To honour and celebrate the women in sport, ENGSO Equality Within Sport Committee (EWS) organised an online seminar on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2023, to discuss the history and the work of the European Women in Sport, their past, present and challenges ahead.
The seminar was hosted by the current EWS Chair Sallie Barker who welcomed former chairs of the Committee: Birgitta Kervinen, Amanda Bennett and Anita White.
The EWS network, first known as the European Women in Sport, was established in 1989 under the framework of the European Sport Conference. Its objective was to connect East and West Europe to increase representation and recognition of women in sport, in all roles and positions, and as participants, leaders and coaches.
“Active work at the national level leads to success at the international level”. – Birgitta Kervinen
The participation of women in all levels of sport was visibly lower, even alarming, compared to men. There was a need for a cultural change that would be long-lasting and sustainable, and could influence sport organisations to change policies and practicesto achieve gender equality.
“The world of women has changed so the work of EWS has changed with it.” – Amanda Bennett
In recent years, and in order to benefit from stability, the EWS joined ENGSO and gradually transitioned to the Equality Within Sport Committee. Today, the EWS continues to fight for gender equality with its 2023 Action Plan for Equality in Sport with a specific intersectional approach and a focus on LBTQI+ women and women with disabilities.
“Women are not a homogeneous group, we need to look at the needs and situations within this group” – Anita White
The online seminar offered an opportunity to look back on the development of more gender-equal sport at all levels, the barriers that have been broken and the “modern” challenges women in sport are facing today.
We would like to thank Sallie Barker, Birgitta Kervinen, Amanda Bennett and Anita White for organising this inspirational seminar.
With a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from the University of Helsinki, Finland, Birgitta Kervinen is a long-serving sports leader both nationally and internationally. In 2011, she was elected to her second four years term as President of ENGSO. In this position she was one of the few female presidents among the European sport organisations. During her Presidency, Birgitta Kervinen has initiated the European mentoring programs ENTER! and WILD. The last initiative taken by Mrs. Kervinen together with IOC, EOC and NOC Finland was The New Leader Program for 30 young men and women 2019.
Birgitta Kervinen has an extensive social and political network regarding sports both in Finland and internationally. She has taken many initiatives to develop sports events in Finland and is active mentoring young women in the field of sports policy.
Ms Kervinen has her background in basketball and athletics. She is a true advocate of grassroots sports and passionate about equal rights in sport and society. As a sport leader she encourages people to discover their potential and inspires them to work towards common goals. She underlines the co-operation between generations and different stakeholders. She is President of Finnish Sport Leader Seniors.
Amanda was born in Cardiff and, after graduating from Loughborough University, taught Physical Education in London. In 2003 she joined UK Sport, the UK’s high performance sport agency and, over the course of ten years she co-authored the Equality Standard for Sport and led the design of the highly successful Women and Leadership Development Programme.
Amanda is a former Chair of European Women and Sport and Chair of the Sports Councils’ Equality Group. She also served on the Sport Wales board and the International Working Group on Women and Sport.
Amanda is passionate about helping people and organisations grow and develop, and, with a focus on governance, leadership and inclusion, she established FairPlay in 2013. She has worked with a range of organisations including the International Paralympic Committee, Irish Rugby Football Union and the Premier League. She also works with private and charitable bodies guiding them through development reviews that enable greater inclusion and effectiveness.
Amanda is the author of the Sports Governance Handbook and has provided specialist leadership and governance support to organisations including The Football Association, Scottish Hockey and British Blind Sport. Amanda’s current voluntary roles include Senior Independent Director with England Handball, Chair of Saracens Women and member of the England Rugby Diversity and Inclusion Working Group. She was also a Selector for the Welsh Commonwealth Games Team for Birmingham 2022.
Amanda was Wales’s first female fly half and her international playing career spanned 10 years including two Women’s Rugby World Cups. She was a founder member of Saracens Women and took up coaching after retiring. She was Head Coach with Wales and also coached the England Elite and Under 20s squads. Amanda is a previous winner of a UK Coaching National Coach Award and now mentors high performance coaches and athletes.
My background is grassroot sport, coming from an orienteering and skiing family in Sweden. Attending the Technical University, I was active in university sport which led to my first leader position in 1977 in the executive committee of the university sport club. All my sport career, I have worked professional as project manager and in manager positions in companies in Sweden.
I have now been a volunteer for 46 years, with the focus on sport policy, strategic work, and sport development to make sport available for all. My special interest during all years has been to work for a sport world where women and girls have the same opportunities as men and boys, to participate in sport, to be a board member, to become a leader, and an official.
Engagements within sport organisations, 1977-2023
President for the association for Swedish Senior Sport Leaders (2022-ff)
Sallie Barker is the Chair of the Equality Within Sport (EWS) Committee of ENGSO. Sallie has worked in sport for over 30 years. She originally trained to be a teacher and holds an MA in Physical Education. Sallie then worked at the GB Sports Council and Sport England for 12 years before joining the Sport and Recreation Alliance in 2002, where she was the Head of Operations. Sallie retired in 2015 and is now able to use her time on her passion – volunteering and working for her community. She is also chair of the Safeguarding Adults in Sport Steering Group, Finance and Governance Director on the Board of World Lacrosse, chair of GB Lacrosse Women’s World Cup, President of her local Women’s Institute. For her services to sport, Sallie was made an MBE in the 2017 New Year’s Honours list.
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