An innovative new programme launches in earnest this week, in which UEFA is playing a key role in getting more women involved in senior roles in football's management and decision-making process.
Representatives of Europe's national associations and a host of high-profile guests will be at the House of European Football in Nyon for the inaugural seminar under the new UEFA Women in Football Leadership Programme (WFLP). One of the guests will be the European Commissioner for sport, Androulla Vassiliou, who will give a keynote speech at the event.
The WFLP is being launched in response to feedback from UEFA's member associations, and after a comprehensive consultation process, with key steps forward taken at last summer's KISS Women's Football Development Workshop in Stockholm.
The initiative is targeted at women working in football, and not necessarily women working specifically in the women's football sector. The programme will seek to identify individuals who have the potential to become leaders, with the scheme helping them develop the appropriate skills. Moreover, women already in leadership positions will be offered extra support in their roles.
More women are now in leadership roles in the game. For example, Karen Espelund (Norway) is now a full member of the UEFA Executive Committee in addition to her position as chairwoman of the UEFA Women's Football Committee. However, figures still show that very few women occupy national association leadership posts. The aim of the WFLP would be to accelerate a development process within Europe's national associations.
"Equality and integration are both essential to the development of the football workforce," says Espelund. "Football has come a long way over the last few years, but there is still an evident lack of women in top-level positions. More needs to be done to change perspectives and increase opportunities. The UEFA women's leadership programme has adopted an innovative approach by locating and developing potential female executives from the 54 member associations and helping them climb up the ladder of promotion."
Seminar topics will include the nurturing of the personal and professional qualities needed for managment positions – such as leadership skills, self-awareness and the ability for self-analysis – effective networking and establishing of contacts, development of coaching and team skills, and developing the capacity to influence, advise and make an impact in a high-level role.
Inspirational men and women leaders from inside and outside football, such as the French Football Federation (FFF) general secretary Brigitte Henriques and UEFA's operations director Martin Kallen, have been asked to take part in the process by being mentors, giving constant advice and exchanging experiences with participants along their development path.
UEFA will be profiting from the experience of staging knowledge-sharing workshops and personal development programmes for association staff, which include the Certificate in Football Management (CFM), the Diploma in Football Management (DFM) and the Executive Master in European Sport Governance (MESGO).
"UEFA, through its new women's leadership programme, is concentrating on increasing the number of women occupying executive positions in football," says UEFA national associations' director Theodore Theodoridis. "This is an important long-term development programme, and will draw on the female expertise of the 54 UEFA member associations to ensure that leadership skills are recognised, nurtured and implemented across the European football family."