More female role models needed for women to succeed in sport

Thursday, 10 March 2011
By Tom Degun in Barcelona

Katarina_Witt_in_Barcelona_at_conference_March_10March 10 - Even if women become more implicated in sport, there is still a long way to go to achieve equality between women and men in the sporting arena.

That was the conclusion of a high profile debate around "Women who make a difference in sport" which took place at the third annual Global Sports Forum here today.

Double Olympic skating champion Katarina Witt (pictured), former United States soccer legend Mia Hamm, UK sailor Samantha Davies and French Minister for Sport Chantal Jouanno were just a few of the major sporting personalities involved in the debate which agreed that young women need more female role models in order to succeed in sport.

Witt, who is currently the chair of the Munich 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Bid Committee, believes that organisational changes are needed if the situation is to improve.

"My sport has always been rather feminine," said Witt, who during the 1980s won the figure skating Ladies' singles title World Championship four times and the European Championships six times in a row, as well as the 1984 and 1988 Olympic titles.

"It is since I've retired that I do feel differences between men and women.

"Now working in broadcasting, I am well placed to know that sport is competing with reality TV.

"It is imperative that youth remember the values of sport and in particular that we do not become famous overnight, but by hard work.

"Rather than believing that if a woman wants a career in sport her husband should stay home and take care of the family, I would like to think that states would establish structures in which such questions no longer arise.

"We must work together, not as either one or the other."

Mia_Hamm_Barcelona_March_10_2011Hamm (pictured), who was named the women's FIFA World Player of the Year the first two times that award was given in 2001 and 2002, said: "Today when I coach kids, they tell me they do not necessarily have time to watch sports on TV or get more involved.

"This can only be worrying.

"We need to push our children into a more comfortable position so they would like to do a specific sport.

"Being young, my role models were men - Michael Jordan, for example.

"But today it's great that women can be role models.

"I say to myself that my daughters are lucky.

"If I had one dream for women in sport, it would be for them to stop having to fight harder than men to prove their value."

Davies, who came into the limelight with her 2008-2009 single-handed circumnavigation in the Vendée Globe race, where she placed fourth, said: "I do not understand how on the last race of the Vendée Globe, only two women were registered out of 30 participants.

"This is especially infuriating given that we finally classified forth and sixth.

"There is no rational explanation for this.

"I think that it is more about a problem of communication.

"We always have to create a buzz and make our sport attractive to increase interest in the media and in ourselves.

"We must give young people, and more particularly young women, the desire to practice our sport.

"Allow them to believe in their dreams.

"It's a chance for me to be a role model for future sailors.

"I dream that one day a woman can win a big race.

"I'm sure we are not very far from that, and even more certain that this will allow our sport to attract more women."

Jouanno suggested that leadership is the key and that more women need to take up senior positions within major organisations.

"I'm not necessarily against quotas," said the French Minister of Sports.

"Everything is about leadership and we need to involve more women in institutions.

"The future is in our hands."

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