Seeking Support for Women
The follow-up Taskforce on solutions to grow the involvement of women and girls in sport kicked off with some thoughts from panellists deeply involved in the promotion of the issue, with Beth Brooke, Global Vice Chair of Public Policy for Ernst & Young (E&Y), invoking the corralling of support from the corporate sector.
“This is an overlooked resource that could be used to address all the three issues we are looking at today,” she said. “My own company has a staff of 167,000 in 150 countries, for instance, which we could use to to intersect with and influence local culture.”
Specifically, leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics, Brooke said E&Y was looking at the establishment of a network of female Olympians to act as role models to tell their stories and create emotional connections, as well as linking up with senior business women networks to streamline channels of communication: “Women need networks, they are a powerful tool,” she said.
Among suggestions from the audience to boost female participation were a requirement for sports federations to have women on their boards; encouraging women athletes to use their fame positively; the development of policies to require more equal distribution of available funding, corporation tax breaks to incentivise support for sport; more training for women coaches and referees and the recruitment of men as allies and partners.
The latter was applauded by many resident in the Middle East who stressed the importance of family support, particularly approval from male relatives, where education was needed to get the message across that sport was not irreligious.
It was agreed to look more closely at federations, funding and the garnering support of men and media, with a consensus for greater use of social media and traditional publications to reach youth and channel public opinion.
Again relating to the region, delegates heard ideas for socially sensitive athletic wear that would conform to the rules while offering a degree of fashion through collaboration with a brand name such as Nike – and commended a member of the Jordanian contingent who had used social media, research and the support of Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, FIFA vice-president, to overturn a FIFA ban on the wearing of the hijab on the football field.
With a huge host of suggestions on the table, moderator Mori Taheripour, Senior Advisor, Sport for Development at USAID, moved to support the creation of a dedicated Women’s Taskforce within Doha GOALs, charged with pulling together and overseeing further development of solutions.