Women still under-represented in the presidency of sports federations

More than a century after Baron de Coubertin, the organizers of the Olympic Games (Olympics) finally announce “Historic parity”. From the 2024 edition, in Paris, as many female athletes as male athletes will participate in the Summer Olympics. The female presence will therefore be on the rise, since it was only 45.6% in Rio in 2016 and it should be 48.8% next summer in Tokyo.

So much for the flattering statistics, with some alterations to the program of the tests. On the other hand, among the “officials”, in the grandstand, the photography will differ somewhat. At least, as far as the French Olympic sports federations are concerned: in these 36 institutions, today there are altogether two women elected presidents.

Only one for the thirty-three “summer” federations, which renewed their governing bodies between fall 2020 and the end of April: Isabelle Jouin (field hockey), since January. And only one for the three winter federations, which will wait until 2022 to vote: Nathalie Péchalat (ice sports), since March 2020. Because of the Covid-19, which forced the postponement of the elections, most of the terms will last three years, not four.

Two women presidents is the same number as at the start of the electoral cycle, with one difference: from a numerical point of view, Isabelle Jouin replaced Isabelle Spennato-Lamour (fencing), who this time lost his fight.

An under-representation also persists among the non-Olympic federations, which are more numerous and less publicized: there is, however, a timid evolution with fourteen women presidents (in particular among multi-sport structures), that is to say three more than before.

The weight of the electoral system

Why so little? “The electoral system often means that things in this area do not move enough”, says Patricia Costantini, co-founder of Equal Sport, a collective campaigning for gender equality in sport. This year, a majority of federations again gave pride of place to the electorate, supposed to represent the regions and departments. A presumed asset for outgoing presidents, according to Mme Costantini, who evokes the risks of “Lobbying”.

“Sports federations claim the values ​​of sharing and equality, it might be good that they try to put them into practice also from the point of view of governance ”, consider Annabelle Caprais, doctor in sociology and author of a thesis on the role of women in the governance of federations, defended in December 2020 at the University of Bordeaux. The fact that “Men monopolize these responsibilities” remains, according to her, “Deeply unfair”. In particular with regard to the function, its decision-making power, its “Symbolic advantages”. See “Financial”, for non-volunteer presidents.

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