altBy Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson - 13 July 2009

I was delighted to be asked to be involved in the work of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation because having been through the system, I recognise that there are many challenges and barrier that women face, both in terms of participation, and getting in to coaching.

I was lucky, I had very supportive parents, and married an athlete who thought that the idea of a great weekend away was taking me on a coaching course! However, what we have found is that the experience of many women is not the same.



The Commission on the Future of Women’s Sport was set up to look at some of the main issues surrounding women in sport, looking at areas such as leadership and the coverage of women in the media. We have been lucky that we have been able to attract a wide variety of members to the commission, and our first report "Trophy Women, Why a balance boardroom is good for sport" was produced in conjunction with Opportunity Now.


The title was picked to reflect the lack of women at the higher levels of British sport. The Commission strongly feel that a balance board is just plain and simply, good for business. A board that is diverse is more able to look at things in a different way, and ultimately make better decisions. Having wider representation will give sports a better chance of reaching the women’s market – arguably the biggest space for sport to grow.


My personal response to this, is that it is easy to explain it, if you look at the facts that girls are more likely to drop out of sport at 16, then it is not surprising that there are fewer women in coaching, and then in the higher levels of sport. When you add to this that 80 per cent of women do too little physical activity to benefit their health you just know that there is a long way to go at all levels, although this was not part of this report.


There are some great examples of women at the top of their field, but the data that we published showed that only one in five members of National Governing Body (NGB) boards is a woman and ten NGBs – a quarter of sports primary administration – do not have a single woman on their board. The picture is similar for performance directors of whom only 22 per cent are women. This is simply not acceptable as we move forward.


The report is the first part of the work. It is not about just saying where we are, it is about encouraging and supporting change. There are also other areas that we are going to look at which includes the media coverage and financial support that sports women receive.


So what is going to happen now? The evidence is out there, but we need action too. There are stacks of well qualified women out there, and the NGB’s need to look at their governance and structure to enable change to happen. It may not be overnight, but certainly I would like to see an evolution of change, sooner rather than later, and certainly in the next two to three years.


As a Commission we are really looking forward to working with the NGBs to help them improve the representation of women. There are many ways that this can be achieved. There is a job to be done to convince women that they have the skills to be able to do this, because there are lots of well qualified women out there, but we also need to encourage women to aspire to achieve at this level.

The fact that we also had support from Lord Triesman, Lord Coe, and Giles Clarke means among others means that there is wider support out there to make this happen. We need the support of the larger governing bodies because this is where we can make the most gains and we owe it to women who love sport, and want to have a career in sport (and even those ones who don’t yet realise that they do), to help give them this opportunity.


We all want British sport to be the best it can, and involving more women is one way of tackling it.


Dame Tanni Grey Thompson is Britain's best known athletes having won a total of 16 Paralympic medals, 11 of them gold. Since retiring in 2007 she has forged a reputation as one of the country's leading sports administrators and her roles currently include being a non-executive director of UK Athletics, sitting on the board of the London Marathon and advising Transport for London on preparations for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. She is also vice-chairman of the Laureus World Sport Academy and a trustee of the Sport for Good Foundation


A lack of female administrators is institutional male
dominance..sure women are more qualified but chances are
By Josie Cichockyj, three-time GB Paralympian

13 July 2009 at 19:55pm

Come and join us in Volleyball.
We have a female CEO in England and another in Scotland,the Chair
of wales is also a woman,three members of our Board are women,and
we have a female National coach.
By richard callicott

13 July 2009 at 21:32pm