Women can still make a mark in a male-dominated industry such as sport, a number of successful female sport experts have said.

Five panelists shared their challenges and successes in a discussion titled ‘Female Leadership in Sport – A Call to Action’ at the second day of the Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) Inter-Regional Summit on Tuesday at Marsa Malaz Kempinski. It was moderated by Ben Jacobs, sport commentator and presenter, ESPN FC.

“After having my first child, it is very difficult to be successful and get the same support that a lot of my male counterparts got,” said Liz McColgan, an Olympic silver and World Champion, double Commonwealth Games gold medalist winner of London, Tokyo and New York marathons. As she moved to become a coach, she said her hard work and determination paid off despite the difficulties along the way. She received accreditations from sport organisations and authorities to join other athletes in major sporting events, including the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha.

In the past six years, McColgan noted that she has been a big advocate of trying to show women that they can “succeed not only in the sport but also on the other side of it, as a coach, mentor in leadership.” Karen Webb-Moss, Group COO at International Centre for Sport Security, echoed this view saying that as a female, there are several challenges in climbing to the top, especially in sport.

“Despite my education and experience, which was extensive, I had to claw my way up,” stressed Moss, who was also the International Olympic Committee’s former VP for Images and Marketing Communications. “But you (as a woman) need to be confident, to trust in your judgement, women have amazing instincts,” she noted.

While sport is a male-dominated sector, Moss highlighted the importance of having male allies and mentors who understand women and ready to offer support. “The one place I feel very comfortable that I have been fully supported is here in Qatar, I work here for six years, I don’t feel any less being a female,” she added.

Nicola Crosby, a presenter from BeIN Sport, echoed this view saying that working with male colleagues has given her more opportunities in his chosen career. “Sometimes we need to look back and see that your male counterpart has a 30-year experience ahead of your,” she noted. “It is good to have fantastic male bosses.”

Meanwhile, Katie Simmonds, general counsel and senior director, Global Partnerships, SIGA, underscored the importance of programmes to incentivise young women to get into a male-dominated industry or sector. “The programmes are absolutely critical, and at SIGA we have got our university standards on good governance in sport, and we also advocate and promote great diversity in the board room,” she said.

“In 2017, we started the global female mentorship programme for aspiring female leaders in the sport industry. We now have more than 22 global female mentors all over the world, and we are growing,” Simmonds noted.

Valentina Biffin, CEO of the Croatian Volleyball Federation, stressed that now is “the great time for women who want to participate in the top management level in sport.” “The climate is okay and a lot of initiatives are being done, a lot of support is given from different points either public or private organisations who ever is financing the sport,” she said.

While women get a huge amount of obligation, Biffin stressed that “we have to do what we love and this is the only way we can be successful in what we do.”

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