Women's sport continues to demand the same rights, opportunities and pay as men's sport

Today, DIPLOCAT and the FC Barcelona Foundation held a conference on sport and gender, with contributions from international experts

Today, the FC Barcelona Foundation and DIPLOCAT co-hosted a conference entitled "Sport and gender, an international vision". The event was held at FC Barcelona's Auditori 1899 and was attended by experts and sports professionals from Catalonia and abroad. The aim was to discuss sport as an agent of social inclusion, with gender perspective as a priority. Sports journalist Laia Bonals led the conference, which opened with a welcome speech from Elena Fort, vice-president of FC Barcelona and patron of the club's foundation, and Laura Foraster i Lloret, Secretary General of DIPLOCAT.

Fort reaffirmed Barça's firm and unwavering commitment to equality between men and women and asked what can be done to achieve that equality in a world as masculinised as the world of sport. Her advice: "Talk about it, as we're doing today, and overcome our fear. Stand up for ourselves and make ourselves visible". Foraster noted that the situation of women and girls participating in elite sport has improved in recent years with the increasing visibility and consolidation of female role models in different sports, and that it is fantastic that girls and young women can look up to them and feel empowered. "We welcome the progress made but regret that gender inequalities and stereotypes that still place women in an inferior position continue to be perpetuated at all levels and in all areas of sport, such as unequal pay, less media coverage and the still low and under-recognised presence of women in managerial and technical sporting positions," she added.

Susanna Soler Prat, professor at the National Institute of Physical Education and coordinator of the Social and Educational Research Group on Physical Activity and Sport, then spoke about the link between sport and gender from a historical perspective and with a view to change going forward. According to the professor, the journey from considering women as a decorative element to filling the Camp Nou with 91,648 spectators for a women's football match is long and full of obstacles. And it won't be achieved by inertia but through activism, the commitment of a few specific people and profound changes in society and public opinion. In this respect, the role of the media is of paramount importance.

Afterwards, an initial round table discussed different initiatives to promote equal opportunities in sport, with participation from Francine Raveney, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Council of Europe's Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport; Laura Rahola, Head of Communication at the European Commission Representation in Barcelona; Èlia Soriano, Executive Director of the Catalan Women's Institute; and the FC Barcelona Foundation itself, represented by its Director, Marta Segú. All four agreed on the importance of elements such as the presence of girls and women in grassroots sports and sports organisations, the existence of role models, male allies, gender awareness among coaches, the availability of data at a European level, the role of the media and social networks, supporting legislation and, although unpopular, the ability to sanction in the event of non-compliance.

The second round table was used to discuss the personal experiences of elite sportswomen, who spoke about the difficulties and challenges they still face today as women. The sportswomen who took part were Maria Planas former basketball coach and national team coach in Catalonia and Spain; Gaëlle Thalmann, former Real Betis goalkeeper and current head of the women's football section at FC Lugano; Sabine Hazboun, programme manager at the Olympic Foundation for Refugees and former Olympic swimmer for Palestine; and Laia Soler, from FC Barcelona's Centre of Sporting Excellence. All of them spoke of the obstacles they had encountered throughout their careers, from incomprehension and ignorance to prejudice and even contempt. One of the points mentioned was the need for women's sport to take into account women's menstrual cycles.  The solution to overcoming these barriers lies in effort and perseverance, as well as support from family and friends.

The event was closed by Manuel Szapiro, Director of the European Commission Representation in Barcelona, who stressed the inclusive and transformative role of sport and said that work at a local, national and European level is needed to make progress in the field of equality, and Marta Segú, Director of the FC Barcelona Foundation, who summarised the main ideas discussed during the conference and thanked everyone for their attendance and participation.

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