The New Leaders Forum, organised on 18-20 November 2019 in Helsinki, Finland, invited sports leaders to step up the pace towards gender equality and to build opportunities for young people. The project brought together nearly 200 people from NOCs and other sports organisations in Europe. The event concluded the ground-breaking one-year programme, which trained 30 young “change-makers”, men and women, to act as catalysts for change in their own sports organisations.
The Forum was organised by the Finnish Olympic Committee with the support of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the European Olympic Committees (EOC), the City of Helsinki and the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland. The New Leaders Programme was the legacy project of Birgitta Kervinen, IOC Women and Sport World Trophy winner in 2017 and a long-standing equality advocate as e.g. ENGSO President. The programme was implemented in collaboration with the Irish, Lithuanian and Azerbaijani NOCs that hosted workshops throughout the programme workshops – in January 2019 in Vilnius, in April 2019 in Dublin and in July 2019 in Baku.
The first day of the conference presented high-level speakers from the Olympic movement and beyond, including IOC President Thomas Bach, EOC President Janez Kocijančič and EOC Gender Equality Commission Chair and Irish NOC President Sarah Keane.
President Bach congratulated the Finnish NOC and the EOC for their work with the New Leaders Programme, which for its part implements the IOC Gender Equality Recommendations.
“Gender equality and promoting women in sport is not only an issue of fairness. It is for sure not some kind of generous present. It is about attracting the best talent. It is the smart thing to do and it is the right thing to do. Gender equality is part of good governance of any organisation. In today’s world, no organisation, institution or country can afford to leave the skills of 50 per cent of the population behind – either in sport or in society at large”, President Bach said.
Birgitta Kervinen confessed that speaking up for gender equality hasn’t always been easy, and urged the young change-makers to make the most out of their newly finished education and keep up the good work by working together, asking questions, and using the power they have acquired.
“I have heard so many speeches and read so many papers about equality. Now sports organisations need to have the courage to promote equality through concrete actions”, Birgitta Kervinen stated.
In his speech, EOC President Janez Kocijančič said that the sports movement needs new leaders that can provide new solutions to the issues that sport is facing. “Our goal should be 50/50 gender balance, and we should do whatever possible to achieve this goal. The New Leaders Programme is one tool to achieve this goal”, President Kocijančič said. EOC Gender Equality Commission Chair Sarah Keane presented the recently adopted EOC Gender Equality Strategy and called the NOCs to take concrete actions to improve the situation.
During the session “How to Change the Game: Four Action Plans by Game-Changers”, four change-makers presented their work, which has carried impressive results already during the New Leaders lifetime.
The programme of the second and final day opened opportunities for discussing best practices and success stories as well as looking beyond 2020. EOC Vice President Niels Nygaard admitted that having only two women in the Executive Committee of the European Olympic Committees is not enough and said that further work to change the situation needs to be done. He also encouraged the NOCs to put female candidates forward in the upcoming elections. During the session titled ”Balanced Leadership, Better Leadership, Better Governance”, EOC EU Office Director Folker Hellmund highlighted that gender equality is part of good governance. He presented the SIGGS self-evaluation tool as concrete instrument for improving good governance. The New Leaders Legacy, presented at the end of the Forum, called on EOC and the NOCs to implement concrete measures that promote gender equality.