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Necessary Steps to Gain Equality for Women in Sports

In May, my first blog devoted to the IOC Gender Equality Review Project appeared here. The Project was carried out over more than a year and was headed by IOC member Marisol Casado, then Athlete Commission President Angela Ruggiero and Nancy Lee.

Many persons affiliated in some way with the IOC family were interviewed and a great deal of research and policy documentation was gathered. The final results included identification of six consensus factors necessary for the practice of gender equality and 25 Recommendations for action organized within five themes.

While the entire Report was accepted by the IOC Executive and critical members of the Olympic family, we all must still understand, however, that these positive steps do not guarantee that gender equality will be gained or even improved. As we all have seen for more than 40 years with the Title IX legislation here in the USA, continuous oversight and advocacy is absolutely necessary to be sure that reports and political advances such as the Equality Review become more than, what I call, “pretty words on paper.”

The purpose of this second blog is to point out more explicitly the places in the IOC Gender Equality Review where your advocacy actions are necessary and encourage your action in the strongest possible way.


Step One: Become an Expert on the Topic

Download the Review Report and study it carefully. Involve like-minded friends and colleagues to the extent possible. These Recommendations are now “official policy” within the Olympic Movement. Critical bodies such as International Sports Federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs), National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and Olympic Games Organizing Committees (i.e. LAOOC 2028) are mandated to carry out action. We, all those involved in and supporting organized sport, also have a duty to point out where mandated action is not taking place and to make any dereliction of duty public.

Step Two: Make Priorities

We need to be realistic in carrying out advocacy steps. A smart strategy for action might be to choose one or two of these recommendations which are both of high personal import and/or are areas in which we have expertise/opportunity for applying pressure. By identifying specific and focused actions to bring about clear change towards equality, we both bring change and also encourage others to build on the energy created.

Step Three: Organize

Each individual will be focusing on a chosen priority; however, groups and consortiums of organizations can and should develop strategies to divide up and cover more of the Recommendations. Whatever tactical strategies are devised, we encourage the use of intentional and carefully planned efforts in terms of actions and calendar planning.


Below I am describing one recommendation from each thematic area as exemplars of how strategic intentions can be developed and implemented.

Recommendation relating to Sport:

  • Recommendation (#5) suggests that IFs and Organising Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOGs) apply gender equality principles when selecting international technical officials and national technical officials participating at Olympic Games.

Timeline: Develop a Plan of Action by Sept. 2018 to include first phase Winter Games (Beijing 2022) and Summer Games (Paris 2024)

  • Recommendation (#6) is closely related stating that the IOC coordinate development of an Action Plan with Stakeholders for more women to be eligible and selected as coaches at Olympic Games.

Timeline: Initial findings and action recommendations to be reported to IOC Entourage, Solidarity and Women in Sport Commission December 2018

*Advocacy Note: To have even the slightest possibility of meeting these deadlines, action from NGBs and NOCs must be underway at the present. Are they? If you have any role with any USOC member organization, find out the status of action and if officials are aware of the requirements.

Recommendation relating to Portrayal:

  • IOC Communications, along with media operations and outlets such as Olympic Channel, develop a Gender Portrayal Toolkit promoting awareness and establishing principles and guidelines.

Timeline: Complete Toolkit by Summer 2018; make Toolkit available by September, 2018

*Advocacy Note: Has anyone seen or heard of such an Olympic Toolkit? Who is developing it? When/how is it available?

Recommendation relating to Funding:

  • The IOC shall require its Departments to recommend (2021-2024) an allocation of the Operating Budget for specific Projects focused on gender balance. The allocation revenue should be monitored and measured so that outcomes are tracked and evaluated against gender balance goals.

Timeline: Ongoing

*Advocacy Note: This action is supposed to be ongoing at present. Who/what Department has published a call for such projects? If Projects are to be submitted and evaluated and funds set aside for 2021 budget, the planning must be underway and information made available. Who/what groups would be interested in submitting such Projects for funding?

Recommendation relating to Governance:

  • The Recommendation states that the IOC work with Stakeholders to establish Sport Registries for all Boards and Commission Candidates.

Timeline: Pilot of Registries established by September, 2018

*Advocacy Note: If Registry Pilot available by September 2018, it should be well under way. Where does Pilot development stand with each IF, NOC and NGB?

Recommendation relating to Human Resources, Monitoring and Communications:

  • A need exists for a comprehensive communication plan to widely disseminate Gender Equality Review Project outcomes on an ongoing basis.

Timeline: June 2018

*Advocacy note: Obviously the developers of the Report anticipated that the Olympic Family, and public at large, would need to be kept appraised of progress on achieving the outcomes described in report as soon as possible. Has there been any progress? It is already mid-summer and many of the Report actionable goals are due by September 2018. Where is the IOC on those outcomes? Where are they on the development of Action Plans for meeting the most crucial and demanding goals?

At this time, there are many questions without many answers. The supporting public has a right to know. How about setting an hour per week (or perhaps a little more) on moving the needle one degree on one of these important and invaluable Recommendations for equality for women’s sport? When you do, let the WSF Advocacy unit know what you have done and what happened as a result. Let us take the measure and make public officials accountable.