World Rowing President Jean-Christophe Rolland is concerned about the lack of women attending Congresses ©Getty Images

World Rowing President Jean-Christophe Rolland believes a lack of female decision-makers "damages" the organisation's reputation for "good governance" – and he insisted: "We have to act."

Rolland was speaking at this week's virtual Extraordinary Congress where members voted overwhelming in favour of a rule that bids to redress the gender balance at key meetings.

World Rowing revealed only 14 per cent of delegates at Congresses were women over the past eight years, with a mere 12 per cent present in 2013 and 2014.  

Under the new rule, each gender must be represented in the National Federation's delegation should they send more than one delegate.

Rolland felt there was "quite a remarkable gender balance" in World Rowing's Council and Executive Committee but the governing body needed to do more to ensure the "trend" continues.

"It is clear that it is not satisfactory," said Rolland, an International Olympic Committee member who won gold for France at Sydney 2000 in the coxless pair.

"This is a shame, but it is the reality.

"You can look at the statistics from the last eight years of Congresses and I am told that only 14 per cent of the delegates are women.

"Can we be satisfied? 

"Can we feel good?  

"I think you will agree with me that the answer is obvious.  

"We simply cannot continue (with this) and we have to act.

"This also damages the good reputation we are building for good governance.  

President Jean-Christophe Rolland, left, and executive director Matt Smith at World Rowing's virtual Extraordinary Congress ©World Rowing
President Jean-Christophe Rolland, left, and executive director Matt Smith at World Rowing's virtual Extraordinary Congress ©World Rowing

"Our proposal is not a means at making (things) difficult for you, but we will collectively benefit from having a better female representation in our organisation at every level."

A total of 132 votes were cast with 108 backing the move and 24 rejecting it. 

There were six abstentions.

Dag Danzglock, representing the German Rowing Federation, said they were against the motion as he felt it was an "unnecessary" rule and could lead to a smaller number of delegates.

"If you are unable to get this gender situation, a lot of federations will only send one (delegate) and this will limit the number of participating delegates because federations cannot do anything,” said Danzglock.

"It's not a question of the rule, it's a question of life. 

"It's how it works."

Stephane Trachsler, President of the Switzerland Rowing Federation, said they were "in line" with Germany's views.

"We fully agree there should be gender equality but is imposing strict rules the best way?" said Trachsler.

"There has been an improvement without strict rules and I think we should continue on that track."

The motion did receive "strong support" from the Danish Rowing Federation with President Henning Bay Nielsen describing it as a "step forward" for World Rowing.

"In the world I am living in and as a Danish citizen I think we need to promote gender equality," said Nielsen.

"I think it is very important that we make rules so federations promote women into positions."

Andy Parkinson, chief executive of the British Rowing Federation, added: "We have gender equity on the field of play and as sports administrators we now need to make our own commitment to make sure we are doing everything we can to encourage women into senior roles."