Gender Equality


Sörling wants to "open door" for more female leaders after making ITTF history

Sörling wants to "open door" for more female leaders after making ITTF history
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Petra Sörling says she hopes to "open the door" for more women to gain positions of power within sport after becoming the first female President of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

The Swede admits she felt "pretty much alone" in her quest to climb the ladder in sports administration but now wants to help aspiring female leaders to be "brave".

Standing unopposed, Sörling became the first woman to be elected as head of the 95-year-old organisation at last month’s Annual General Meeting in Houston in the United States.

"I am both humbled and proud to be elected as the first-ever female President of the ITTF."

Said Sörling in an exclusive interview.

"To be here in Houston meeting many members and several of them taking part remotely, it feels like a perfect period of time to take on the position. If I can be a role model and open the door to several more [female leaders] that is the main importance of being the first one."

Sörling has served on the ITTF Executive Committee since 2009, had three terms as executive vice-president of finance and was chair of the Swedish Table Tennis Association for eight years.

She is also a member of the Swedish Olympic Committee Executive Board and chief executive of Malmo-based real estate company Rosengård Fastighets.

 Sörling insists the ITTF needs to "go from awareness to change" when it comes to gender equality  

"For me it was always the case where I was pretty much alone."

Said Sörling.

"I was elected into the ITTF in 2009 and I have been their only female vice-president so it is difficult to say that there were many role models for me within table tennis. I am also working in real estate and [Hélène Barnekow] the chief executive of Microsoft Sweden is a role model for me because of the way she is tackling the leadership there."

Sörling is only the third female leader of a Summer Olympic International Federation alongside World Triathlon’s Marisol Casado and the International Golf Federation’s Annika Sörenstam.

She attended the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations’ (ASOIF) Women Lead Sports masterclass in May.

The virtual meeting was created to help increase the number of women in leadership positions across the Olympic Movement.

Fellow Swede Annika Sörenstam became the first woman to secure the role of President of the International Golf Federation last year 

"As a female, you like to know the job and the answers of the questions before you take on the tasks."

Said Sörling.

"I have seen many times that when it comes to my male colleagues they are not always aware of the answer or even the questions to come before they say ‘yes I can do it’. We have to push ourselves a little bit more as females to do things that we may not have all the answers for when we take on the position or the tasks. You will find out things by how you handle and deal with that. I hope that I can help others to be brave. It is not always the case where we are not asked as a female, it is a matter of taking the decisions yourself. What ASOIF did with this course on women leaders was very good as it was concrete and that’s what we have to do. We have to go from awareness to change because it is one thing to be aware but it’s something else to change and move on."

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