Recap: “Women in Sport - EWS research shows multi-layered realities”

On November 28th, 2023, the EWS committee organised an online seminar to present and discuss the results of its latest research on the participation and experiences of women in sport across Europe.

Tarja Krum, ENGSO Equality Within Sport Committee (EWS) Vice-Chair, welcomed Angelica Saenz, EWS researcher, Ilaria Todde, Advocacy and Research Director at EuroCentralAsian Lesbian* Community (EL*C), and Eda Emirdag, Chair of Roller Derby Nederland, to discuss the results of a research commissioned by the EWS on women’s participation in sport across Europe. 

After some background information given by Tarja Krum on the needs for such a study and its methodology, researcher Angelica Saenz presented the main findings. The results are presented from an intersectional (1) perspective, specifically taking into account six socio-demographic aspects: age, gender identity, sexual orientation, migrant background, socio-economic and disability status.

“Grassroots sport is a space for inclusion” (Ilaria Todde, EuroCentralAsian Lesbian* Community)


Grassroots sport can offer the opportunity to everyone to express oneself in that it is less hierarchical and less driven by power relations than elite competitive and professional sport, reacted Ilaria Todde. She encouraged all sport federations to embrace this potential by continuing their work in combating discriminations and stereotypes through for example the implementation of anti-harassment policies and specific trainings.

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Extract from the factsheet “Women and the sporting environment”

When they exist, the frequent reactivation of these measures is crucial to prevent and react against any forms of harassment, knowing that the number of unreported cases in sport is dangerously high:

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Extract from the factsheet “Women’s experience in sport”

Ilaria Todde also commented on the roles women take in sport organisations, stressing the importance of representation. The number of LBTQI+ women in leadership positions is particularly low and more actions are needed from sport organisations to change their culture of leadership, create spaces (and safe space) to enroll all women in all roles.

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Extract from the factsheet “Women’s involvement and participation in sport and physical activity”

“Even when (inclusion) measures are in place, keep communicating about it” (Eda Emirdag, Roller Derby Nederland)

Coming from a sports culture with a high participation from the LGBTQI+ community, Eda Emirdag had a different experience. In Roller Derby Nederland, measures are in place to show the inclusiveness of the sport, such as the existence of guidelines on the inclusion of transwomen and intersex athletes, the participation in Pride Parades, or the promotion of the International Coming Out Day. By providing a competitive space where all women belong, including women from older age groups which often drop out of competition, this high level of participation leads to a high number of women, and LBTQI+ women specifically, in positions such as coaches, referees or managers. 

All speakers and participants stressed the importance of collecting data: the results of such research can serve as a basis to create awareness raising and educational material, and to continue advocating for a more equal European sport movement. As a conclusion of the report, the EWS presented ten recommendations to improve women’s participation in sport.

Short background: these findings are the results of a survey conducted in 2023 by the Equality Within Sport (EWS) committee of the European Non-Governmental Sport Organisation (ENGSO). The answers analysed came from 487 respondents above 18 years old who either fully or partially identified as women, from 30 countries in Europe.

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  1. Intersectionality: first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, is known as a powerful theoretical framework for examining how diverse patterns of identity-based inequality, such as sexism, racism, ableism, and nationalism are mutually constituted (Crenshaw, 1989).

For any questions, do not hesitate to contact any member of the EWS committee or the ENGSO Project and Equality Officer: [email protected]

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