Gender equality and empowerment of female athletes in sport and in leadership remains an important issue and a core pillar of the Olympic Agenda 2020. Athletes continue to make progress towards equality on the field of play - the number of male and female athletes competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games neared parity for the first time. There is still work to be done, however, to ensure women are equally represented in sports administration and leadership roles across the Olympic Movement and the wider sporting community. Tied to this is the idea of athlete transition and the need to create pathways for athletes to succeed after they retire from competitive sport.
To help draw attention to the challenges faced by many female Olympians transitioning from sport to a post-retirement career, as well as highlighting the opportunity to harness the leadership potential of elite female athletes in order to narrow the gender gap in sports administration, the World Olympians Association teamed up with Rio2016 official supporter, EY, to host Women.Fast Forward.
Gender equality is not a ‘women’s issue’. It is a basic human right of profound importance and a fundamental principal of the Olympic Charter. Olympic Agenda 2020 illustrates our commitment to gender equality.
IOC President, Thomas Bach
Women.Fast Forward brought together key figures from the Olympic Movement, prominent female Olympians, business leaders, and dignitaries at the Olympians Reunion Centre by EY in Rio. This event shone a light on gender equality in sport, paid tribute to the impact the Olympic Movement has had on empowering and advancing women, and honoured some of the world’s most accomplished women in sport.
During the event, which took place on 10th August, IOC President Thomas Bach and World Olympians Association President Joël Bouzou, outlined the Olympic Movement’s shared commitment to advancing women in sport. They drew attention to the critical role sport plays in preparing women for leadership roles and advancing their careers beyond competitive sport.
The event successfully drew attention to the issues of gender equality and athlete transition in line with core recommendations from the Olympic Agenda 2020, while also placing the valuable work of the IOC Women in Sport Commission in the spotlight. By aligning Women.Fast Forward with the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and using influential figures from within the Olympic Movement, such as Thomas Bach, to maximise the impact of the message, World Olympians Association was able to generate awareness and engender support amongst its key stakeholders. A large international media presence at the event allowed World Olympians to further share the message to a large global audience with articles and videos appearing on Reuters, Olympic.org and Around the Rings, to name a few.
Among the key outcomes, the Women Athletes Business Network (WABN), an initiative of WOA’s Rio 2016 partner EY that aims to support the career progression of top female athletes following their retirement from competitive sport, was given an invaluable boost. The event also served to launch the EY WABN Athlete Intern Programme, which offered eight Olympians competing at Rio 2016 the opportunity to take up an internship with EY after the Games. Through this project, WOA and EY were able to leave a positive legacy from the Games by helping to harness the leadership potential of these athletes and support them through their progression from sport into business.
Another leader in the area of gender equality is EY and the Women Athletes Business Network (WABN), who continue to innovate and inspire female athletes around the world to reach their leadership potential once they embark on their post-athletic career. We are proud to partner with the EY WABN to support the life transition of Olympians and help develop pathways for future success.
WOA President and Olympian, Joël Bouzou