possible.

What advice would you offer yourself if starting your career over again?

  • Be brave not perfect
  • Learn to own your achievements and not minimise and hide them. “Live in your strengths”
  • To listen and learn you have to stop talking.
  • Being vulnerable can be your strength – crying is ok and good for you and isn’t weakness. Embrace being uncomfortable as it means you are growing.
  • Not everything is a competition

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?
Showing all women, young and old, that no dream is too big and ceiling is too high. We have an opportunity on a daily basis to be fearless in the face of any challenge and keep setting our ambitions high. We all must be uncompromising to lift others up.