Out of the Blocks: World Athletics commits to gender equity in sport leadership by 2027
On the fifth day of the World Athletics Championships, the University of Oregon hosted a forum on gender equity within the sport of track and field. The forum called “Out of the Blocks,” was moderated by Former USA Track and Field president and nine-time national hurdles champion Stephanie Hightower.
Early on in the discussion, Hightower posed a question to four-time Olympian and broadcaster Sanya Richards. “How do you make sure that as you are being a commentator, that you make sure that women and their accomplishments are elevated, just like they do for men?” Hightower asked.
“I am extremely intentional about how I speak about women in sport,” Richards said. “And I think sometimes I have sensibilities around how women feel that obviously men don’t have because they don’t have our experiences.”
Brazilian track star Claudia Schneck spoke to the importance of retired women athletes taking on other roles in sport. She herself became a technical official.
As the first female Vice President of Athletics Kenya, Fatima Awale acknowledged barriers to access and specific obstacles impacting women, such as violence.
World Athletics Vice President Ximena Restrepo wrapped up with her belief that men and women bring different things to the table, but they should both be there. “We have to work together because we complement each other,” she said.
Hightower ended the near two-hour forum by asking participants to sign a gender equity pledge before getting lunch. Here's the pledge:
World Athletics’ pledges #WeGrowAthletics by empowering women to pursue leadership positions
World Athletics pledges to increase the representation of women and work towards gender parity in leadership roles in athletics.
In line with the 2016 Governance Structure Reform and consistent with gender numbers participating in athletics, the gender split of the World Athletics Council will transition to 50% by the 2027 Election as follows:
- At the 2019 Election, there must be a minimum of seven men and women elected from among the total of 26 Council members (including the 1 Vice President and 1 female and 1 male athlete representative). Following the 2019 Election, there are currently eight women on the World Athletics Council, making up 30%.
- At the 2023 Election, there must be a minimum of 10 men and women elected from among the total of 26 Council members (including the 1 Vice President and 1 female and 1 male athlete representative, i.e. 40%)
At the 2027 Election, there must be 13 men and women on Council (including the 2 male and 2 female Vice Presidents, i.e. 50%)
World Athletics will ensure gender parity on panels for technical officials and across staff at World Athletics HQ, review pathways for women coaches and will work with the Gender Leadership Taskforce on ensuring our Area Associations play their part in growing leadership opportunities for women in their regions.
The World Athletics Gender Leadership Taskforce, of which Hightower is a part, was established "to provide oversight of the gender leadership strategy to mainstream equity and ensure sustainable leadership pathways for women. Its main focus areas are building the pipeline of talented and empowered female administrators, coaches and technical officials, and driving gender leadership programs to ensure the 50:50 gender targets for the World Athletics Council are met by 2027."
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said the organization is committed to achieve equity in all leadership roles by 2027. "And the crucial element in all this for me is how do young people see us? Young people don't look at your organization any longer as being a sporting organization or a political organization or a university or an academic institution," Coe said. "They don't look at you as just simply a charity or a non-profit organization. They ask a very fundamental question. And the fundamental question is: 'Do you look, as an organization, like the world that I live in?' And if you don't, they will find the organization that does."
Coe opened the Out of the Blocks equity in sport leadership forum along with U of O President Michael Schill, who read, “Women are significantly underrepresented in leadership in athletics. For example, they hold less than 20 percent of leadership roles in NCAA division I and II athletic programs."
Schill continued, "As a leading public research university, we are pleased to take advantage of the World Athletics Championships being in the U.S. for the first time to explore how to increase the number of women and other underrepresented communities in leadership positions across sport. We appreciate USATF’s and World Athletics’ engagement and action around this important topic.”
Then Schill and Coe stepped away from the table and the four women panelists sat down one by one as Hightower started the discussion about gender equity in sport leadership and what's needed to meet the 50:50 gender target goals for the World Athletics Council in the next five years.