A weeklong workshop as part of FIFA’s Female Leadership Development Programme – an initiative aiming to improve the gender balance in football decision-making – has concluded in Zurich today.

The more than 30 women involved in the inaugural edition spent the final day of the workshop presenting the personal projects they are developing over the course of the nine-month programme, with the aim of bringing tangible benefits to women’s football.

“It was a privilege to meet the first participants at FIFA this week. I am confident that these women will reach their goals and inspire thousands more to pursue a career in football,” commented FIFA President Blatter in his column in The FIFA Weekly. “Football needs more women in leadership. Those that govern the game must show now that we are all serious about answering that call.”

The workshop focused on giving participants the tools they need to rise through the ranks in football. It provided an opportunity for networking, individual coaching sessions and the exchanging of ideas while the participants also had a chance to meet the mentors they have been paired with and who will support them in realising their potential as leaders.

“It’s a really great initiative from FIFA,” said Sarah Walsh, women’s football development manager for Football Federation Australia and a former Matilda of ten years. “Having women in decision-making positions is so important. For me, it has been great to see people like Moya Dodd really making an impact and, obviously, if I can develop and move into similar types of roles then it will hopefully be inspiring for the next generation.”

Sara Booth, also a former international and now the women’s domestic football manager for the Irish FA, said: “Probably the most important thing from this workshop has been learning self-awareness, self-reflection, and how I can become a better leader within the women’s game. We need more female leaders in football as we do in any sector.”

Felicite Rwemalika, president of the Women’s Football Commission of the Rwandan FA, added: “I’ve been working in Rwanda to try and change the mindset, so people see that women can play football too. I came into the sport out of passion and determination for our rights. Now, with this leadership programme, we are learning new strategies on how to become better leaders and how to increase the number of women in leadership positions in our countries.”

Another participant, general manager for women’s football and grassroots for the Singaporean FA Julie Teo, has defined her personal project as working to ensure that women’s football is fully integrated in the strategic plan 2016-2020 currently being drafted by the association.

“The three key strategic elements that I want to be the game changers in Singapore include the national teams bringing good results, strengthening the domestic competitions, and creating better pathways for the development of female coaches,” said Teo. “The measure of success will be greater participation numbers and more support from the various departments within the FA for women’s football.”

The FIFA Female Leadership Development Programme, which is being organised in partnership with THNK School of Creative Leadership, was launched in Vancouver just prior to the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™. The third and final workshop is set to take place in the first quarter of 2016. A new intake of approximately 30 women will be given the opportunity to take part in the programme each year.

“We are delighted to be supporting FIFA with the design and delivery of this unique programme. We’ve seen over the course of this week more evidence that these women are game changers,“ said Natasha Bonnevalle of THNK School of Creative Leadership. “The studies show that gender diversity leads to better problem solving and decision-making, with clear benefits for football and society more generally.”

Further information is available in the Q&A document.