Putting equality firmly at the center of the big picture: European Hockey Federation
However, change is on the way and there have been significant advances. Examples include the fact that gender equality principles are firmly embedded in any action funded by Erasmus+ Sport. Awareness is growing through studies and discussions within the Commission’s expert group on good governance. Initiatives such as the #BeInclusive EU sports Awards recognize the work of sports that use activity to increase social inclusion.
The first of these is the importance of placing a gender perspective at the forefront of any policy or strategy. All stakeholders within an organization must ensure that a gender perspective is at the heart of their actions.
The reason why there are gender inequalities within a sport or an organization is usually very complex. For this reason, an intersectional approach is needed to find solutions. Overlapping causes can only be addressed through an open approach and working together.
When it comes to achieving gender equality, practical measures must be put in place. Budget devoted to the fight against gender equality; the coordinators or people responsible for ensuring that the action plan is implemented are essential – there must be ownership of the policy for it to be successful; research and evaluation to ensure progress is being made and goals are being met.
Then there is the outward looking approach. Education that explains why equality is needed, whether speaking to children in clubs and schools or talking to stakeholders about the importance of equality within the organization . How the message is then communicated is important. It should be clear and relevant to the audience.
Finally, there is the importance of gaining the support of men within the organization. If men fully support a gender equality action plan and policy, then they can be at the heart of creating change.
This is the topic that, according to Fleuren, is sometimes misunderstood: “Instead of being an ‘us and them’ situation, we should use their support in a constructive way. The United Nations “He for She” campaign is a good illustration of this.
The HLG report highlights and provides examples of the enormous amount of work that is being done across the continent on many themes.
As far as participation is concerned, there have been some really innovative and successful projects. These range from the She Run’s Active Girl’s Lead Erasmus+ project, led by the International School Sport Federation, which encouraged 2,000 girls aged 15-18 from 35 countries to engage in physical activity, to the LEAP Sport activity in Scotland which has provided a range of resources for the sports sector to educate and raise awareness of transgender people in sport.
As part of the development of coaches, international sporting bodies such as World Rugby, national federations such as the Norwegian Ski Federation and organizations such as the University of Hertfordshire have all set up programs to develop training opportunities of coaches.
For Fleuren, including grassroots, local sports providers in the process is absolutely vital as they are the people delivering the sports on the field. “You would expect things to flow from the international federation to the national associations and then down to the grassroots, but too often that still doesn’t happen.” That’s why you need dedicated people to implement gender equality measures.
‘Our next job [at EHF] is to bring stakeholders into the clubs. Our “Equally Amazing” project operates nationally and internationally. Within our EHF structure, I know that many dedicated women and men are already working on gender equality in their own countries. Clubs will be our next focus.
This report shows us other ways and new ideas that can be introduced to achieve this.
Leadership is an essential element in achieving gender equality. For a young woman looking for a path, there is nothing more inspiring than someone who is already stepping into leadership roles. The European Hockey Federation, the Women‘s Sport Trust, World Rowing, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and a host of other sporting bodies all run courses designed to empower women to take on leadership roles.
“That may sound like a simplistic approach,” says Fleuren, “but it’s not. The importance of having role models, of seeing someone as yourself, is vital if people from less represented groups are ever to become leaders.
With pay gaps, questions about maternity leave as an athlete, and the dark cloud of physical, sexual and mental abuse in the world of elite sport, there are still huge issues to be addressed. HLG has completed its mission with the release of the report, but Fleuren hopes the report itself will serve as a springboard for more change.
“On our small scale, we try to inspire people and give them ideas they can use to make a difference in their own sporting environment,” says Fleuren, adding: “Gender equality is not a paragraph or a chapter; it must be part of the whole story.