5th IWG World Conference on Women in Sport 2010

The IWG is an independent coordinating body consisting of representatives of key government and non-government organisations from all regions of the world. It has the overarching objectives of promoting and facilitating the development of opportunities for girls and women in sport and physical activity throughout the world.

The IWG acts as catalyst for government and non-government organisations concerned with the development of girls and women through sport. The IWG World Conferences on Women and Sport are recognised as landmark events which raise the profile of women and sport issues, demonstrate commitment to effecting positive change and highlight the host community’s contribution to success in this area. Most importantly, well-attended world conferences stimulate action at national, regional and international levels.

Conference sponsorship provided funding for conference attendance for women from developing communities. In line with a conference goal this enabled women from the Oceania region, in particular, to attend. The NSW government and Zonta International (an organisation of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women through service and advocacy) provided an additional 18 scholarships to assist women from regional NSW to attend the conference (IWG Interview 1). The Sydney location of the conference provided opportunities for postgraduate students and other volunteers from the Sydney region to be involved with the conference (IWG Interview 1).

The conference attracted over 500 delegates from 60 different countries. A post conference evaluation report indicates that the conference has contributed to networks among practitioners in the field and research collaborations among academics. Delegates indicated that they gained new ideas and information to take back to improve practice in their own countries, as well as an increased appreciation of belonging to a global community of people working towards the same sorts of goals. One delegate stated "I don’t feel so alone now in what I do".

High profile delegates such as Justice Michael Kirby, Liz Ellis MP, and businessman, Peter Holmes à Court ensured good media coverage during the conference for the issues associated with women and sport. Media coverage also extended to the UK and Italy (IWG Interview 1).

Another outcome was the networking that developed collaborations between various organisations that had not previously enjoyed connections. For example, a committee formed in 2009 to develop the conference legacy comprised members from UNIFEM, University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australian Sports Commission and Womensport West (IWG Interview 1). It was decided that the legacy of IWG 2010 will focus on increasing the number of women on boards and management committees of all sporting organisations at an international, national and local level.

The legacy will take the form of a web-based scoreboard – 'The Sydney Scoreboard'. The site will be internationally accessible, interactive and user friendly and will be a 'real time' means of tracking progress and showcasing good and bad practices with regards to the gender make up of boards of sporting organisations. Countries from around the world have agreed to submit their 'scores' to the Sydney Scoreboard which will operate until at least 2014 when the 6th World Conference on Women and Sport will take place in Finland. Success of the legacy, i.e., progress regarding women in sport governance from 2010 – 2014 will be evaluated at the Finland Conference.

Research collaborations around this topic have already begun among conference delegates from Australia, Tunisia, Botswana, United States, New Zealand and Canada – and collaboration will continue to grow with the Sydney Scoreboard website as a catalyst (IWG Interview 1).

Seed funding of $10,000 for the Sydney Scoreboard has been provided by the Greater Sydney Partnership (GSP). The GSP is a not-for-profit organisation that has been formed to enhance and promote Sydney's interests as Australia's only global city. Peter Holmes à Court (founder of the GSP) was a keynote speaker at IWG 2010 and has placed his support and financial funding behind the Sydney Scoreboard. Collaboration between the IWG and the GSP provides an opportunity to brand Sydney as a place of innovation and positive social action.

The Hon Kate Ellis MP (Minister for Sport) was a keynote speaker at the conference. As a direct result of the conference the Minister has decreed that national sporting organisations must now report on gender equity on boards when they apply for government funding (IWG Interview 1).

"The Australian Government will require all national sporting organisations to annually report on the gender representation of their boards - with this information then being published. These figures will be made public so that organisations can be judged on their progress by you and their communities. … I am pleased to announce that the Government will establish a register of women with appropriate skills and experience to assist sport to improve this record. The Women in Sport Register will enable women to register their skills and interest in being involved in sport and sports can readily access potential candidates and find a match to their needs. … Nothing delivers a statement about women's leadership in sport more than initiatives like this conference - where sport, women and community leaders can come together to share our experiences and our ambitions for women's sport" (Ellis, 2010).

Many Australian post graduate students were able to attend the conference due to the Sydney location and opportunities to meet leaders in the field of women and sport (both academics and practitioners) has provided post graduate students with vital contacts. In one example, post graduate research is already contributing to the Sydney Scoreboard project (IWG Interview 1).

The conference provided employment and professional development opportunities for staff and students at UTS and the wider community. A professional conference organiser and secretariat were employed in the four years leading up to the conference. An event management student was given an internship position. Many students and community members took the opportunity to volunteer at the event. The following areas of professional development were realised through involvement with the organisation of the conference – "experience in raising sponsorship, contact and liaison with government, networking skills, international stakeholder management – understanding who those bodies are and dealing people from so many different countries – PR skills…" (IWG Interview 2).

The conference organisers attribute a significant part of the success of IWG 2010 to the support and guidance they received from Business Events Sydney.

"When I started to put the bid together I had no previous experience and Business Events Sydney provided valuable guidance. I could talk about what we wanted from the sporting context … and get letters of support from the NSO’s … but Business Events Sydney knew everything about ‘destination Sydney’ – how you can effectively portray Sydney so you can win a bid and so that was such a good partnership. And they put me in contact with the different politicians and actually … took me and introduced me to Sandra Nori who was then the Minister for Sport and the Minister for Women … they helped to get initial sponsorship … put an option on the venue a few years out … employ a media person (IWG Interview 1).

They also believe it is helpful to develop a strategic plan and a clear set of goals when planning a conference.

"When I became Chair one of the first things we did was put together a strategic plan with our committee and putting together a strategic plan made us clear about what our goals were: to deliver a successful conference, to strengthen the relationship with the United Nations and agencies - so we arranged a high profile keynote speaker from UN, to focus on Oceania – to get delegates from our Oceania region, Fiji and so on– they never go to conferences in US or Europe – but with the support of AUSAID we developed an application for funding so we got 10 women coming from places in Oceania that would otherwise not have had the funding to come” (IWG Interview 1).

Find out more in the Benefits Beyond Tourism Research.