Stepping-up the change: European sports leaders taking the lead in gender equality and inclusion in sport

Lead the change and be the change: this is what the participants at the New Leaders Forum, which took place in Helsinki (Finland) from 18 to 20 November, were asked to commit to.

A legacy project by Birgitta Kervinen, the 2017 IOC Women and Sport World Trophy Winner, the Forum was organised by the NOC of Finland, in collaboration with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and European Olympic Committees (EOC). Over 200 participants came together: Game-Changers and sports leaders from European National Olympic Committees and abroad.

Two years after the first Forum held in Lithuania, which served as a call to action to improve gender equality in sports leadership in Europe, and a year after the publication of the IOC Gender Equality Review Project and its 25 recommendations, participants shared best practices and discussed the progress made in advancing gender equality in their respective organisations.

After IOC President Bach opened the Forum with an inspirational speech, a number of distinguished speakers, leading the change in their respective organisations, took the stage to share their work, their commitment and their learnings.  

The Chair of the IOC Women in Sport Commission, Lydia Nsekera, present at the event to support the European leaders and in particular the Game-Changers, reemphasised the importance of National Olympic Committees (NOCs) stepping up and implementing the IOC recommendations: “As for the sports leaders, the path is clear: we have to start at the bottom and work our way up, not the other way round,” she explained.

Directly addressing the young leaders in the room, she continued: “If you, Game-Changers, do things strategically and with tact, you will have an unprecedented impact, and everyone else will follow you. So that means a weighty responsibility!” Nsekera added.

New Leaders Forum 2019: the legacy

Through panel and working sessions, the two-day Forum allowed participants to deliberate extensively on a number of topics and challenges still present in the sporting movement.

Participants exchanged views on the topics of governance and how to entrench gender equality in statutes; equal portrayal and unconscious biases; and how to create inclusive organisations, led by an expert from Olympic Partner Procter & Gamble.

The importance of working with partners and focusing on the grassroots level was discussed on the second day during a panel session with Marisol Casado, IOC Member and Chair of the IOC Gender Equality Review Project Working Group.

HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein, IOC Executive Board Member, Chair of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) Gender Equity Committee and mentor to one of the young Game-Changers, led the session on Safeguarding Athletes from Harassment and Abuse. In his closing address to the delegates of the Forum, HRH Prince Feisal reemphasised the need for every NOC to be engaged on this topic: “We need to go beyond talking about gender equality. We need actions now and we need to engage everyone in this conversation. This is a serious issue we should not ignore”.

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