Meet 3 Business Athletes Who Don’t Let Gender Define Their Passion
Andre, Shaba and Paul – a yogi, a competitive cyclist and a dancer. Three different people, three different sports but one thing in common: the boldness to challenge defined norms and stereotypes.
In sports, as in business, we often face stereotypes and expected behavioral patterns that are rooted in our society and influence our mindset. Being a young woman in this ever-complex world, I strongly believed that mostly women were trapped in those stereotypes and clichés and that fighting for what is often seen as the “weak gender” was the right choice until I witnessed an interesting situation.
I was on a plane going back home to my family when I overheard a 10-year-old boy saying, “No mom, dancing is for girls, I can’t do it, my friends will make fun of me”. It struck me that I was seeing the problem from one perspective only: there are unwritten rules and norms also for the opposite gender.
This eye-opener made me realize that removing a gender prefix from both sport and business and letting men and women do what they love to do was essential. I’m now in a position where I’m surrounded by people who are following that principle; not letting gender define what they want to be and what they want to do.
Boosting creativity for all
Meet André Mendes, an environmental engineer and a yoga lover from Portugal. André decided not to let society’s vision influence his passion for yoga. He dived into it 10 years ago and since then it has been key to a positive mindset and boosting his creativity.
“The prejudice comes more from people that have never tried yoga and do not really understand it. I don’t recall ever feeling differently treated as a man practicing yoga. However, I do recognize society’s vision is that yoga is more of a women’s thing. I deeply wish that this will change soon.
Yoga is where I find my balance which boosts my positivity, mind clarity and relationships with others. It increases perseverance and focus to reach my goals. It’s not about gender. Rather it’s all about finding our inner selves and letting our best qualities come to the surface in these peaceful, restorative and personal practices. A yoga break at lunchtime is the perfect balsam to regain energy and inspiration for the rest of the day. Often I see problems with clearer eyes and find the solution I have been looking for.”
Smiling all the way to the top
Shaba Mohseni, a communication manager and bike racer, began her love affair with competitive cycling 19 years ago. As a woman in a male dominated sport, she explains what femininity really means to her and how to express it in a creative way and bring that to her office.
“Femininity is more than soft and beautiful. It’s strong and competitive. It’s playful, and it’s FUN. It’s a continuum of everything in-between. There have always been societal perceptions where women athletes are stereotyped as being “butch”, “tomboy”, or “masculine” if they actively and passionately participated in sports. But to me, being a strong woman athlete means beauty can be fierce. I’ll give you a sweet smile and then rip your legs off up a relentless hill climb on the road bike.
It means expressing my unique fashion style, putting on makeup and painting my nails before competition. But it also means being relentless in improving my performance and sharpening my mental acuity. Sport, and more specifically cycling, has long been one of the most important channels through which I experience life and express myself.
I am strong, demure, beautiful bad-ass, playful, calculated, emotional, focused, cooperative and competitive. In the end, there isn’t one way of being feminine and I’m so grateful that sport has taught me this…I’d rather live in this wide spectrum – it’s what makes life so creative and colorful.”
Maturity and understanding
Paul Stemmer works in football sports marketing and is a passionate dancer from France.
“Dancing is my passion. It’s that moment where I can relax and I don’t need to think to anticipate the next step.”Paul, adidas employee
“I’ve sometimes felt discriminated, for sure. There are prejudices about men dancing. Especially when I was younger and a lot of people around me were not mature enough to understand that dancing is not only a sport for women. To be honest, I didn’t care about what they said. Dancing is my passion. It’s that moment where I can relax and I don’t need to think to anticipate the next step. For me it is a sort of meditation because you just listen to your body and you are increasing your consciousness of the time and space around you. Dancing is a great way to find your own identity, to express your creativity and cheer yourself during the difficult times in your career. Dancing taught me how to stay focused, how to be precise and never give up, all skills that have improved my stature with work colleagues.“
It is true that we usually see this standards not only in Business but also in Sports and even in children stories, where girls need to be pretty princess waiting for rescue and boys heroes capable of fighting any danger. If you are a girl who is not pretty or a boy which is not brave, then you won't fit. So, I believe this needs to be changed from the beginning, showing that is not our gender which shall define us, but our passions and attitudes. We should raise our kids to say they want to be like that person not because it is a man or a woman, but because of what it represent and how it can change their lives. Sport is a good example for that. Kids will look at their sport heroes and try to be like them. The more the diversity in each sport, the more they will not have this bias of saying "It is a girls/boys thing..."