Courtesy of EHF
‘We are our most powerful when we work together’. That is the message that comes loud and clear from talking to Marijke Fleuren following the publication of the Report ‘Towards more gender equality in sport’ from the High Level Group on Gender Equality in Sport (2022).
The High-Level Group (HLG) was set up with one main aim: to achieve a more equitable gender balance in sport overall. It was established by Commissioner Mariya Gabriel in 2020 and has 15 representatives from across the world of sport, including government bodies, non-governmental organisations and sports federations. Its recommendations and action plan apply to the EU Member States, national and international sports bodies and local and grass roots level organisations.
Fleuren is a well-known and highly regarded advocate for gender equality through her work on the IOC Women in Sport Commission and the FIH Women in Sport Committee. In addition, Fleuren is leading the EHF’s work on gender balance in the Board rooms and on coaching programmes of the EHF’s Member National Associations. All the NA’s signed an Equally Amazing Charter in 2019, stating what each of them plans to do over the coming years on gender balance.
Within the HLG, Fleuren’s work with FIH and EHF meant she was one of the people on the group who had ‘walked the walk,’ and had working instances of how gender equality policies could be implemented. This insight was vital for her to bring to the group’s thinking.
‘I tried to bring into the HLG the experiences we have had in hockey and also from SWinG (Supporting Women in achieving their Goals), because we have got some fantastic insights into leadership, particularly from SWinG. Unfortunately, these ideas didn’t all get taken up because we still need to see research to show they are effective.
‘What I consider as an important result of the report is the list with transversal subjects next to the main areas where gender equality must come up to speed. It is good to see budget and communications alongside participation and leadership, as these are all important areas within gender equality. To come forward with good recommendations, the group experienced a wide range of presentations from inside and outside the sport. We had a very good presentation from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) for example.’
The first of these is the importance of putting a gender perspective at the forefront of any policies or strategies. All stakeholders within an organisation should ensure a gender perspective is at the core of their actions.
Why there are gender inequalities within a sport or an organisation is usually very complex. For this reason, an intersectional approach is necessary when finding solutions. Overlapping causes can only be addressed by an open approach and working together.
When it comes to achieving gender equality, there must be practical measures in place. Budget that is dedicated to addressing gender equality; coordinators, or people with the responsibility to make sure that the action plan is being delivered are essential – there must be ownership of the policy for it to succeed; research and evaluation to ensure progress is being made and targets are being met.
Then there is the outward-looking approach. Education that explains why equality is necessary, whether that is addressing children within clubs and schools or talking to stakeholders about the importance of equality within the organisation. How the messaging is then communicated is important. It must be clear and appropriate for the audience.
Finally, there is the importance of getting support from men within the organisation. If men are wholly supportive of a gender equality action plan and policy, then they can be at the heart of creating change.