SUE is coming to an end but the barriers for women in leadership remain
3 years have passed since the start of the “Step Up Equality” project. We started the project thinking about these numbers:
- Out of 45 national sports federations in Italy, only 1 president is a woman
- The law 81/91 on professional sports still denies women the status of professionalism, which it means they don’t have any rights related to a profession, maternity, pension and all the rest.
What has changed in these three years in the Italian sports system? Nothing. It is still governed by a lobby of 60+ white men, and we have learned that this situation is reflected in many European Countries. Despite this, we have changed something with this project: we have increased AWARENESS. We gave SPACE and VOICE to women and young girls in sport, something that they were clearly waiting for. We have made it clear that gender is not a neutral fact in sport, because women and girls are still discriminated against precisely because of their gender. We have underlined the structural causes of these discrimination and the fact that often, in order to hide these structural causes, those in power in the sports systems still prefer to use personal motivations related to the status of women instead of recognizing that the system has structural discriminations, those structural barriers addressed by Step Up Equality. We shed light on the glass ceiling in sport, that we clearly identified as a “plastic ceiling”, to quote one participant from Poland. As she said, the glass breaks but the plastic we hit against it bends but it is harder to break through.
Even if with one project it is impossible to change these barriers, we have made progress, we have learned that change requires every day effort: when it comes to equality, constant attention is required. For example, when we fought for the Italian national football team to be broadcasted on the main national television channel during the Europeans in 2019, in the end we won. But, as soon as the spotlight on the Europeans ended, the Italian women’s national football team was again put behind the curtains to broadcast the second category of men’s football. This makes it clear that we need to keep supporting networking, opportunities of education for both men and women and visibility of women’s sport. Also, we would like to remind you that focusing on leadership does not mean that we forget that the very same access to sport is still not equal for many women: ethnic minorities, gender minorities, refugees and many more are still excluded from access to sport. We want to stress this especially because our event took place on the 20th of November, the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Intersectionality it is a huge factor that needs to be considered for the future of sport, to be sustainable and effectively accessible to all. Equality could increase the emotional and engaging dimension of sport, that is essential for fans and athletes themselves, both women and men.
We thank all those who have helped us in recent years despite the difficulties to advance together for equality in sport and not only, for equality in our European society as a whole.
Therefore, this project was just a first step, and we definitely want to Step forward!