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IWG World Conference on Women and Sport Theme 2: Let them lead

Copyrights: Flickr: UNAMID

IWG World Conference on Women and Sport Theme 2: Let them lead

This topic explores the future landscape of women’s leadership in sport.

What role can sport play in encouraging girls and women to pursue leadership roles? What are the existing stereotypes about women in power, and how can we change them? How do we improve the landscape of large sport organisations to make room for more female representation? These are among some of the questions to be explored at the IWG Women in Sport Conference in May.

Data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union shows the percentage of women holding positions in governments of 193 countries: “The world average for the share of women in the lower houses of national parliaments is 23.4 percent”. Similarly in the corporate sector, Catalyst found that women held 24% of senior roles across the world in 2016.

These uneven percentages are reflected in sport as well. This is why tools like the Sydney Scoreboard, a database created as a result of the 2014 conference, are instrumental in tracking the number of women in leadership roles. According to the data, “at a national level, based on 38 countries and 1,599 National Sport Organisations, the average percentage of women directors (executive members) increased from 19.7 in 2010 to 20.7 in 2014”. At an international level, “the percentage of women board directors (executive members) increased from 12 in 2012 to 13.3 in 2014”. Also encouraging, the percentage of women chief executives has increased from 9 in 2012 to 21 in 2014.

While these statistics show improvement, the overall percentages remain low. There is clearly more to be done to increase the number of women leading large sport organisations. But in some ways, changing the landscape starts at the bottom. Sport in particular can provide a space for young players to develop leadership skills. Organisations like Women Win incorporate these skills into sport programmes, giving girls a safe environment in which they connect with each other and challenge themselves.

Sport can provide a unique environment to change cultural perceptions. Individuals and organisations alike have the power to change the landscape, by continuously creating opportunities for women and encouraging leadership at a young age. As stated in a 2007 UN publication: “Sport can serve as a vehicle to improve women’s and girls’ leadership roles and participation in decision-making. The acquisition of valuable skills in management, negotiation and decision-making empowers women and girls to become leaders in all areas of community life.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018 - 11:40

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