Leading the way for effective change in gender equality
The International Triathlon Union (ITU) and its President, IOC Member Marisol Casado, have been for many years one of the greater role models for the sport community when it comes to gender balance. In an organization where gender equity is at the core of its constitution since its inception, it is now time to spread the word and help other organizations achieve those goals. With this in mind, the Gender Equality Leadership Forum, organised by the IOC and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), was the perfect scenario to explain our path to gender equality and try to engage with some other International Federations.
With more than 30 IF representatives attending, the event provided a platform for IF leaders to discuss the IOC’s Gender Equality Review Project, chaired by ITU’s President Marisol Casado, findings and recommendations, share best practices to adapt to their own organisations, and seek new solutions to improve gender equality in sports leadership.
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. “We need a proactive individual approach. We all have to encourage women, mentor them, and then you get results. Nobody can ignore 50% of the population, 50% of the intelligence, to make their organization successful. We ask you to take leadership positions, and lead us to better organizations. And I have to thank Marisol Casado and all the other members of this Review Project for taking the lead on that”, he said.
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. Johan Druwé, president of the Belgian triathlon and duathlon federation, explained how the articles included on ITU’s Constitution are key to guarantee the equal treatment and representation, not only for athletes, but also for helping women in leadership positions.
The Forum also 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.
Closing the Forum, Marisol Casado, 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.”
“We now have not only some clear steps, but also clear deadlines, measurable actions that we all have to achieve, and that’s a great step forward”, she said.
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.
On March 29, ITU President, Marisol Casado, also participated as a keynote speaker in the UK Sport International Leadership Programme, held in Lausanne, an initiative that aims to develop individuals from the UK who are seeking to operate successfully within international sport governing bodies. “One of our main responsibilities as current leaders is to mentor the new generation of leaders, lead by example, as participating in those Forums is always an amazing tool to discover new talented individuals that will be, for sure, joining our organizations in the near future”, she said.