Pushing for a progressive example of gender balance in sports

by Olalla Cernuda on 08 Mar, 2018 09:43 • Español
Pushing for a progressive example of gender balance in sports

On March 8, the International Women’s Day, ITU wants to celebrate and congratulate all the incredible women we have racing, coaching, officiating and leading our sport, triathlon. For us it is a great honor, as well as a pleasure, to be members of a family, the triathlon family, that provides a very progressive example of gender balance in sports.

We have one of the very few sports in which, since the very beginning, men and women compete in the same distances, and prices are always the same for both male and female winners.  Since 2004, the number of women competing in ITU races all around the world is over 35% of the total competitors, and the numbers keep growing year by year. We do have countries in which the number of female elite athletes is bigger than male, such as Bermuda (59% of women) or Canada and USA, where women are 45% of the elite triathletes. Some other of our countries with higher numbers of elite triathletes have also grown the female presence on their sport, such as New Zealand (42%), Japan (42%), Russia (40%) or Australia (38%).

Although those are great numbers of which we are extremely proud, there is still room to improvement, and we are working with many countries to promote women in our sport and organizing talent camps and development camps to continuously increase those numbers.

“But is not only a matter of gender balance in our athletes. Equal opportunities for men and women are part of the DNA of our sport and of our constitution. ITU’s Table Officers are made up of 60% women, with the ITU President and two Vice Presidents all women. Additionally, the ITU Executive Board is nearly half women. But more importantly, currently there are more than ten National Federations that have a female as President. We also have one of our Board Members, Dr. Debbie Alexander, who has just been elected member of the IPC Board. That means that women are taking that step forward to have access to management positions within the sport world. We do have equal representation also in the Athletes commission, presided by a female former athlete, and more and more women are taking the step forward to participate in technical official courses or coaching courses, to get involved in some other ways in our sport”, said ITU President and IOC Member, Marisol Casado.

“I have been involved with ITU, first as an athlete and now as chairperson of the athletes’ committee, for the last 15 years and all through that time I have been aware of triathlon leading the way in laying down true equality for women in all its forms”, said Jessica Harrington, Chari of the ITU’s Athlete Commission. “The immutable fact that distances, prize money and other benefits are the same for male and female athletes in all ITU races is a reassuring bedrock that has been reinforced by equal coverage, screen time and other investments in the athletes’ and World triathlons’ communication strategies. From a governance perspective the fact that ITU has been very pro-active in encouraging and installing at a constitutional level womens’ participation in all areas of the sport makes it truly a special institution to be a part of. The atmosphere of mentoring is phenomenal and Marisol (Casado), Loreen ( Barnett) and Sarah (Springman) especially have taught me and encouraged me to learn so much over the years”. 

Casado, the only female President of an International summer Olympic Sport Federation, is also Chair of the Gender Equality Review Project, which focuses on changing the conversation about women in sport holistically – from participation to representation and decision-making. Covering five key areas – sport, portrayal, funding, governance and human resources – the Project has just launched 25 recommendations not only to 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, but also reflect the efforts already underway by the IOC, National Olympic Committees and International Federations to promote greater participation, decision-making and leadership by women across all aspects of sport – to reflect and drive lasting change.

“While recent years have seen improvements in gender equality in sport, we need more, and we need to do it quickly. These 25 recommendations aim to make a substantial change and swiftly. The IOC is in a prime position to lead the way in bringing parity in gender equality, and today’s decision is a giant step forward toward achieving our objective”, said Casado.

Tomoko Wada, Chair of ITU’s Women’s Committee, also said: “Thanks to the great leadership of Marisol and gender diversity DNA of ITU, whenever I represent Triathlon I can proudly present our ITU practices. As Women’s Committee, we try to push forward our efforts in a visible manner by organizing our annual function at WTS Grand Final, recognition of women/men in all aspects who significantly promoted the involvement of women with the Award of Excellence, and a monthly article contribution on women actions across the world. These are our efforts to give
progressive impacts in all aspects possible in collaboration with communication, development and the Team ITU.”

ITU is also focused on growing the presence of female athletes in our sport, but also growing those numbers among coaches and technical officials, especially in the countries where women don’t have easy ways to have access to facilities, coaches, scholarships, etc.

“Female coaches are sorely needed in all areas of sport development. The number of female coaches working with age groups and youth and children is steadily growing. Being a professional coach in these areas is very family/life friendly, at least in my own experience. Having more female coaches in key positions as Head Coaches or in high performance will definitely encourage other women to follow these career paths. Half of the world is female and at least of 30% of triathlon participants, we bring our unique perspective and vision to the growth of triathlon”, said Claudia Beristain, ITU Coaching Facilitator from Mexico.

Ours is not an easy project, but having balanced female leadership continues to serve us well within the Olympic Movement and the International Federations, and as women will continue to take the lead in their respective tasks and organizations, the female presence in all aspects of our sport will increase in the upcoming years.

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