Gender Equality Leadership Forum sets the tone for effective change

Electoral processes, gender-neutral portrayal and meaningful inclusion in decision-making roles – key themes of the recently launched International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Gender Equality Review Project recommendations - were at the heart of the discussions during the third International Federation (IF) Gender Equality in Leadership Forum, which took place in Lausanne, Switzerland yesterday.

With more than 30 IF representatives attending, the event – co-organised between the IOC and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) – provided a platform for IF leaders to discuss the IOC’s Gender Equality Review Project findings and recommendations, share best practices to adapt to their own organisations, and seek new solutions to improve gender equality in sports leadership.

Read the full IOC Gender Equality Review Report with actions and timelines

IOC Third IF Gender Equality in Leadership Forum IOC/Philippe Woods

The Forum was attended by over a 100 people from around the world, including 10 Presidents and 8 Secretary Generals, welcomed the evening prior by International Equestrian Federation (FEI) President and IOC Member Ingmar de Vos. He applauded the Forum as “an invaluable opportunity for us as a diverse sporting community to come together, define policies, set goals and share best practices”.

“If we are here it is because we can make a difference,” he said. “We can remove the barriers that have maintained a status quo for longer than we want to admit. Why, because our core business is sport – and sport can be and is a catalyst for change.”

IOC President and HeforShe Champion, Thomas Bach, attended the morning session and kick-started the discussions. In his remarks, he emphasised: “we need a two-way approach to make progress. We need on the one hand a top-down approach and other hand a bottom-up approach.” He expressed certainty that the recommendations of the IOC Gender Equality Review Project would help enact effective change.

IOC Third IF Gender Equality in Leadership Forum IOC/Philippe Woods

The electoral process was the theme of the first session, with the Forum discussing ways to develop strategies for a gender-balanced representation in governance bodies. The following session tackled gender equal portrayal. Avoiding bias and stereotypes in the representation of women and men is a crucial step on the path towards gender equality, in all areas of life. The session raised awareness on what constitutes gender bias, the powerful role of sports coverage in shaping norms and stereotypes, and how sports organisations can challenge these norms and set the tone to promote balanced coverage and portrayal of sportspeople – irrespective of gender. Concrete tools were shared with the leaders present, to positively influence how their female athletes are portrayed.

The Forum concluded by exploring how each organisation can ensure inclusion of gender-equality in decision-making bodies. Among the panellists for this engaging session was Bill Beaumont, President of World Rugby, an IF leader championing the cause for gender equality.

He said: “The accountability for the actual delivery of the objectives and tactics of the new Women’s plan rest with the whole organization. Leadership must come from each department with department Heads empowered to take responsibility for meeting their obligations within the plan and support the general manager.”

He further explained how “this is about sustained change. We are totally committed in normalizing women’s involvement in rugby”.

IOC Third IF Gender Equality in Leadership Forum IOC/Philippe Woods

Closing the Forum, Marisol Casado, IOC Member, President of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) and Chair of the IOC Gender Equality Review Project Working Group, concluded: “I have been very inspired by the discussions we have seen today. Now is the hard part.  We have to continue the work that each Federation is doing but we must take bolder steps […] as we each oversee the implementation of these actions.”

Covering five key areas – sport, portrayal, funding, governance and human resources – the 25 recommendations of the IOC’s Gender Equality Review Project create an actionable roadmap to work with all of the IOC’s partners and affiliates around the world to advance gender equality within the Olympic Movement and the global sports community.

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