Confidence boost for Pan-American Sports Women Leaders as Forum concludes in Peru

From 28 to 30 November, over 100 participants from all 41 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) in the Americas took part in a forum aimed at empowering and training women working in sport and the Olympic Movement to excel as leaders.

The Forum for Women Leaders in Sport in the Americas, co-organised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Peruvian NOC and the Pan-American Sports Organisation (PASO) in Lima, Peru, opened with a panel of inspiring speakers and influential figures from the Olympic Movement.

“We want to be equal”

The Peruvian NOC President, José Quiñones, kicked-off this three-day Forum with praise for the women leaders in his country and the role they have played. Stating that “women deserve to lead”, Quiñones also highlighted the importance of men in advancing gender equality.

Next, PASO Executive Board member Veda Bruno-Victor took to the floor to applaud the IOC’s efforts to work with sports organisations across the Olympic Movement to empower women and increase the participation of women at all levels of sport. “Our strategy is to make sure women’s voices are heard and increase their role as leaders and advocates of change,” stated Bruno-Victor. “Sport is a way to achieve this.”

She added: “Besides offering role models, sport is an efficient platform to provide leadership capabilities. Strength, perseverance, commitment, team spirit, solidarity and respect are all essential values in sport and in seeking gender equality. The potential of sport to contribute to social, economic and political empowerment of women is clear. It is the moment to act.”   

The Acting Mayor of Lima, Patricia Juarez, also joined in the discussions. As a female leader, she reminded the participants of the complexities and barriers that surround the topic of gender equality, but set out to deliver a simple yet strong message: “We have the same capabilities as men. We have to participate in the decision-making. […] We do not want to be better than men, we want to be equal.”

Looking ahead

During the three-day Forum, the participants went through intensive coaching and training combined with discussions and mentoring sessions with the help of a team of professional trainers. Male and female leaders (presidents) in the region as well as Olympians also took part to support and contribute to the exchanges on gender differences.

In a relaxed and lively atmosphere, the participants shared their views and helped to identify solutions which could help to make change possible. The men and women talked about the need for public policies; for governance reforms within sports organisations; and for greater promotion of role models to serve as mentors to other women, and particularly young women. They acknowledged and emphasised the need for collaboration at all levels in order to ensure that women have more possibilities to access leadership positions. In particular, they stressed the importance of getting more male leaders engaged in such discussions.

In conclusion, the participants took the decision to pursue concrete action for their own development or that of other women. They urged that this kind of forum, combined with ongoing training, should become a permanent fixture. They welcomed the networking opportunity provided by the events, and all said that they had greatly boosted their self-confidence thanks to this successful three-day event.

A side-meeting was also convened for representatives of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC), under the leadership of its President, Brian Lewis, to discuss the situation of women in the region and how to take forward the learnings from the Forum.

This was the third time that this kind of forum combined with training was organised in the Americas for women in sports leadership. It concludes a series of four Women in Sport Leadership Forums held earlier this year across four continents for representatives of NOCs, International and National Federations.

The Forum is in line with the IOC policy to further enhance the presence of women in decision-making bodies within the Olympic Movement. In this period of the electoral cycle, it aimed to prepare large numbers of women in middle and senior management positions in NOCs, National Federations and other international organisations to successfully stand for election. The Forum also aimed to provide key tips for female sports leaders as well as give them the tools and advice to enable them in turn to become mentors for other women seeking to work in sport.

The next Forum will take place from 6 to 8 March 2017 in conjunction with the International Women’s Day celebrations, and target women in International and National Federations.

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