Norway's women leaders show the way

With half of its management board female, the Football Association of Norway is setting a fine example of how women can progress to leadership positions in the game.

The NFF board. Back row (left to right): Turid Storhaug, Hans Olav Karde, Mina Gerhardsen, Eli Arnstad and Kjartan Berland. Front row (left to right): Mette Christiansen (vice-president), NFF president Yngve Hallén and Bjarne Berntsen (vice-president)
The NFF board. Back row (left to right): Turid Storhaug, Hans Olav Karde, Mina Gerhardsen, Eli Arnstad and Kjartan Berland. Front row (left to right): Mette Christiansen (vice-president), NFF president Yngve Hallén and Bjarne Berntsen (vice-president) ©Audun Braastad/NTB Scanpix

With UEFA launching its new Women in Leadership programme this year, the Football Association of Norway (NFF) is providing an outstanding example of how women can thrive in senior footballing positions.

The election of Mina Gerhardsen and Turid Storhaug to an NFF management board which already included vice-president Mette Christiansen and Eli Arnstad means that half of the members of the eight-strong body are now women. "We now have a board with 50% women," said NFF president Yngve Hallén, recently re-elected for a third term. "That is fantastic news, and it reflects how highly we place women's football, both at the top level and among the masses."

Always an enlightened association, the NFF had a female general secretary for ten years in Karen Espelund, who subsequently became the first woman to serve as a full member of the UEFA Executive Committee, with the latest appointments to the board strengthening the NFF by bringing in women with a range of different backgrounds and skill-sets. "I am very glad to have Mina Gerhardsen and Turid Storhaug joining the board," said Hallén.

A high-ranking official in the Labour Party, Gerhardsen – whose grandfather Einar Gerhardsen was Norway's prime minister for three terms between 1945 and 1965 – made her name in politics. Storhaug was a free-scoring forward for Klepp IL and Norway who pursued a successful career as an engineer in an oil-related business.

Gender equality is a major priority in Norway, where the prime minister (Erna Solberg), finance minister (Siv Jensen), the leader of the trade union confederation (Gerd Kristiansen) and the director of the leading employers' association (Kristin Skogen Lund) are all women. From 2006, all companies listed on the Oslo stock exchange have been obliged by law to have at least 40% women on their board.

Responding to feedback from its member associations – in particular during discussions at a keynote women's football development workshop staged at UEFA Women's EURO 2013, under the auspices of the UEFA KISS knowledge-sharing scheme – UEFA is now at the vanguard of initiatives to bring more women into national association leadership posts, and is establishing a specific leadership programme for women involved in the European national associations.

The UEFA initiative – aimed at women working in football, and not necessarily women working specifically in the women's football sector – will seek to identify individuals who have the potential to become leaders, with the scheme helping them develop the skills which will bring them closer to becoming a leader. In addition, women already in leadership positions will be offered extra support in their roles.

"Equality and integration are both essential to the development of the football workforce," said Espelund, welcoming UEFA's initiative. "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 NFF's example is proof that football is eager to move with the times.

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