Starting from International Women’s Day on Thursday (8) and for the duration of Women’s History Month, the IAAF will celebrate the role of women in athletics.
Athletics has come a long way over the years in creating a more diverse sport, both on and off the field of play. One of the few sports where men and women compete at the same time in the same arena, athletics has an equal number of disciplines for men and women at major championships and offers the same prize money.
But the IAAF also recognises that there is still work to do. As part of the widespread reforms adopted by the IAAF Congress at the end of 2016, the IAAF has written minimum gender targets into its constitution to ensure more women are represented at all levels in the sport’s governance.
There are currently six women on the IAAF Council, this will increase to seven in 2019 (just under 30%), 10 in 2023 (just under 40%) and 13 in 2027 (50% representation). In 2019 one of the four vice presidents will be a woman with two of the four vice president positions being filled by women by 2027. In 2019 there will be two full voting members of the Council from the Athletes’ Commission, one of these will be a woman. Following elections last week the two members on Council in 2019 will be Athletes’ Commission Chair Iñaki Gomez of Canada and Deputy Chair, Valerie Adams of New Zealand.
“We have parity in pay, parity in play but not parity in positions,” said IAAF President Sebastian Coe. “Being able to reflect off the field of play what is widely heralded as one of the most diverse and culturally attuned sport on the field of play is critical to remaining relevant to all fans but affirmative action is the only way we will shift the dial.”
To meet the targets, the IAAF’s Gender Leadership Taskforce, chaired by IAAF Council Member Stephanie Hightower, is working with the IAAF Women’s Committee, chaired by Esther Fittko from Germany, to develop global and regional specific programmes to ensure a robust pipeline of eligible female candidates for the 2019 elections and beyond.
“Setting targets is important but evidence shows that targets must be supported by education and development programmes that bring more women in to all areas of the sport – from technical and medical officials to coaches and sport administrators. This needs a regional focus as the barriers to entry for women are as different as the countries they come from,” said Hightower.
To celebrate International Women’s Day here is a short film showcasing some of the female role models at last weekend’s IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018.
March is ‘Women’s History Month’ and over the course of the next few weeks the IAAF will celebrate pioneers in their field by publishing interviews, videos and features with athletes, coaches, officials, administrators and medical staff using the hashtag #IAAFGenderAgenda.
Some of the women set to be featured include the likes of Venezuela’s two-time world indoor triple jump champion Yulimar Rojas, South Africa’s Anna Botha, winner of the 2017 IAAF Coaching Achievement award, Sustainable Development Advisory Group Chair Silvia Barlag, Athletics New Zealand President and Gender Leadership Task Force member Annette Purvis, former pole vault world record-holder Stacy Dragila, and 2000 Olympic marathon champion Naoko Takahashi.
Women’s events at major championships
A timeline of how the women’s programme of athletics disciplines has reached parity with men’s disciplines: