Shauna Bookal’s passion for equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in amateur sport has landed her on a list of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women for 2024.
A graduate of Brock University’s Sport Management program, Bookal (BSM ’05) advocates to remove barriers for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) at all levels within the sport system.
As Manager of EDI and Student Experience for Ontario University Athletics (OUA), Bookal collaborates with universities and community organizations across Ontario to offer EDI training opportunities for coaches and student-athletes and to help strengthen EDI practices and policies.
In addition to her full-time role with OUA, Bookal is active with several EDI advisory committees within her local and sporting communities. She also volunteers with the Inclusion in Canadian Sports Network (ICSN) as its President and CEO of Inclusion. Last year, she developed, implemented and executed Canada’s first Diversity in Sports Conference with a focus on amateur sport.
The idea came from her own experience attending conferences.
“Sometimes I was the only Black person in the room,” she said. “Our current sport leaders don’t represent our athletes, and if we’re not seeing people who look like us in certain positions, how can we expect young people to aspire for these positions?”
The inaugural event brought together more than 200 attendees from across Canada, including 50 emerging BIPOC leaders.
Bookal said the conference offers role models to student-athletes and Black, Indigenous and People of Colour working in amateur sport, educates allies and opens doors for many.
“Seeing everyone from all different backgrounds and cultures coming together in one room discussing diversity — that’s progress,” she said. “When my generation is ready to retire, it’s important we have people who look like us ready to step into our roles, pick up the torch and keep going.”
Growing up, Bookal was often told she was limited to what she was able to accomplish, but she pushed forward with the encouragement and support of her parents and grandmother. Now, as a parent to a 14-year-old, her drive for EDI has grown even stronger.
“I don’t want my daughter to go through the struggles I had just to get a foot in the door,” she said. “If I’m able to chip away at the barriers now, by the time she’s ready to start her career, it won’t be as hard for her as it was for me.”
Despite the challenges Bookal faced in her job search, her educational journey at Brock was inclusive and memorable.
“I had such an amazing experience at Brock,” she said. “The colour of my skin didn’t matter; I was treated like anybody else.”
Among the experiences offering her lasting memories and valuable career preparation was her part-time student job with Brock Athletics under the leadership of former Athletic Director Lorne Adams, her experience organizing the Ontario Wrestling Championships on campus during her fourth year and her participation in Associate Professor Cheryl Mallen’s event management course.
“I never told her how much her class impacted me,” said Bookal. “I still have the textbooks and often reference its task lists and operational plans, especially when running large events, such as the Pan Am Games and the Invictus Games.”
One of the most rewarding parts of being a graduate of Brock’s Sport Management program and progressing in her career has been connecting with Brock students and alumni over the years. She has volunteered with some, worked alongside others, and has hired and mentored many as interns.
“It makes me smile. They all talk about how proud they are of Brock,” she said. “You can’t go anywhere in sports and not find somebody that went to Brock as a Sport Management student. We’re everywhere.”
Bookal is returning to campus this month as part of an event for Black History Month/African Heritage Month. She will be one of several industry speakers addressing undergraduate students in four Sport Management classes.
A reception for the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women for 2024 honourees will take place in September, at which Bookal and the other honourees will be presented with a book that showcases the group’s social, educational, political and professional accomplishments.