World Athletics (formerly the IAAF) has announced its sustainability strategy for the coming decade. This strategy includes the goal of making the organization carbon neutral by 2030, but WA also looked at social sustainability, and recognized the need for more women to be included in the sport of track and field beyond personal competition. This means creating pathways for more female athletes, coaches, officials and administrators.
Call for equal opportunity in all parts of the world
In Canada, participation in track and field is generally accessible for both genders. At all levels of the sport, there’s high participation from both men and women. As it’s also one of the most affordable sports, there’s less of a socioeconomic barrier to entry.
However, in Canada, women still fall behind men when it comes to coaching and officiating. And it’s not just Canada–the shortage of female coaches is global. Over the next 10 years, WA is looking to ensure that “all geographic areas have recognized opportunity pathways for both genders in all professions in athletics across athletes, coaches, technical officials, administrators.”
Female coaches aren’t the entire solution, but they’re part of it
Last year marked a stark change in the sport of track and field. Many women began coming forward with stories of abuse–abuse they sustained under the guidance of their track coaches. Mary Cain, one of the first (and most prominent) voices, told her story in a New York Times Op-Ed column. However, she certainly wasn’t the only one–even the Canadian track community faced its own version when Megan Brown came forward with her story about the abuse she experienced under the coaching of Dave Scott-Thomas.
While it would be naive to say that having more female coaches resolves the issue entirely, it’s certainly part of the solution.
In a sport where women make up over half of the participants, it’s shocking that there still isn’t equal representation on the coaching side. According to The State of Running 2019, a study done by RunRepeat.com, for the first time ever, as of 2018 there are more female than male runners worldwide.
It reported that in 2018, 50.24 per cent of runners were female. Another interesting statistic is that women’s marathon times have improved significantly since 2001 by an average of four minutes. Also, women’s participation in running has grown 30 per cent since 1986. Hopefully the coming years will mark track and field as one of the first sports to have equal representation from both genders. WA plans to achieve this through annual female leadership seminars globally and grassroots initiatives locally.