Olympic and world rowing champion Annamarie Phelps is wary that it can be “stupid” to pay so much attention to advancing at the elite levels of women’s sport. English The girls settle into a status quo that still leaves much to be desired.

Phelps competed in the women’s eight at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, three years after she achieved world gold in the lightweight rudderless quads.

Since her retirement, the 56-year-old has accumulated a long resume of leadership roles and has served as vice-president of the British Olympic Association for the past six years and also chaired the European Olympic Committees’ gender equality, diversity and inclusion commission. Since October 2021.

She became co-chair of the International Working Group on Women (IWG) last summer. SportThe UK is entering its second year as the host country for the global secretariat, which moves every four years.

“When I was growing up in the 1970s, gymnastics was the only women’s sport, and that was at the Olympic Games every four years,” Phelps told the PA news agency.

“So it’s great that we’re seeing women’s football, women’s rugby, and women’s cricket. I think we should be careful not to celebrate the summit as the beginning and the end of everything. I think it’s absolutely great, of course.

“At IWG, we look at the full spectrum of top-down women’s sport, both globally and from grassroots to elite. And yes, we do a great job of celebrating women’s sport in this country and broadcasting it on TV, like the Women’s Super League.

“But looking at the bottom, at the bottom, I don’t think young girls have enough opportunities to play football or any sport. They’re usually scheduled at the worst pitches, at the worst times, and we look at some sports news on TV, often with women on the red button and men at their best.

“Every little step helps, but we don’t want to fool these young girls, who are so enthusiastic about their sport, about how great women’s sport is, especially when there are still so many problems with the media and the visibility of the sport. down press. As much as anything, it’s still terrible.

Last February, the UK ranked second internationally for representation on boards at the FTSE 100 level, with around 40 percent of the roles being held by women. This number reflects data published by Sports England and in 2019 UK sport showed that women occupied an average of 40 percent of board roles in the funded bodies of the two organisations.

That number dropped significantly when it came to football when a 2021 study by equality advocates revealed that women represented 11.1 percent of board members. Premier League.

Phelps credits his “inspiring” predecessor, the late Di Ellis, as head of British Rowing, for “tapping his shoulder and pushing” the former Olympian to take office.

But Phelps warned that just sitting at the table isn’t enough.

It’s one thing to be there, another to really try and try to change people’s minds.

Annamarie Phelps

“It’s actually about giving them space to be heard,” he added. “It’s about helping them really enact what they’re saying. It’s one thing to be there, another to really try and change people’s minds, and it’s a pretty slow process.

“It changes the conversation, opens up new things, and helps the guys around the table wonder why this didn’t happen before. We’re much more likely to chat on a different level and ask different questions and not be afraid to drill down into some details and ask the simple kind of silly questions that everyone else sits down and thinks about.

“Women say, ‘Look, can we put this on the table and talk about it?’ they will say.

“It’s been a pretty long journey. We have a long way to go, but we are getting there.”