In a groundbreaking move, Lydia Nsekera of Burundi was voted onto soccer’s international governing body’s (FIFA) Executive Board last week at the FIFA Congress in Mauritius. The first woman elected to the Board in the organization’s 109-year history, Nsekera will serve a four-year term. Last year she became the first woman to be co-opted to the executive committee, has been head of the Burundi FA since 2004 and was a member of FIFA's organizing committee for the 2008 and 2012 Olympic soccer tournaments.
Nsekera told BBC Sport: "I am very happy to be the first woman elected. It is important for Africa, it is important for Burundi, it is important for women. I will inspire women to believe they can lead and I will support women in member associations."
Two others, Moya Dodd of Australia and Sonia Bien-Aime of the Turks and Caicos Islands, were co-opted to the Executive Board for one year as a “try out” of sorts. They will be up for official election after their year Co-Op term.
"One woman was coopted on to the Executive Committee last year for one year, and now a woman has been officially elected on to the executive committee, with two others coopted. It has taken us 109 years to get this far," said FIFA president Sepp Blatter in a statement last week.
The numbers of both female athletes and women in leadership positions in Olympic sports like soccer hav become increasingly troubling as female participation in sports grows worldwide. In just April of this year, we released our comprehensive research study,"Women in the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games,” a report that provides insights into the poor representation of women in leadership roles and sports participation in the international and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic organizations. A significant finding of the report was that soccer – a sport whose female participation and fan base have exponentially increased over the last 15 years – fared extremely poorly in both categories. In fact, with no women on its Executive Board in 2012, FIFA ranked lowest out of the 28 international governing bodies in the gender equity in leadership category. For more on soccer and all other Olympic and Paralympic sports, you can download the full report here.
The addition of Nsekera and the Co-Op of Dodd and Bien-Aime is a huge move for FIFA. We congratulate the organization on this exciting advancement and we hope this can serve as a catalyst for other international organizations to follow suit.