Friday 28 July 2023, 09:00

Secretary General speaks at Gender Equality Symposium

  • FIFA Secretary General speaks at Gender Equality Symposium

  • Gender Equality Symposium was organised by the Australian Government

  • The symposium featured many former international footballers

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura visited Brisbane / Meaanjin on Friday morning to speak at a Gender Equality Symposium organised by the Australian Government.

The Symposium was held to reflect the Australian Government’s commitment to inspire action and connection on gender equality and the human rights of women and girls through the power of sport.

Being held in a host city for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, the Symposium had a very strong football theme with former international footballers Khalida Popal, Sarah Walsh and Bruce Djitte all speaking as well as FIFA Chief Women's Football Officer, Sarai Bareman.

The event was also the perfect occasion to highlight the progress that FIFA has made in women’s football and gender equality in recent years, both in-organisation changes and growth of the game around the world.

Close to home, 40% of FIFA staff are women and 11 women head their respective Member Associations (MA). Initiatives such as the Women in Football Leadership Program – run jointly with UEFA and the IMD Business School – promotes women in genuine leadership roles in football such as General Secretaries, Executive Board Members and Directors.

On the football pitch, 188 out of a possible 211 nations are now in the FIFA women’s rankings, a growth of 28% in just five years, while the FIFA World Cup 2022™ saw six female referees appointed to a men’s World Cup for the first time.

In the stands, record-breaking crowds are now the norm with 90,000+ crowds watching women’s football in Europe, 50,000+ crowds in Africa and a crowd of 75,784 between Australia and Republic of Ireland in this tournament.

Samoura was invited as one of the keynote speakers following the keynote speech of Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Penny Wong.

Gender Equality Symposium in Brisbane

Having broken the glass ceiling in becoming the first women in the role of Secretary General, the attendees at the Symposium were very keen to hear Samoura’s story and her thoughts on women in leadership positions.

In her speech, Samoura also outlined FIFA’s goals for gender equality which includes:

  • Increasing the number of female players to from 30 million to 60 million

  • Raising standards of women’s clubs and leagues

  • Doubling the number of MAs that have organised youth leagues for girls from 60 to 120

Samoura said it was a pleasure to speak at the Gender Equality Symposium and outline how important gender equality is to football.

FIFA Chief Women's Football Officer Sarai Bareman at the Gender Equality Symposium in Brisbane

“To have the opportunity to speak in front of such notable people and share our goals and achievements is a privilege”, said Samoura.

“It was a pleasure to speak with incredible women such as the Hon Penny Wong, the Hon Katy Gallagher and the Hon Kamina J Smith and to hear from allies such as Olympian and NBA Champion, Patty Mills and the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken.”

Following Samoura’s speech, a lively discussion was had by a panel which included former Afghan Women’s captain, Popal and former Australian national team player, Djite. After that, the Hon Anika Wells, Minister for Sport, made an impassioned speech highlighting how much work is still to be done to achieve gender equality in sport.

“As Australia’s Minister for Sport, my charter is to look after the people in sport. I’m here to ensure that our scaffolding of our sporting systems does not only support equality, but also encourages it. Are our sporting systems truly equal right now? They are not,” said Wells.

“Women still face major barriers on many fronts: social, cultural, procedural, and Australia’s success in female sport shouldn’t be seen as a sign that our system is fair. Australians have fallen in love with elite women’s sport, the Matildas opening World Cup game reached almost five million people: shattering viewership records in this country. “Yet, out of all the national sporting organisations in Australia only 25% of them have female chairs and only 26% of them have female CEOs and in Tokyo, less than 20% of the coaches were women. So although there is strong women’s participation at a grassroots level, girls are far less likely to progress to the professional or high performance roles than men.”

The rest of the event saw significant discussion and reflection, culminating in an organised debate which featured former Matilda, Walsh, amongst a group of other notable ex-Olympians and Paralympians.