2016 is a critical election year for the International Canoe Federation (ICF).  With the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Vision 2020 requiring gender equality in sports and greater representation of women in leadership positions, the ICF has an opportunity to show it is living by its motto:  “Always Moving Forward”.  

After nearly a century, the ICF remains almost exclusively a male-only club, with European men dominating key leadership positions.  From the ICF website under gender equality:   “….in 1996, the IOC [International Olympic Committee] adopted a policy that ‘the International Federations should immediately establish a goal that 10% of all positions in their decision-making structures be held by women by 2000, and that percentage reach at least 20% by December, 2005.” 

Canoe Olympic Stats

Despite the ICF’s recent proposal for a gender equal Olympic program in 2020 (which further reduced the number of canoe events as compared to kayak events to achieve this):

  • The ICF has not demonstrated it has a coherent strategy for how to develop the women’s canoe class nor develop and mentor current/future female leaders throughout our sport;
  • The ICF has made no changes to the Senior WorldChampionships program, which still leaves women’s Sprint canoeist at 2 events, while there are 8 events each for male and female kayakers and male canoeists. Junior & U23 World Championships included three women’s canoe events in 2015, however, the highly competitive C2 500 was dropped with no explanation.  As with the Senior World Championships, all other Sprint discipline classes (men’s/women’s kayak and men’s canoe) have 8 events each.  Additionally, in the Slalom discipline, there are 3 men’s canoe events, while women only have 2 (C1 – singles canoe, and the 3xC1 Team event. No women’s C2).  This is significant in that World level events, in addition to Olympic events, drive National Federation agendas regarding class/event offerings.
  • With 50+ countries racing internationally and/or developing in Women’s Canoe (source: ICF data), the class was ready for at least 5 events at the 2015 Sprint Worlds (C1 200, C2 200, C1 500, C2 500, C1 5000) and Slalom Worlds could easily accommodate a Women’s C2 (doubles canoe) class, which would give men and women C1 and C2 events. 
  • Women still race half the distance that the men race (1000 meters vs 500 meters).

Other important statistics

  • ICF Board Representation by Continent at the 2014 ICF Congress:
  • Executive Committee: 83% Europe (5 out of 6) / 17% Africa (1/6)
  • Total ICF Board Members and Continent Rank
  1. 52% Europe (15/29) – Europe has only 25% of ICF National Federations
  2. 21% Americas (6/29) – Americas has 19% of ICF NFs
  3. 10% Africa (3/29) – Africa has 24% of ICF NFs
  4. 10% Asia (3/29) – Asia has 22% of NFs
  5. 7% Oceania (2/29) – Oceania has 8% of NFs
  • Total ICF National Federations, # of countries per Continent
  1. 25% Europe (42/165) – 83% of Exec Comm, 52% of Board
  2. 24% Africa (40/165) – 17% of Exec Comm, 10% of Board
  3. 22% Asia (37/165) – 0% of Exec Comm, 10% of Board
  4. 19% Americas (32/165) – 0% of Exec Comm, 21% of Board
  5. 8% Oceanias (14/165) – 0% of Exec Comm, 7% of Board
Canoe Tweet
  • # of responses we received since 2011 from the ICF Women’s Commission when we asked for assistance on behalf of female canoeists seeking help/guidance regarding discrimination or harassment:   0 (zero).  What is the purpose of the Women’s Commission?  We thought they were supposed to be Ombudsmen for women and to advocate and educate on their behalf.

According to the ICF Statutes 2015, non-discrimination based on gender is a mandate, as is fair representation and equal access to women:

ARTICLE 2 – PURPOSE. 1. The principles of the ICF shall be general unity of action, mutual respect of National Federations in their dealings with one another and the inadmissibility of discrimination against National Federations or individuals on racial, political, religious, gender or other grounds. Paddling is competitive and recreational activity for all, regardless of race, age, gender, religion or ability.   2. The ICF shall observe the general and fundamental principles of the Olympic Charter, the IOC manual on sport and the environment and no provision of these Rules shall be deemed to conflict with or derogate from those principles. 5. The ICF and its members will support a fair representation and equal access to women in all canoeing activities and in the management of sport.

ARTICLE 3 – OBJECTIVES. The objectives of the ICF shall be: 1. At an international level with the priority given to maintaining canoeing as an Olympic discipline. 2. To ensure that both genders are represented on all decision-making bodies, including working committees appointed from time to time.

Belonging to the Olympic movement is a privilege.  Unity in diversity and equality is a mandate. IOC President Thomas Bach has emphasized that to ensure the future of sport, effective, accountable and inclusive organisations are needed, referring to the inclusion of sport in the post-2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  

According to Moya Dodd, Executive Committee member, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association):  “The evidence is piling up in the corporate world that diversity brings about better decision making—in corporations, in governance,” she says. “That’s why governments are looking at 30 percent quota targets for corporations and boardrooms.”  “If you talk to any of these global organizations—the World Bank, the UN—and ask them what the big levers of change are for society’s well being, they will say that if you want to improve society, improve the lot of the women,” Dodd said. “Giving women the opportunity for participation in wealth generation and economic productivity is incredibly good for a country.”

And so it is for Sport.

We are forever grateful for the men (fathers, husbands, sons, brothers) who have mentored and supported women at every level and every corner of our sport through the years. We ask for their continued support and hope that more women will submit their candidacy for leadership positions within the ICF and their respective national federations and apply for coaching positions.  

NOTE: the link on the ICF’s Gender Equality page for the ICF Equality Charter has been dead for several years, as are other important resource links.    

#WomensCanoe  #GenderEquality  #1StepCloser  #Tokyo2020  #OlympicCharter  #Vision2020