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08 Mar 2021

Better harnessing women’s talent in sport leadership

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, celebrated annually on 8 March, is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”. It’s about recognising the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighting the gaps that remain.

Very much in line with this theme, ASOIF has teamed up with the “Women Lead Sports” programme, run by Gabriela Mueller, to empower 60 future women leaders from its member federations through a series of live-coaching sessions during March and April. The aim of the course is to prepare potential female leaders to serve in elective positions of their respective International Federation (IF), Continental Association or National Federation, thereby increasing the number of women in leadership positions across the Olympic Movement. It’s about walking the talk and working towards an equal future in a COVID-19 sports world and thereafter.

ASOIF President Francesco Ricci Bitti said on this occasion: “We need to harness better the creativity, energy and talent of women for leadership roles in sport. Achieving a greater gender balance is crucial to sustain a healthy future of our movement.”

ASOIF’s Third Review of IF Governance (2020) revealed that only one of its member federations had a board that was more than 40% composed of women, highlighting the need to achieve a greater representation of women in leadership roles within sport organisations. It will take some time to close this gap but pragmatic support like ASOIF’s leadership training has been welcomed by the Olympic Movement and can make a difference. In smaller groups, the participants develop self-awareness of their leadership style, progress in communication and negotiation skills, discuss Do’s and Don’ts in electoral years, how to lead in male-dominated environments and much more. They also receive individual advice and coaching.

Sabrina Ibáñez, Secretary General of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and Chair of ASOIF’s Diversity and Gender Equality Consultative Group (ADGEG), said: “Gender parity and a culture of inclusivity lead to stronger governance and better problem-solving abilities which is vital during a period like the current pandemic, where innovative ideas are crucial to the survival of an organisation. Studies have shown that businesses with at least 30% of women in leadership roles are 12 times more likely to excel financially. So, imagine what sport organisations could achieve if there were more women in leadership positions.”

She added: “Women are still an underrepresented group in sport governance and their contribution is key to growth and innovation in our industry. This is why the ASOIF Diversity and Gender Equality Consultative Group, of which I am honoured to be the Chair, supports the 'Women Lead Sport' initiative as it provides women with tools to become influential leaders in sport governance structures.”

One of the participants, Hilary Atkinson, Hockey Pro League & Olympic Games Director at the International Hockey Federation (FIH), said: "Thank you to ASOIF and FIH for the opportunity to join a great group of colleagues from our industry taking part in the Women Lead Sports 2021 sessions. The more we learn, the greater the contribution we have to offer. This is as true about ourselves as of the areas we work in and I am looking forward to the upcoming sessions with Gabriela and the group."

Stay tuned to follow updates about these courses and their outcomes on, Twitter and LinkedIn in the coming weeks.