Gender imbalance in rowing

Some weeks ago we have reported about the change of the Olympic rowing schedule and a FISA decision in 2017.

The lightweight men’s four was removed from the Olympic programme in favour of the women’s four, which last appeared at the Games in Barcelona. Canada won gold; Great Britain finished eighth. This is the first time the rowing schedule has changed since Atlanta 1996.

Fisa and IOC were looking to overcome gender imbalance. Starting from the next Olympics, male and female competitors will go head-to-head in seven rowing events each at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as the IOC confirmed gender parity in the sport.

Rowing is just one of a number of sports to introduce more gender parity, with several bringing in mixed events. Triathlon, athletics and swimming will feature a mixed relay, while shooting and judo are among the other sports to introduce mixed team events. Good Job. But how is the situation with rowing coaches?

Gender imbalance in coaching?

Jutta Lau, Credit DRV

2 years ago Rowing related released an article about the 30 most successful coaches? Do you know how many women were in their list: Two: Jutta Lau, (2) and Penny Chuter (17). A good example was initiated in New Zealand. New Zealand has started and released a project last year to increase the amount of woman in High Performance sports.

RNZ reports, that the NZ government confirmed an additional $2.7 million to fund a pilot project that will help place women in high performance roles and coaching positions within national sporting organisations. Was that funding successful?

Rowing New Zealand estimates that 30 percent of all their coaches through the grades are women, however, there are currently no women coaching at the elite level. Looking at the coaches situation in other countries – there is not much difference. The organisation has started it’s  programme to increase the number of women involved.

Women as Head Coach

One of those in the programme is Hannah Starnes who is a coach at the Waikato Rowing Club and also mentored a crew to success at the World Junior Championships last year. Starnes said the environment for women to strive for and then succeed at the top level needs to change, and that women have to be able to feel confident so they can be themselves. She is expressing what many women feel:

“Sometimes I find myself hardening up to fit into that environment, and that’s not something anyone says to you or criticisms you might get, it’s just the feeling of being like I’m different and do I belong here. “Am I going to be accepted, will people like me, which is terrible but it is something that you think about often as a woman.”

Women running a club

Some good exceptions of gender imbalance in rowing: A few clubs do a good job in having woman in responsible positions. Here is what the Henley Standard reports: The top three posts at Henley Rowing Club  have been filled by women for the first time in the club’s 181-year history.

Beccy Norman, was unanimously elected captain at the club’s annual meeting last month. She is serving alongside chairwoman Helen Turnell, who is in her second year in the role, and president Miriam Luke, who has served for three years.

In many sports stereotypes like, raising children, being an active family member … are still in peoples mind and used as arguments not to chose a female as high performance coach. Read more and let us know about your experience.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is generally aware of this problematic. The changes made in the schedule can be seen as a first step. The IOC hosts together with the International Federation (IF) a Gender Equality Forum since 2015. Due to the Corona-virus pandemic this forum turned into a webinar series. In olympic disciplines rowing is already a big exemption, as 40% of Council members and executives are females. It is only a first step and much more initiatives will have to be started to face the problem throughout all olympic disciplines. Read more about the Gender Equality Forum and the webinar of the IOC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.