Gender bias plagues sport administration

2013-06-16 06:00

Proposal to expose federations change

Nearly 20 years have passed since South Africa became a democracy, but the pace of gender transformation in the executive ranks of sports administration remains slow.

Even a cursory glance at gender representation when it comes to sports administration in the country’s most prominent sporting codes – soccer, rugby and cricket – reflects a sad state of affairs.

There are only two women, Mato Madlala and Nomsa Mahlangu, who serve on the executive committees of the South African Football Association (Safa); none on that of the South African Rugby Union; and only Dawn Mokhobo at Cricket South Africa.

Madlala is also the only female serving on the executive committee of the male-dominated Premier Soccer League.

As a result, Somadoda Fikeni, the chairperson of independent advisory body Eminent Persons Group, this week told City Press that they were to propose to the department of sports and recreation, the creation of a category to recognise transformation-compliant codes at the annual SA Sports Awards.

Fikeni’s organisation has been assigned to unravel the quandary of slow gender transformation. He said the group was determined to expose sports federations that were resistant to transformation.

“As per our mandate, we will do intensive research and name and shame those who are not transforming,” he said.

According to Fikeni, a lack of the female voice in the executive ranks of sports was not an isolated problem, but rather a reflection of challenges faced by society at large.

This was a mirror of the greater patriarchal problem in all spheres of leadership, a sentiment echoed by Safa’s Mahlangu.

“This is not only a problem of sports administration but a societal matter of women being treated differently to their male counterparts,” she said.

Fikeni added: “In South Africa, we tend to put more focus on race transformation but the two are linked and should be addressed along the same lines.”

But Fikeni warned that a change in numbers alone did not mean the problems facing women in sport administration would simply go away.

Mahlangu, one of only two women sitting on the Safa executive committee, said the country’s historical background was to blame.

This, coupled with a lack of confidence in the capabilities of females by their male counterparts, was limiting their involvement, she said.

“It is a sad reality that in this day and age we have men in sports federations who are still not comfortable in giving women the opportunity to voice their views,” said Mahlangu.

But it was women’s responsibility to push the boundaries, although they have to work twice as hard as men to get to the top.

According to Mahlangu, women were doing their best, but the question remained as to whether they were receiving the necessary support in the first place.

This was a problem that was not going to disappear until “sports federations get used to the culture of having succession plans to groom future leaders”.

Fikeni said part of the solution lies in advocacy, education and the redistribution of resources to ensure that gender equality takes centre stage.

But there is hope, albeit late.

Two weeks ago, Lydia Nsekera of Burundi became the first woman to be elected on to the executive committee of the 109-year-old world football governing body, Fifa.

Women in top sporting bodies

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