I was lucky enough to attend the 24th annual QSport Awards last Wednesday. It’s one of the most eagerly anticipated events on my social calendar.

Quite apart from being supplied with an excellent three course meal (that I don’t have to cook myself), I get to dry my hair, don some heels and bask in the golden glow that emanates from some of Australia’s greatest athletes.  

Cate Campbell exclusive insight 4

As it always is, the night was filled with stories that make you laugh (Mal Meninga), stories that make you cry (Anna Meares) and stories that touch your heart.

It is a unique room where you get to hear both from sporting champions and the from the volunteers who have spent decades selflessly serving sport. I’m always reminded of all those people who have worked tirelessly, and often thanklessly, to get me to where I am.

Anyone who has been to one, knows that it is not a sports awards night without a sporting montage. And I am a sucker for sports montages.

Put me in front of a screen with a few highlights and a good soundtrack and I’ll sit there tingling, covered in goosebumps.

However, last Wednesday, it wasn’t the highlight reel that had my hairs standing on end.

It was the realisation that while we celebrated female dominance within the award winners and nominees – eight out of the eleven awards handed out went to females – only one of the award presenters was a woman.

And the worst part of this was; I didn’t pick up on it. It was my mother who pointed it out to me.

That sent a tingle down my spine.

It stopped me in my tracks. I have been fortunate enough to attend many sports award ceremonies in my life, becoming inured to the presenters’ stage being dominated by men.

It wasn’t something that registered as being out of place.

My Mum, on the other hand, rarely attends such events. And perhaps it is that distance that enabled her to point out an issue so many award-weary attendees, like myself, missed.

Cate Campbell exclusive insight 4

Many of the individual award sponsors are corporate companies who send organisational representatives to present the award on their behalf.

What does this say about the corporate landscape for women if only one of the nominated presenters – Krista Adams from the Brisbane City Council – was female?

Last Wednesday night celebrated the push towards gender equality on the sporting field; but it also highlighted the gender inequalities in the corporate world.

I want to be clear, in no way do I want to criticise the sponsors of last Wednesday’s event.

It is through support of companies like them that sport continues to thrive in this country. Enabling it to enrich the lives of the people who both participate and watch it.

Despite the myriad of societal, physical and psychological benefits it affords, we have waning government support for sport in this country – especially for some of the smaller, less economically profitable sports who were celebrated at the Qsport Awards (I could write a whole blog post about this, so we will leave that can of worms for another time).

Such a diverse mix of sport would, quite simply, not exist in Australia without the generous contributions from our private sector.

I also do not want this to come across as a criticism of QSport, which it a wonderful organisation; committed to recognising and celebrating everyone who is involved in sport not just the star athletes (we often get a little too much attention).

Cate Campbell exclusive insight 4

Because without the administrators, coaches, volunteers and event organisers working tirelessly behind the scenes, sport, in all its forms, from grassroots right through to elite, would not exist.

It is therefore important to recognise these people, who play an integral role shaping in the diverse, complex and unique formula that goes into developing an elite athlete.

No, I want this to serve as a reminder for the corporate world more generally; and a wakeup call to myself.

I missed a vital sign.

We, as a society are still missing vital signs. Indicating that while we have made great strides towards gender equality, particularly in the past few years, there is still work to be done. Let us not become habituated to inequality.

Change is not fuelled by ignorance. Instead ignorance breeds complacency which prohibits progress. Therefore, let us continue to observe our social environments with fresh, critical eyes.

I always walk out of the QSport Awards with a feeling that is hard to describe.

Listening to stories of perseverance, dedication, selflessness. Of athletes overcoming seemly insurmountable setbacks. Of volunteers dedicating decades of their lives, and thousands of hours to serve others, to allow other people to achieve their dreams.

Cate Campbell exclusive insight 4

Of coaches who find new and innovative ways to get the best out of their athletes. It moves me, in a way only sport can.

It motivates me and challenges me to become a better person; to make the world a better place.

And Wednesday night was no different. I left the room, feeling humbled, challenged and motivated.

I am challenged to review what I have come to accept as ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’, especially when we are discussing gender equality in society, and in the corporate sector particularly.

I am motivated to make the world a more equitable place, where men and women are afforded the same opportunities – both on and off the sporting and field.

And I am humbled. Because if I have achieved great things in my life, I am only able to do so because of the many brave and courageous women who have come before me. Those who fought so hard for the opportunities I now take for granted.