Views on empowerment of women, girls in sport outlined

Women in Sport Aotearoa chief executive Rachel Froggat (left) facilitates a discussion on girls and women in sport at the University of Otago last night with (from left) Grant Robertson, Prof Elizabeth Pike, Raewyn Lovvet and Kereyn Smith to begin the 201
Women in Sport Aotearoa chief executive Rachel Froggat (left) facilitates a discussion on girls and women in sport at the University of Otago last night with (from left) Grant Robertson, Prof Elizabeth Pike, Raewyn Lovvet and Kereyn Smith to begin the 2019 World Congress of Sociology of Sport, as the audience looks on. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Participation, leadership and visibility are key areas in the growth of women's sport.

That was one of many messages a conference heard from an esteemed panel at the University of Otago yesterday.

The discussion began this year's World Congress of Sociology of Sport, which is being hosted by the university. It has attracted experts from around the world and runs until Saturday.

Last night those present heard various takes on what can be done to further empower women and girls in sport.

New Zealand Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson said one of his priorities upon taking the role was to lift the value and visibility of women in sport.

The audience listens intently to the conference
The audience listens intently to the conference
He hoped to do that both at the elite and community levels.

Increasing that exposure to the wider community was one of three areas to achieve the goal of enabling women to realise their potential through sport and recreation.

Leadership was another, notably getting more women on sporting boards - at least 40% - as was reaching participation targets.

Prof Elizabeth Pike, from the University of Hertfordshire, added that the environment women and girls were coming into was key to participation.

She was involved in writing the International Working Group on Women & Sport's progress reports and that had been a notable finding.

Ensuring the sporting environment was a safe space to join - free of sexual harrassment and abuse - was important. It was something various sporting organisations had taken steps to ensure. However, there were many more that had not.

She said while it was essential to ask people involved what had been happening, it was then important to ask what needed to be done going forward.

Increasing media coverage had been a key focus, although she said the style of media coverage was just as important.

Likewise, she agreed getting more women into leadership positions would promote growth.

Greater gender equity could promote changes of attitude of people towards women in leadership roles.

For New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith, using events such as the Olympics to drive change was key.

She echoed the sentiments around leadership, saying developing more women leaders gave more voices to social change.

However, she also said it was key to give that opportunity to youth. Young people could be powerful in telling their story, as they could often do it in a way other young women and girls could relate to.

That could make them powerful role models.

She said the culture around gender needed to change, both from the top and the bottom.

That meant changing discussions in boardrooms at the top, as well as equipping providers of sport with the ability to have conversations around discrimination.

IWG co-chair Raewyn Lovvet shared many of the same views. The youth voice was important, as was the visibility and value of women at all levels of sport.

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