This is how you can stimulate more gender equality in sport (Part 1) –

Six central themes for greater gender equality

In order to systematically include gender equality in sports policy, the expert group identified six topics that deserve attention. These are:

  1. to share
  2. Position as a coach or administrator
  3. Leadership
  4. Social and economic aspects of sport
  5. Media coverage
  6. Gender-based violence

In addition, there are a number of preconditions such as adequate budget, better data collection and communication. In this diptych, we explain the six central themes, with (usually) a Dutch example.

Low fruits for politicians and policy makers

The Action Plan is primarily targeted at policy officials, sports associations and sports professionals. The expert group was led by Dutch expert and former parliamentarian Emine Bozkurt. According to her, there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit in the Netherlands: “Do something about the number of women on the boards of sports organisations, that’s basically it. It doesn’t happen automatically in the Netherlands either. Choose a 50/50 split and therefore introduce a quota.”

European Commissioner Maria Gabriel added: “I see this report as a very valuable contribution to the political debate. I therefore ask any stakeholder in sport to use it as a practical tool to achieve more gender equality in sport.”

European Commissioner Maria Gabriel and former deputy Emin Bozkurt. (photo: European Commission)

The first axis: participation

The expert group recommends the following:

  1. Integrate gender equality into all sports policies and strategies.
  2. Develop action plans for gender equality. and allocate resources to increase sporting opportunities for all girls and women.
  3. Ensure equal access to amenities such as sports fields, equipment and clothing.
  4. Monitor and evaluate progress and implementation.

“All I did was run fast. I don’t understand why people have to make so much fuss about that.” This is how Fanny Blankers-Coen – the world’s fastest housewife – reacted after she won no fewer than four gold medals at the 1948 Olympic Games.

It sounds very simple. However, women’s participation in sports has been limited for a long time. Women were not allowed to compete in athletics for the first time until 1928. But the women’s sport soon degenerated into a mockery of women, and the paper said, “Making tea is a better job for a woman than running the 800 metres.” the time.

Even in 2022, there will still be fewer women than men playing sports, even though we’re doing better in the Netherlands than on average in Europe. This gap results from practicalities such as lack of time and access to facilities and security considerations. In addition, personal, social and cultural barriers play a role, such as a negative body image or the idea – and sometimes the fact – that the world of sports is dominated by men.


Sharing process examples

How did the tide turn? The English Lionesses decided to take matters into their own hands. They have written an open letter to the two parliamentary candidates for August 2022: Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. “We were often forbidden to play soccer. So we created our own teams, traveled all over the country and against all odds continued to play soccer,” the Lionesses wrote. The team is calling on the UK to ensure that every girl in school gets two hours of physical education lessons per week. Investing in female gymnasium teachers and resources for girls’ soccer. “This generation of school girls deserves more,” according to Al-Assad.

In the Netherlands, the Ik ben V movement was created at the initiative of Women Inc and Barbara Barend van Helden magazine. This movement advocates equal opportunities for girls and boys in football. In football in particular, a significant increase in girls’ participation can already be seen, but facilities and support are still lagging behind. This alliance also calls for attention to other aspects. Emine Bozkurt: “In times of corona, we have seen a shift to informal sports and exercise among girls and women. Continue to motivate this from politics and therefore do not only look at the work of associations.”

The second axis: the position as a coach or official

The expert group recommends the following:

  1. Increase knowledge about the possibilities of women becoming trainers or administrators, at all levels.
  2. Develop extension initiatives at all levels.
  3. Modifying employment procedures and financial incentives.
  4. Contribute to attracting and networking for this type of role.
  5. Invest in research, education, and policies that promote and protect female trainers and officials.

Who would think that in Europe we have already come a long way with female coaches: on the contrary. On the road from Rio to Tokyo, the number of women coaches at the Olympics has increased from 11 to 13 percent. But Europe is still only reducing this average by 10 percent, says Emine Bozkurt.

