Originally hailing from Calgary, Alberta, Dr. Sandra Kirby is a former Olympic rower and an accomplished educator, sport administrator, coach and activist who has dedicated much of her career to fighting sexual harassment and abuse, homophobia and violence against children in sport. An accomplished and well-travelled scholar, Sandra earned her first bachelor’s degree in physical education from the University of British Columbia in 1971, and teacher training (Bachelor of Education equivalent) in 1972, followed by a master’s degree from McGill University in 1980, and finally a PhD from the University of Alberta in 1986.
For over forty years, Dr. Sandra Kirby’s tireless activism and compassionate scholarship have helped transform the values and ethics shaping sport practices in Canada and around the world. Urging athletes and sport administrators to embrace diversity and principles of social justice, her lifelong love of competitive rowing makes perfect sense when considered alongside her passionate commitment to activism in sport. Both pursuits demand plenty of grit and plain hard work, requiring the consistent, methodical and thoughtful application of force and strength in harmony with like-minded individuals to navigate difficult waters, push forward and achieve shared goals.
Beginning in 1989 Dr. Sandra Kirby taught in the Department of Sociology at the University of Winnipeg, specializing in the study of women in sport and went on to be a Senior Administrator, retiring in 2014. Sandra has written over fifty publications and co-authored 13 books, often breaking new ground by addressing a range of topics that previously received little or no scholarly attention, including sexual harassment and gender equity in sport, athletes living with disabilities, and human rights issues in sport. Sandra was one of many who lobbied to convince the International Olympic Committee that female athletes should not have to undergo chromosomal testing to verify their gender- a requirement for competition that was not dropped until 2000. She conducted extensive research and completed the first quantitative survey of sexual harassment and abuse among high performance athletes in 1996, providing scholars and sport administrators critically important data and a platform to inspire change. Sandra was a core member of WomenSport International’s Task Force on Sexual Harassment and abuse and has also worked with many national and international organizations, including the IOC and UNICEF, helping establish protective safeguards for athletes. She is a Founding Board member of Safe Sport International (SSI).
Photo: University of Winnipeg