Women's Sports: Huge inequality exposed on international sports federation boards

For ten major sports federations, inequality at a board level remains significant.

An investigation by The Telegraph has found that for all the boards they looked into, fewer than 40 per cent of the members were women. None of the boards is led by a woman and on three, less than a quarter of members are female. 

They analysed federations including the International Olympic Committee, Fifa and World Athletics.

The International Cricket Council had the biggest disparity, with just one woman on a board of 18 members. In fact, until 2017 there were no women. The ICC changed its constitution, adding Indra Nooyi (former CEO of Pepsico) to the board as an Independent Female Director.

Out of all the boards, their report looked at, the International Hockey Federation has the highest gender diversity with 37.5 per cent of board members being women.

Fifa tried to address this disparity in 2016 as part of their governance reforms. They mandated that every confederation must have at least one female representative on the Fifa Council. Apart from the six obligatory positions, there are no other women on the council. 

One federation that has seen dramatic change is World Rugby. In 2017 none of the 32 representatives on their council was female. To combat this, the federation announced that all member associations with council representatives could add an extra female member. As a result, the size of the council has increased to 50 and the number of women to 18. It is worth noting that on World Rugby’s executive committee, however, only one of their 11 members is female.

Unsurprisingly this is becoming a must-address for many boards and some European sports leaders are meeting at a forum on this very subject in Helsinki next week that has been organised by the IOC, the European Olympic Committee and Finland’s National Olympic Committee. 

If federations are still lagging so dramatically when it comes to gender inequality, it begs the question of how they are faring in addressing other forms of inequality. After all, we will never achieve equality at elite and grassroots levels if the people making the decisions aren’t representative of the population at large.

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