According to the expert group, it is very important to energize women at higher levels of competition to become coaches or officials. Through the development of initiatives and programmes, women should be given the opportunity to gain national and international experience as trainers or administrators. The expert group also recommends good campaigns that promote the positive aspects of the coach or administrator role. And use an example for that.

Case study position as a trainer or administrator

The 3×3 Unites team has understood this mission. Founders Mark Schurman and Jesper Jobs show that women’s participation is also a man’s business. It’s still a relatively new sport, but the so-called 3×3 basketball – which once got its start in arenas in the United States – has quickly grown into the largest urban team sport in the world. Worldwide, the sport has millions of 3×3 basketball players in nearly 200 countries, but only a small percentage are women. And that has to change, think Schuurman and Jobse: “Women deserve a place to shine!”

3×3 Unites offers eight-week “Leaders Courses,” in which young people are trained to become role models in their area. This makes them a typical example of the advice from the expert group to focus on training to become a coach, administrator and role model at all levels. The organization – in collaboration with Nike Made to Play – offers special training programs for young women. It pays extra attention to safety, inclusion and culture. “We believe there should be more focus on women in sports so that everyone feels welcome to play sports,” Jobse said.

The third axis: women’s leadership

The expert group recommends the following:

  1. Empowering women and supporting measures to increase the number of women in leadership positions.
  2. Educating sports leaders about the value of gender diversity in boards and committees.
  3. Introducing a 50% quota for women in decision-making bodies at all levels.
  4. Develop training programs to educate young and old about the potential and benefits of women in leadership positions. It identifies pathways to an active managerial role for women.
  5. Collaborate with external parties on leadership and gender.

A case study of female leadership

Nicole Edlenbos has a proven track record of leading women in sport. As Director at Feyenoord, NAC and NEC and co-founder of Eredivisie NV (now CV). With its successful organization future leaders She helps women reach leadership positions – also in the world of sport. But Edellinbos maintains that they have these functions entirely to themselves. It is just important that there are people at the right times who call you by name and put you first.

Edelenbos is the pioneer in this. But if it were up to the expert group, several processes – such as training programs – would be launched in the short term to enable as many women as possible to obtain a position in the management of sports-related activities.

The role of quotas

A quota for women could help speed change. Scientific research shows that quotas are one of the most effective ways to increase gender equality in a sector. Edelenbos endorses: “Quotas are an imaginary remedy, but it is now clear that we cannot do without them. Otherwise, change will not happen, or it will happen very slowly.”

awareness as the first step

Also on the path to more female leadership in sport, it’s important that everyone – federations, associations and sports professionals – work together. But then you have to feel needed, and that’s sometimes lacking, says Edelienbos. “As long as the problem is not tested, it will not be solved.”

This is also the view of the expert group, which argues in the report for greater awareness of the value of diversity in cultures and committees. Edlenbos: “You will only see the value of – or the lack of – diversity if you first identify the current culture with an understanding of the facts. And how it came into being. Then, you must feel the intrinsic need to change the culture. Now people often have no idea what culture is there and who has formed it.” And how to change it.

Emine Bozkurt considers this topic to be one of the most important in the report: “As long as nothing changes in the leadership, the rules of the game will not change. Some unions are unimaginable with women’s access to the board of directors and changing the conditions of the position. We also have little knowledge about the total, because Data is collected differently everywhere. This monitoring also needs to be improved to know when we are making progress.” What is already known: “Of the five continents, Europe ranks fourth in terms of gender balance in NOCs. We in Europe always think we’re way ahead of the curve, but it turns out that’s not really the case.”

About the panel of experts and follow-up

The expert group was led by Dutch expert and former parliamentarian Emine Bozkurt. Marijki Florin and Claudia Boukil also made important contributions as members of the committee. Since the launch of the action plan, Bozkurt has been touring to promote the adoption and implementation of practical advice in every European country and at the European level. Invitations have already arrived from ministers in the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. In the Netherlands, Bozkurt has already submitted the action plan to the NL Sports Council. We hope that Parliament and the government will follow suit.

The photo above this article is from the 3 x 3 Unites Foundation, which held a leadership course for girls.

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