Quotas are necessary to increase the number of women in leadership in football and more must be done to keep women involved in the sport after they finish playing, according to panellists at the first FIFA Women’s Football and Leadership Conference. 

Experts and leaders from football, business and wider society came together at the Home of FIFA to discuss ways to develop women’s football and to create more opportunities for women in leadership around the world during the Conference on Friday, 6 March.

To mark International Women’s Day (Sunday), FIFA President Blatter signed the Brighton Plus Helsinki Declaration with the International Working Group on Women and Sport at the FIFA conference – a declaration which sets out principles to support the empowerment of women in society and to promote gender equality.

“Equality among men and women is far from being achieved,” said Lydia Nsekera, the first woman to become a full member of the FIFA Executive Committee. “We must have more women in the congresses of the associations and in the congress of FIFA. I would like to call on all women to work hard, with men, to overcome the existing obstacles.”

FIFA President Blatter said FIFA was eager to do more to drive more growth in women’s football and to improve the representation of women in leadership. “More than 30 million girls and women play football around the world,” Blatter said. “It is our duty to drive this growth to its full potential. It is our duty to make sure that there is equal opportunity for all across our member associations.”

FIFA has introduced one full, voting position for a female representative on its top Executive Committee, which guides and decides policy for the global football community, along with two positions for co-opted female members of the committee.

Moya Dodd, one of the co-opted female members of the Executive Committee, supported the use of quotas as a necessary tool to create a fairer society, especially in football.

“In a perfect world, quotas would not be necessary,” she said. “I’m a believer in quotas because you get the benefits way sooner than you would otherwise. I would not be here if it were not for quotas.”

Blatter said these obligatory positions for female representation were a necessary move by the governing body because it was unlikely that the regional confederations were ready to choose a female representative from their own ranks to sit on the Executive Committee. The six confederations vote to decide the make-up of the FIFA Executive Committee, excluding the position of president and the women’s representative.

Piara Powar, a member of the FIFA Task Force against Racism and Discrimination, said quotas were necessary in football to force fairer representation on decision-making bodies.

“There is a sure fire way to move this on, and that is to set targets,” he said. “We have to force people to do this otherwise they won’t.”

The conference featured contributions from FIFA officials and former players and coaches calling on further support from national associations to get more girls and women involved at all levels of football from playing to coaching and administration.

“We need more females front of house, leading the game,” said former England coach and international Hope Powell. “If you haven’t got the opportunities to give them, they are going to leave the game.”

FIFA Senior Women’s Football Development Manager Mayrilian Cruz Blanco called on the global football community to step up their efforts to realise the full potential for women’s football.

“Every woman and girl should have the opportunity to play football,” Cruz Blanco said. “We cannot do this alone. We need to work together with our member associations. Women’s football should be fully integrated in the structures of our member associations.”

The event was organised to provide a platform for open, honest debate as part of FIFA’s long-term commitment to positive change in football and society, to empower women in football and to realise ten key women’s football development principles agreed by FIFA member associations at the 2014 FIFA Congress.

“Women are the pillars of a lot of communities. Empowering women allows the whole community to rise to the top,” said Amber Steele, director of football and NBA management at Coca-Cola.

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