Male allyship, establishing a gender equality action plan and developing initiatives to grow the number of women technical officials were the three topics covered in the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s second Gender Equality Webinar Series for the Olympic Movement. In total, some 1,850 participants from International Federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and National Federations (NFs) registered to join the online sessions.
The webinars were held throughout the month of March and followed on from the successful webinar series held in September 2020, with the IOC delivering another round of online presentations and discussions in collaboration with the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) and the Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations (AIOWF). The goal: to provide practical examples and initiatives that the Olympic Movement stakeholders can implement to increase the number of female leaders in sport in accordance with Olympic Agenda 2020+5.
Actions men can take to advance gender equality in sport
When men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programmes, 96 per cent of organisations see progress – compared to only 30 per cent of organisations where men are not engaged. But what does it mean to be engaged with gender equality?
This first webinar introduced the concept and benefits of male allyship, and how such allies play a key role in achieving greater gender equality in sport. The panellists were Camilo Amado, President of the Panama Olympic Committee, and IOC Members William Blick, President of the Uganda Olympic Committee, and Jean-Christophe Rolland, President of World Rowing. The three men shared their experiences as male allies in sport, and outlined the actions they have taken as men and as leaders to balance the board.
Rolland reiterated the value of diversity within teams: “Having women and diverse profiles [as] part of the team will help the organisation reach better decisions with different approaches. I see it as a fantastic opportunity.”
In turn, Blick described how focusing on capacity-building has helped create a pipeline of women leaders in sport: “In Uganda, we’ve trained more than 1,900 sports administrators since 2012, and 800 of them have been women. […] From then, it was continuous support, working with them, giving them guidance, and giving [women] opportunities to do things, and that’s helped in the leadership.”
Amado noted: “If there [is] significant misrepresentation, you must make sure that women are included; that means putting up quotas and making sure spaces are available.” For him, the priority is “education and career development” so that these spaces can be filled by women who are the best candidates for the position.
Establishing a gender equality action plan for your organisation
Driving successful change within an organisation to foster gender equality, diversity and inclusion requires intentionality, accountability and transparency. One of the strategic ways to uphold these principles is to create an action plan that includes clearly defined roles, responsibilities and timelines.
The second webinar in the series focused on how the International Biathlon Union (IBU) and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) have developed their own gender equality action plans. The panellists were IBU Development Director Dr Dagmara Gerasimuk, European Hockey Federation President and FIH Women in Sports Committee Chair Marijke Fleuren, and FIH Women in Sports Committee Secretary Valerie Horyna.
As all three women emphasised, the most critical step with any action plan is to “simply start”. Despite what one might think, “it’s not as hard as expected. It requires goodwill and cooperation, and there are significant profits and benefits to implementing such strategies,” shared Dr Gerasimuk, who oversaw the development of the IBU Gender Equality Strategy for 2021-2026, which was approved and released on 8 March 2021 by the IBU Executive Board.
While Fleuren added that “it helps if you are in a leadership role to start something”, she was also keen to emphasise that “everybody can play a part. Everybody can make a difference. […] Convince [people] that if we do it together, the decisions will be better. And who can argue against better decisions?”
Initiatives to grow the number of women technical officials
Building on the previous webinar in September 2020, this session presented two further case studies from the International Surfing Association (ISA) and World Taekwondo on initiatives they have implemented to increase the number of women technical officials.
ISA Executive Director Robert Fasulo and Membership and Sport Manager Megan Burns kicked off with a presentation of the ISA’s Women Judging Programme, which was launched late last year with the overall goal of developing more female judges worldwide. Exceeding reach and expectations, the virtual course saw 127 women from 34 countries tune in to learn from two members of the Tokyo 2020 judging panel – ISA Technical Director Erik Krammer and ISA judge and longboard champion Tory Gilkerson.
British Taekwondo President and Beijing 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Sarah Stevenson followed with an outline of how World Taekwondo has developed and implemented a strategy to ensure half of its referees are women, as was the case at Rio 2016, and how this has trickled down as a priority at national level.
“We can now showcase our technical official females in a way to inspire more females,” shared Stevenson. “As a retired athlete, it would have been incredible for me to have someone to share with me their experiences, to talk to me about what opportunities would be available to me.”
Participants are being encouraged to carry on the conversation on the IOC LinkedIn community group dedicated to gender equality. The group has already gathered over 1,200 members, all working to advance gender equality in sport.