Diversity Researcher: Sports for Everyone – There’s Still Much to Do | NDR.de – Sports

Status: 03.06.2022 10:50 AM

Bettina Roloff researches diversity in sports at the German Sports University in Cologne. In an interview, she spoke about the observed structures in associations, the lack of women in senior positions and a sport that transcends gender classification. The final part of a sports series on NDR.de for Diversity Day.

Professor Roloff, how do you rate German sport in terms of diversity?

Bettina rules: Sports have come a long way. It is positive that there is now much greater sensitivity to these issues. This is also reflected in little things like gender or diversity language, which is already used in many sports associations. Or that women are often approached in managerial positions. But if we really want to live up to the sports policy mantra of “Sports for All,” there is still a lot to do.

Where is the work required?

the rules: Sport, as we see it in stadiums and gymnasiums, on the media stage, in federations and clubs, is in no way as colorful as the population there. There is a systematic underrepresentation of certain groups. These include, in particular, persons from vulnerable socioeconomic positions, adults and older persons with immigrant backgrounds, girls with immigrant backgrounds and persons with disabilities. I see a lot of catching up there.

At NDR Sport we focused on women this week, What’s the status of gender equality?

the rules: In organized sports membership statistics, we have a gender ratio of 40 percent female members to 60 percent male. Gender parity has not yet been achieved, but a lot has happened. However, if we look at the different age groups, we see that boys and men of all age groups are more often members of sports clubs than girls and women. For example, from 15 to 18 years old, 45 percent of young women are members of a gym. In the case of young people in this age group, the figure is at least 64 percent. This difference persists through age groups.

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How could this change?

the rules: Apparently, the offer of gyms for girls and women is not as attractive as for boys and men. Because outside gyms, for example, adult women are often as active in sports as men. In order to find reasons for this, we have to look at the culture in sports clubs. Is she the type to welcome women and girls? Or is it a culture that conforms to the traditional male principle – in which the strong logic of mutual sacrifice still plays a role, where aspects of competition are particularly emphasized. It is not necessarily the type of sport that the vast majority of women and girls want to play.

How strong are women in leadership positions in organized sport?

the rules: We see very stark gender differences, and a strong under-representation of women. In the German Olympic Sports Federation, this has already been resolved in an exemplary manner at the management level with gender equality in the Executive Committee. But if we look at the voluntary governing bodies of many of the member organizations, we see that currently only two of the 16 state sports federations have a female president (Elvira Menzer-Haasis/Baden-Württemberg and Katharina von Kodolitsch/Hamburg, D – red.). Women are still rarely represented on the executive bodies of the leadership associations.

As an argument for not having more women in senior positions, the argument often made is that women themselves are not paying for it. really?

the rules: For some women, taking on a leadership position may not fit well into their life plans when they also have family responsibilities. But this is changing more and more. There are many young families sharing childcare responsibilities as parents share family responsibilities as well. Younger women in particular are certainly interested in taking on management positions. Sports clubs and associations should rethink this and fill suitable positions for highly qualified women, who bring a lot of experience and expertise to the negotiating table.

Women are now actively demanding this. The most prominent example of this is the “Football Can Do More” initiative. This has also led to distortions in the German Football Association. Why is it fraught with conflict when women demand more money, more funding, and more joint determination?

the rules: This has a lot to do with the old, cloaked structures in the sports federations that are still heavily dominated by men. Especially in sports like soccer. But there are also examples where this is changing, as much is being done to implement gender parity in governing bodies or to cultivate a different culture.

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Do you also see headwinds in the focus on diversity and gender equality, similar to the gender debate?

the rules: The headwind is not blowing as hard as it used to, at least it’s not obvious. Sometimes I wonder if those voices have died out as well because people no longer dare to say frankly that they don’t think it’s important to promote more equal opportunity.

It is entirely reasonable to ask whether we really need additional support measures for girls and women. As a scientist, I would say: yes absolutely. We can prove this with studies. At the same time, clear differences within the group of women and also within the group of men are still overlooked. And we need to do more to support those young people who no longer want to play the old game of hierarchy or the whirlpool of outbidding that exists among men in sports.

When it comes to issues like diversity and equal opportunity, one often gets the impression that Germany is waiting for external drivers before starting changes.

the rules: In fact, these external impulses are useful. In the Scandinavian mathematical systems, for example, thinking about these issues has been more common for many years. This is also evident when dealing with everyday sexism or sexual harassment. There are countries like the UK where these issues have been addressed in the sport for the past 25 years. There, sports clubs must demonstrate their commitment to combating sexual violence in order to receive funding. We can definitely take a look at that.

Are the offers beneficial for women only?

the rules: In the current situation, this is still useful. We saw it many years ago in the co-educational debate at school, i.e. with the question: Should girls and boys play school sports together? It was also helpful that we sometimes broke up with the intention of consciously promoting girls in sports. And it still is in some areas of sport today.

It is important that we allocate specific times and spaces where we give athletes a chance to experience or present themselves. In the media, for example, mathematics is so underrepresented in everyday business that no one cares about it if we don’t put the highlights into concrete projects. I will only walk away from that when we have taken an important step forward and when the mainstream news also speaks of women in sports as normal.

To what extent might you define the topic of diversity in sports in the future?

the rules: The processes of competition and games in the sports system today are still primarily gender-based. However, we will have to come to terms with the fact that in the medium and long term there will be much more people at the gates of gyms who describe themselves as non-binary, neither women nor men or transgender. And there are still very few ideas about how to deal with it, and how we can render this distinction between women and men in sport irrelevant.

Does this go in the direction of seeing an open sport in which everyone can compete with each other?

the rules: This would shake the foundations of sports competition. But I think in some sports we have to be more creative and ask ourselves: Can’t we offer more competitions where gender doesn’t matter at all?

In top-tier sports, this idea certainly has its limits.

the rules: Yes, especially in sports where the hormonal status of the body plays a role, this problem is not so easy to solve. But hormones alone do not determine how productive a person is. Perhaps in some sports we should experience what it is like when we classify people by height or weight class or by limb size. Perhaps we need to rethink sports here and there, beyond sorting by gender.

Interviewed by Ines Bellinger

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This topic is in the program:

gym | 05/29/2022 | 10:30 pm

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