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World Athletics celebrates resounding success of #WeGrowAthletics campaign in final report card

On International Women’s Day, World Athletics is celebrating the resounding success of its #WeGrowAthletics campaign, three years on from its initial launch in 2021.

Designed around pledges aimed at improving gender equity and closing the gender gap in athletics, the #WeGrowAthletics campaign’s ambition of eliminating gender bias in athletics has made notable strides in fulfilling or actioning the pledges that were made in the last 36 months.

Some of the campaign’s most notable achievements have included:

  • A 50:50 gender split on the World Athletics Council – the organisation’s supreme decision-making body – four years ahead of schedule.
  • An average of 49.5% female representation across our four commissions to provide more opportunities for female administrators with aspirations to run for our Council in 2027.
  • Reviewing and breaking with traditions, by switching stats on to default to women’s events and ending the World Athletics Championships in Oregon 2022 and Budapest 2023 with women’s disciplines for the first time in event history.
  • Researching and increasing representation of female athletes across various media channels as well as highlighting and reporting instances of gender-based abuse online.
  • Expanding our freelancer network across the world with a particular emphasis on women.
  • Gender parity among commentators on World Athletics live streams, editorial teams, and Media Development Programme speakers and participants.
  • Educational opportunities such as Gender Leadership Conferences in 2022 and 2023, online courses including a gender leadership eLearning course and Member Federation info sessions dedicated to gender equity.
  • Launching a new safeguarding policy and eLearning course alongside a dedicated website section with resources for Member Federations to implement their own policies.
  • Aligning our sustainability efforts to gender responsive projects such as the ‘Uganda Gender Responsive Safe Water Project’ to help offset HQ carbon emissions from event travel.

See our final report card here.

The impact of these pledges was none more evident than at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Glasgow 24 just last week, where women reached historic new milestones in terms of participation, performance results and leadership roles.

Indeed, for the first time ever at a global athletics championships, women outnumbered men on the field of play. Women also accounted for 50.8% of all participants (298 of the 586 in total).

Women also led the way in terms of performances. Two world indoor records were broken during the championships, both by women, and they also accounted for three of the five championship records, seven of the 10 area records, and 50 of the 93 personal bests. They also had a higher average result scores (1121 for women, 1094 for men).

Even in the workforce at the championships, 11 of the 15 functional area leads were women, which accounts for 75% of the local organising committee’s leadership.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said: “I am very proud of the work that World Athletics and the Gender Leadership Taskforce have accomplished over the course of the last three years. In that short time, through careful and deliberate actions, we have seen a massive shift in the representation of women across our sport, from the field of play to the boardroom.

“Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the #WeGrowAthletics campaign so far is the election of a fully gender balanced Council – this is an immense source of pride for me – and it is an honour to preside over this historic Council, the first of its kind in international sport.”

Having achieved its intended goals at the highest levels of administration four years earlier than anticipated, the campaign will now shift its focus to the grassroots level and focus its efforts on ensuring equal opportunities for young girls and women wishing to participate in our sport, coach from the beginner to elite levels, and pursue administrative roles at the local and national levels and beyond.

In order to help to achieve this, World Athletics has joined the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Group of Friends for Sport and Gender Equality. This expert and key stakeholder group was created in 2023 to input to the development of UNESCO’s upcoming publication and framework for action known as the ‘Sport and Gender Equality Game Plan’, to be launched on 24 July 2024 during UNESCO’s pre-Olympics ‘Global Sports Conference’. The Game Plan will provide decisionmakers with practical guidelines, in the form of key performance indicators, case studies, checklists and resources, to design/implement gender transformative policies and programmes in the field of sport. The World Athletics International Relations and Development Department will play a key role in this area, as will the Kids’ Athletics functional area.

World Athletics Gender Leadership Taskforce Chair Stephanie Hightower said: “After accomplishing all that we have in the last three years, it is only right that the #WeGrowAthletics campaign now shift its focus to tackle the remaining areas of our sport which still struggle with gender equity and representation.

“By joining forces with leaders and organisations, within our sport and beyond, who have the expertise and influence to make real and lasting change, I am convinced we can make an even bigger impact for girls and women with dreams of thriving in our sport.”

Credit: World Athletics

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