(ATR) The “Lillehammer Call” is sounding throughout the world of sport.
Linda Hofstad Helleland, Norway's Minister of Sport and Culture (ATR)
Norway is launching an initiative to promote female leadership in sport as a legacy of the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games.
The IOC extended an invitation to the Norwegian government during the 10-day event in February and Linda Hofstad Helleland, Minister of Sport and Culture, enthusiastically accepted.
“The IOC wants to put female leadership on the agenda,” she tells Around the Rings
. “And they want Norway to contribute.”
That contribution begins Tuesday in Bergen, Norway, with Helleland hosting a two-day conference on “Women in Sport.” Participants in the roundtable discussions include IOC Executive Board member Anita DeFrantz, FIS secretary-general Sarah Lewis and representatives from the United Nations, European Council, FIFA, the Norwegian sports federation and the Norwegian government.
Helleland calls the invitation from the IOC “our mutual mandate to see more women in high positions within the world of sport.”
She says the Lillehammer Call wants to facilitate meetings and dialogue among stakeholders and contribute to a substantial transformation within the sport community.
“We want a change,” Helleland says. “And we are putting girls and women first.”
The discussions in Bergen will center on three questions. “Why do we need more female leaders? Who should lead the way? And not least: How can we make this change?”
Recommendations to IOC
“Our goal is to compile a list of recommendations to be presented to the International Olympic Committee in 2017,” Helleland says. “And we pledge to continue to work relentlessly to promote and include women at all levels within the sporting communities.”
El Moutawakel (in blue) with Helleland and Lillehammer YOG volunteers (ATR)
Norway is ideally suited to lead the charge as “one of the most gender balanced societies in the world,” Helleland says. “We have a long history of fighting for the rights of women.”
Women comprise almost 50 percent of the highest government positions, including Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Eight of the 18 other ministers are women, including the ministers of finance, defense and trade and industry.
Helleland began strategizing with IOC vice president Nawal El Moutawakel at a working breakfast in Lillehammer.
“It was a very good discussion to see how we can learn from them and how they can learn from us, how we can share both information and experiences,” El Moutawakel tells ATR.
“In Norway you see half of the government is women and in key positions, which is very unusual certainly in other countries, and we want to understand from them how it could be duplicated in sports.”
A second breakfast included IOC members Claudia Bokel and Angela Ruggiero.
“It’s great that the Norwegian minister cares and wants to do something,” says Ruggiero, who chaired the Coordination Commission for Lillehammer 2016. “She is using the Youth Olympic Games to really galvanize the support of different government officials and she also wants to work with the IOC.”
Tackling Gender Inequality
Gender inequality has long been an issue within sports. The IOC focused its initial efforts on the playing fields, and the results have been impressive. In London four years ago, 44.2 percent of the competitors were women, more than double the participation from 1980 (21.5 percent) and triple the percentage from 1972 (14.6). Women now compete in every sport on the summer program.
Angela Ruggiero (left) with Anita DeFrantz in Lillehammer (ATR)
In the Winter Games, 40.3 percent of the participants in Sochi were women, a slight decrease from 2010 (40.7 percent), but still a significant improvement over 1994 (30 percent). Nordic combined is the only sport that still has no female athletes.
“We made great strides,” Ruggiero says. “I love how close we’ve gotten on participation. Obviously, the IOC has done a lot to make that happen, pushing the federations. There’s a lot of great progress on that side and now it’s ‘What’s the next progression in really getting more women active in the Olympic Movement?’"
That next step is leadership, where the numbers for women still lag far behind the men.
As one long-time Olympic insider tells ATR,
“It is a scandal.”
In statistics compiled by the Norwegian ministry, among 404 presidents and secretaries-general internationally, only 41 – or roughly 10 percent – are women. There are 11 female presidents and 30 female secretaries-general.
“It’s a man’s world,” El Moutawakel says. “To make change is always difficult.”
The IOC through its Olympic Agenda 2020 is helping make that change happen. In part two, ATR
will examine the building blocks for change and report on the latest news from the two-day conference on “Women in Sport.” in Bergen.
Written by Karen Rosen
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