New Zealand deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson expressed his concern over the lack of female coaches ©Getty Images

A paucity of female coaches was among the main issues raised when sporting leaders met to discuss the challenges facing women in sport.

New Zealand deputy Prime Minister and Sports Minister Grant Robertson was the headline speaker at the event, called "A Celebration and Call to Action for Women and Sport" organised by the International Working Group (IWG) on Women in Sport.

Robertson outlined efforts his Government had made to try to redress gender balance in sport but admitted coaching remained a "massive challenge".

"We have far too many elite sportswomen coached by men," said Robertson.

"I want to say as clearly and directly as I can, if we do not lift our game to bring more women through as coaches we simply will not have the participation we want, nor will we have the success that we want from our women athletes.

"I am very proud of what we have done with the coaching programmes but gosh we have got a long way to go if we are actually serious about it."

Sporting leaders gathered at New Zealand House to discuss the issues facing women in sport ©CGF
Sporting leaders gathered at New Zealand House to discuss the issues facing women in sport ©CGF

Annamarie Phelps, co-chair of IWG on Women & Sport and vice-chair of the British Olympic Association, expressed her disappointment at the "awful" percentage of female coaches at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

According to Phelps, just 13 per cent of the coaches at the Games were women with the figure three per cent lower for European nations in the Japanese capital.

"There is a huge amount more we can do," Phelps told insidethegames.

"It’s about the environment and how important it is for the coach to understand their athletes.

"There is nothing wrong with having male coaches but we need a culture in the high performance environment that sees male and female coaches working together, providing different inputs, being there as role models and being there to empathise with all their athletes.

"If you have got equal numbers of male and female athletes you should be at least nearly getting towards that equal number of male and female coaches."

England manager Sarina Wiegman, right, has been hailed as an inspiration for female coaches ©Getty Images
England manager Sarina Wiegman, right, has been hailed as an inspiration for female coaches ©Getty Images

Phelps celebrated the success of Dutch football manager Sarina Wiegman in guiding England to UEFA Women's Euro 2022 glory and hopes she can influence more women to carve a career in coaching.

"Sarina has obviously got something very special," said Phelps.

"I think people like her will definitely give confidence to girls having women coaches and maybe give confidence to young boys when they have got a female coach and say if Serena can do that with the girls why can’t she do that with my Sunday morning team rather than only men can play football and only men can coach.

"Across a lot of European countries attitudes of men and boys is really quite different.

"We are making progress but the IWG is an international group which is looking globally at how we can shift the dial.

"If we don’t then British female athletes and administrators will have their progress limited internationally."

Chris Grant, Board member of Sport England, former England cricketer Isa Guha, Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Katie Sadlier and Pippa Britton, deputy chair for Sport Wales, looked at various issues facing women in sport during the event at New Zealand House.

There were also speeches from Phelps and fellow IWG co-chair Raewyn Lovett, CGF President Dame Louise Martin and British Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston.

The IWG is hosted by New Zealand with the eighth IWG World Conference on Women & Sport scheduled to take place in Auckland from November 14 to 17.

Birmingham is set to stage the ninth edition of the conference in four years’ time with Britain hosting the IWG from 2022 to 2026.

"While women’s sport continues to go from strength to strength, we know there is more to be done to support women both on and off the field of play," said Huddleston.

"The handover of the IWG is an incredible opportunity to build on the success so far and to push for true gender equality in sport."