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Triathlon - 14. March 2009.

ITU Celebrates International Womens Day

As governments, organisations and sports federation celebrated International Women’s Day there was a general theme this year which laments the decline in the percentage of women participating in the political, economic, and social realms of society. There are various studies citing the fact that while women in most developed countries make up 50% of the work force, hold nearly 40% of managerial positions and earn the majority of the university degrees, they remain grossly under represented at the top level of corporate leadership.

Those statistics makes it all the more important to celebrate the achievements and leadership of women in ITU as we embark on the next Olympic quadrennial and build on our success towards London 2012.

Since inception, ITU has placed women’s equality at the forefront of our dreams and aspirations.

1989: The fundamental principle of equal prize money for men and women in terms of amount and depth is entrenched in the constitution.

1990: Donna de Varona, 2 time gold medalist (swimming) and Emmy award-winning NBC broadcaster was the keynote speaker at ITU 3rd Congress, Orlando, USA which led to the creation of the first ITU Women’s Commission which consisted of Flo Bryant (USA), Sarah Springman (GBR), Lyn Brooks (USA), and Loreen Barnett (CAN).

1991: World Cup Series television established the principle of equal air time for the men’s and women’s competition to go along with the equal prize money.

1999: ITU President Les McDonald moves to pass a resolution to guarantee 20% of the Executive Board are women.

2008: ITU elects Marisol Casado (ESP) as the first woman president, after many years as the President of the European Triathlon Union (ETU) and the Secretary General of the Spanish Triathlon Federation. Loreen Barnett (CAN) is elected as the first woman Secretary General and ITU establishes itself as the only International Federation with women in both these important leadership positions. Sarah Springman is elected as a Vice President of ITU, on top of her current position as President of the British Triathlon Federation. Two additional women were elected to the ITU Executive Board: Melissa Merson (USA); and Ria Damgren (SWE). (See photo below)

A record number of women are elected to the ITU Committees including: Joyce Donaldson (USA), Kiriyo Suzuki (JPN) and Jasmine Flatters (GBR) to the Technical Committee; Gale Bernhardt (USA) and Patty Petty (BER) to the Constitution Committee; Sheila O'Kelly (CAN) and Alicia Garcia (ESP) to the Credentials Committee; Rachel Ribo (PHI), Candyce Cheatham (USA), Lori Ebbesen (CAN), Sylvia Gonzalez (CRC), Teresa Rocha (POR), Tomoko Wada (JPN) to the Women's Committee. As well, Liesbeth Stoltz is the President of the African Triathlon Union (ATU), Jenny Mann (AUS) is the new regional representative for Oceania, and Jessica Harrison is the women’s rep from the Athletes Committee on the Executive Board.

We also need to celebrate the recent election of women as President of NFs, including Claudia Wisser in Germany, Anna Karin Joergensen in Denmark and Isabelle Lerousseau in Monaco.

Of special significance, is Silvia Gonzalez, the long time President of the Costa Rican Triathlon Federation, who was recently elected as the Secretary General of the Costa Rican Olympic Committee.

And finally we must celebrate the exemplary role that women play amongst the ITU staff, including: Leslie Buchanan, Director of Anti-Doping, Sheila O’Kelly, Managing Director of World Cup Series and ITU Protocol, Libby Burrell, Director of Sport Development, Adrienne Proseilo, Manager Administration, Finance and Legal, Zita Csovelyak, Manager Events Administration and Maria Georgiou, Assistant Manager Administration.

As we celebrate our success, we must not rest on our laurels as much work remains to be done. There is still a great deal to be done inside our organisation to increase the number of young women coming into our sport and rising up through the ranks to Junior, U23 and Elite performance levels. The opportunity for leadership is at our doorsteps, let’s seize the moment and ask ourselves:

‘What can I do to help advance equality in 2009?’

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