International Women’s Day – March 8, 2021
By Colleta Dewa
Johannesburg – World Athletics on March 8 marked International Women’s Day with a series of commitments to advance the role of girls and women in sport under the campaign slogan “WeGrowAthletics”.
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said gender equality should no longer be a theoretical discussion, and the organisation he heads was reviewing traditions around presentation of women’s performances and their achievements.
Coe said focus would be on empowering women in leadership positions, breaking with traditions, and shining a spotlight on women’s stories across its platforms.
“We should all be taking action by identifying barriers, reviewing our policies and practices and creating clear pathways for women to rise, contribute and participate at all levels. Athletics has historically led the way in gender equality since the beginning of the professional sport era in the 1980s with an equal programme of events and prize money for both women and men,” said Coe.
Coe said to demonstrate the organisation’s seriousness about gender equality, the next edition of the world championships, in Oregon in the United States in 2022, will conclude, for the first time, with a women’s event and results will no longer be automatically presented “men first”.
World Championship and Olympic programmes have traditionally signed off with the men’s 4x400m relay.
“The landing page for the organisation’s website will also change so that the default is no longer men’s results, rankings or awards. We want the strides we have made in our sport, thanks in most part to trailblazing women on and off the field of play, to inspire others. We have much more to do but I am confident these pledges, together with those of our partners and stakeholders, will allow more women to hurdle historically established barriers on the way to greater gender equality,” added Coe.
The Monaco-based organisation appointed its first female vice-president in 2019 and increased female Council representation to 30 percent, a ratio it wants to up to 40 percent by 2023 and 40 percent by 2027.
Stephanie Hightower, chairwoman of the World Athletics gender leadership taskforce, said: “I think we are leaders. We’ve embedded this into our governance structure. That it’s being embedded starting at the top. When you look at what happened after the first election that we said we were going to start moving towards gender equality, that in one election we now have 30 percent of women on our council. That’s been unheard of.”