New Leaders Forum 2019 | Young women aiming to build a career in sport

Gender equality in sport leadership was the main topic of the New Leaders Forum 2019, where several ENGSO Youth committee members and Young Delegates participated in the event.


The forum was the closing event of the New Leaders mentorship programme, held in Helsinki, Finland, from 18-20 November 2019, and organised by the Finish Olympic Committee, International Olympic Committee (IOC) and European Olympic Committees (EOC).



Our committee members Ivana and Iva, Young Delegate Laura and alumni Floriane and Anett took part in the programme and participated in the event as #GameChangers. At the forum, they were joined by our chair Ugne, committee member Kirsten, former chair Michael and COMEin project manager Sara.


Stefan Bergh, ENGSO President, and Kaisa Larjomaa, ENGSO Secretary General, also participated in the event and supported the young #GameChangers.


The New Leaders Forum was declared open by IOC President Mr Thomas Bach, who emphasised the power of gender equality as part of good governance: “In today’s world, no organisation, institution or country can afford to let the skills of 50% of the population be left behind – neither in sport nor in society.”.


Several members of ENGSO Youth actively contributed to the event and invited the established sport leaders and the public to work together towards a better gender balance in sport and its governance.

More information about the event: Olympic.org


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Since gender equality was the main topic, we asked our members and delegates to answer a simple question:


Being a young woman aiming to build a career in sport; what have been some of your biggest obstacles and challenges so far?


“Belief. If the woman doesn’t believe she can do it, nobody is going to make her do it. Even though they are capable of doing the work (or even the best candidate for the work), if there is no belief in herself, then the fight for gender balance or equality becomes harder. And the same goes for everyone else.”

Ugne, ENGSO Youth chair

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“I see unconscious biases due to gender but also age as one of the main challenges. And it’s really energy consuming to fight the prejudices and biases still existing towards young people lacking experience, communication and/or leadership skills. Moreover, the lack of confidence and belief in oneself is another problem. But my fellow #GameChangers and the strong young ladies around me are really supportive and I’m positive that together change can happen.

The New Leaders Forum was a great opportunity to show that we are ready and capable to lead and deserve to be there. Still, I think it’s a long way to get us #GameChangers on the same table with the experienced leaders of the world of sport.”


Ivana, ENGSO Youth Committee member

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“Being the youngest in my organisation, I sometimes struggled to bring forward the youth perspective, and make other people understand and value my opinion. In terms of gender equality, I have struggled with confidence (when compared to my male peers). They were often louder in expressing their views and questioned themselves less than young women did. This is why New Leaders mentorship programme was extremely beneficial to me. My mentor was Gudrun Doll-Tepper and I had a chance to learn from a strong woman (who I also looked up to).”


Iva, ENGSO Youth Committee member

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“My biggest challenge is often not being taken seriously, when people first meet me. Not always, it depends on the environment and the surroundings. It gets better when people get to know your background, your experience and your goals. To overcome the obstacles, you need to work hard, say things (out loud) more often, be visible with the opinions you fight and stand for, and ensure you have a clear stance on issues you work on.”


Kirsten, ENGSO Youth Committee member

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“I think there has been a lot of unconscious bias due to my age and gender - small instances that really add up over time. For example, older influential people of power (often men) not bothering to introduce themselves to me, assumptions that I am in the room for coffee making purposes, not being included in the conversations etc. On the other hand I have also experienced judgement coming from women who have belittled many of my accomplishments. These comments sting the most, but fortunately they are very rare. But it makes me wonder why we often hold other women to higher scrutiny than we do with men?”

Laura, ENGSO Youth Young Delegate

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“I entered the field of sport at the international level while finishing my studies. I was young and full of optimism with a rather idealistic vision of what could be achieved. I was first stricken by the lack of role models I could aspire to. It was hard to identify and to believe I could also be part of this world where women leaders were so few. The New Leaders Programme opened up new hopes. I discovered the issues were rather typical from what all women leaders experience in the sport/business sector. It gave me confidence and role models I could trust, while also engaging with a community who believes in concrete actions to bring positive changes towards a more equal and diverse playing field.”


Floriane, ENGSO Youth Alumni

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The New Leaders mentorship programme was the legacy project of the 2017 IOC Women and Sport World Trophy Winner and ENGSO Honorary President Birgitta Kervinen.

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