Wednesday 08 March 2023, 07:30

Women in Football Leadership Programme: building networks; strengthening the sport

  • Fourth edition of Women in Football Leadership Programme held in Lausanne (Switzerland) from 6 – 10 March

  • Participants from all six confederations represented

  • "More female leaders in football will strengthen the sport"

36 participants from all around the world have been selected by FIFA to attend the latest edition of the Women in Football Leadership Programme, which is being held from 6 to 10 March in Lausanne (Switzerland). The Women in Football Leadership Programme is a joint FIFA and UEFA initiative run together with the International Institute for Management Development (IMD). Its aim: to promote women in leadership positions in the world of football. Officially welcoming the participants to the programme by video message, was FIFA Secretary General, Fatma Samoura.

The participants who represent all six confederations had been nominated by their respective member associations, and occupy leading positions in football, with general secretaries, executive committee members and directors among them. Thomas Junod is the Head of the UEFA Academy. Speaking on-site in Lausanne, he explained the primary goal of this week. “We are here to increase the number of women in leadership positions. Football needs more women in leadership positions, as board members, as top management. If football is equal for men and women, we also need to have all these women equally represented at all levels of the football pyramid” he said. The intensive one-week workshop in Lausanne provides a learning platform for women working in footballing structures, with the main aim being to strengthen their positions and give them further training while creating a greater network for women in football. It is a wholly unique learning environment which promotes the personal development of talented women from around the world.

Head of UEFA Academy Thomas Junod during the Women's Football Leadership Programme

Self-perception, personal leadership styles and the obstacles that women face on their route to the top in a male-dominated sector are among the topics dealt with. Creating and expanding networks is another key pillar of the programme. Arijana Demirovic is FIFA’s Head of Women’s Football Development. Like Junod, she has also been a part of all previous editions of the programme. “This programme has several objectives. One that is key for us is networking and allowing these women to come together and understand that they are not necessarily alone. In their roles, in their member associations, they might be the only female leader in that role or the only woman working within the women’s football game.

“We aim to provide them with the tools that they can use when they go back to the member associations and allow them to learn different theories and different techniques that they can utilise in their roles going forward.”

One of FIFA’s most senior female leaders is Sarai Bareman, who has openly documented her own personal journey from a football-loving female in Samoa, to FIFA’s management team, as FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football Officer. "Women are crucial to the success of any organisation and a key objective within FIFA’s women’s football strategy is to ensure we have more women at the top of our game. Diversity creates a balance that allows us to constantly improve together and strive forward," explained Bareman. "This programme offers a unique platform for female leaders in football to connect with other women in the game from all over the world. This creates a powerful network where we can come together, empower one another and work side by side to make a real difference in football.”

“Meeting and speaking every day to women in football, I’m always inspired by their stories. Whether it’s a player, coach, volunteer or administrator, we can all learn from one another, and that’s what I find so special about this programme: no matter which part of the world we are from, we are all doing what we can to overcome challenges and we can all learn from each other’s challenges and success stories," Bareman concluded.

The final words after the opening day of the programme went to Ayishat Falode, Executive Committee Member of the Nigeria Football Federation. "Diversity and inclusion should be integrated into our present to define a delightful future for us - if we act as one. Leadership is impossible without women." In the coming weeks, we will be profiling a number of the current participants, sharing their journeys, their objectives, and their aspirations for the future.

Participants in alphabetical order:

Mahfuza Akther (Bangladesh), Aalia Abdulaziz Alrasheed (Saudi Arabia), Cheri-Lee Randall Atkinson (New Zealand), Iris Au (France), Taibu Azah (Uganda), Michaela Clicque (Switzerland), Mona Dabdoob (Palestine), Amy Duggan (Australia), Ayishat Falode (Nigeria), Cecilia Pocas Felix (Portugal), Michelle Gregersen (Denmark), Elsa Jakobsdottir (Iceland), Andrea Ornelia Johnson (Guyana), Homeira Asadi Kavan (IR Iran), Urska Koncar (Slovenia), Martina Kyoseva (Bulgaria), Chhatrapati Madhurimaraje (India), Ana Lorena Marche (Brazil), Samantha Miyanda (Zambia), Hairia Ali Mohamed (Comoros), Mary Ianthe Mumford (UK), Eva Nomme (Estonia), Cecilie Olsen (Norway), Froso Ppekri (Cyprus), Marie Schossow Rodriguez (Panama), Amina Graham (UK), Zeynep Sener (Türkiye), Tsholofelo Candy Setlhoko (Botswana), Christine Stridsberg (Sweden), Mariia Suchkova (Russia), Cazirah Ruth Thomas (Grenada), Anica Trajkova (Macedonia), Julie Tudhope (Scotland), Eniko Erzsebet Vastagh (Hungary), Christina Wolff (Germany), Zimbiri (Bhutan)