World Athletics initiates gender parity plans

World Athletics pushes for gender equality on council

What you need to know:

  • Key among the raft of measures the global sports body is implementing is ensuring the World Athletics Council has 40 per cent female representation.
  • This year, World Athletics is committing to providing more opportunities in sports to empower girls and women. 

The World Athletics has embarked on a string of initiatives aimed at realising gender equity.

Key among the raft of measures the global sports body is implementing is ensuring the World Athletics Council has 40 per cent female representation, including at least one female vice president this year.

The World Athletics, in a press statement, added they have also set a target of 40 per cent female participants taking their online courses as part of a learning pipeline for future sports administrators. The global sports body will also this year expand its research in representation of female athletes across media channels.

These steps are outlined in a series of new and impactful pledges published in celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8, among them implementing individual safeguarding policies in each of the 14 member federations and the extension of the organisation’s Ukraine Solidarity Fund, which enables dozens of female Ukrainian athletes to take part in World Athletics Series events.

The body noted the new pledges are designed to improve gender equity and close the gender gap in athletics as they enter the third year of their #WeGrowAthletics campaign. Launched on International Women's Day in 2021 to eliminate gender bias in athletics, this campaign has made notable strides in fulfilling or initiating all of the pledges.

Some of the strides already achieved include the reconstitution of the Athletes’ Commission to 55 per cent female and 45 per cent male representation. Prior to the 2022 elections, the commission had 55 per cent male and 45 per cent female representation respectively.

For the first time in history, the World Athletics Championships last year ended in a women’s discipline – the women’s 4x400m relay. This, the organisation revealed, will also be the case at this year’s championships in Budapest.

In 2022, the sports body had a 50:50 gender split across editorial and social teams covering three World Athletics Series events in Oman, Oregon and Cali. It also intends to expand its freelancer network across the world with an emphasis on women.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said he is immensely proud that his organisation is once again leading the way for gender equity in sports.

“This is an important part of the reforms we introduced in 2016. In today’s world, it is not enough to provide equal opportunity, we must provide equity. To achieve true equity in our sport, it is important that we offer our female athletes, administrators, and officials the tools and environment they need to be empowered to pursue careers at all levels of athletics.”

 He noted this can be achieved by setting quotas for female representation on the organisation’s council, or providing more flexible learning and development opportunities that better suit women’s commitments.

“I am also proud that, according to research conducted for us by Nielsen, 74 per cent of our fans believe that World Athletics is truly committed to championing equality. We are happy to lead the way on gender equity initiatives and set the example for other international federations.”

Concerted efforts needed

He termed it important for stakeholders to take an active role in helping them achieve their collective goals in this area.

This year, World Athletics is committing to providing more opportunities in sports to empower girls and women. The body has, among others, pledged to increase the number of women on the World Athletics Council from eight members to a minimum of 10 members, including at least one female vice president. Council elections are scheduled for August.

The organisation has also committed to building a pipeline to increase to 50 per cent the female representation across their four commissions for the 2023-27 term to provide more opportunities for female administrators. It also plans to increase the number of female coaches at world championships to at least 20 per cent by the World Athletics Championships Tokyo 2025 by encouraging member federations to send more female coaches, and providing the learning pathway in countries where women are underrepresented at the coaching level.

To achieve this, its Gender Leadership Taskforce is working with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) Female Coaching Leadership Programme to enable eligible female coaches to be selected as part of their national team for the Paris 2024 Olympic games.

Through the UN Women # DigitALL campaign, the body has set a target of 40 per cent female participation in World Athletics e-learning courses in 2023. It is also seeking to host another leadership conference at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest this year.

Also in place to enhance gender equality is the launch of 10 gender leadership courses and activities that will be carried out by Area Development Centres.

The body will also host two gender leadership podcast series focusing on technical officials and empowerment, launch a women-focused spotlight section on their LinkedIn page in 2023 and initiate a pilot mentoring programme to help women attain leadership roles on the six continents.