Ladies Get a Seat at the Table: First Ever Woman Elected to FIFA Executive Committee

For the first time in its history, FIFA will have a woman officially sitting on its Executive Committee. Lydia Nsekera, President of the Burundi FA, was elected to the Executive Committee yesterday during FIFA’s annual congressional meeting with 95 votes, edging out Moya Dodd of Australia (70 votes), and Sonia Bien-Aime of Turks and Caicos (38 votes).

Nsekera had served previously on FIFA’s Executive Committee as a co-opted member for a one year term prior to her election on an interim basis, as part of FIFA’s reform program, reports BloombergFIFA congressional delegates approved a new rule, article 24 al.3, which added a 25th official seat to the Executive Committee, one that must be filled by a woman. Nsekera was elected to fill that spot for a term of 4 years, however both Dodd and Bien-Aime were appointed to serve one year terms at FIFA’s head table as co-opted members, according to Nsekera was quoted in the FIFA article, saying:

I will inspire women to believe they can lead, I will push them to let their girls play football because it is a school of life, and I will support women in the Member Associations.

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This is the first official step that FIFA has made to eradicate gender inequality within the organization, and it’s taken them 109 years to get to this point. A woman sitting on the Executive Committee is long overdue. Two years ago there were no women sitting at the head table of FIFA, and now with Nsekera filling the 25th seat, and then Dodd and Bien-Aime sitting in as co-opted members for a year, we have 3. Just days before the election took place, Dodd was quoted in a News Daily article, saying:

There are some absolutely outstanding women in football globally, some aspiring, very competent women and it would be great to see that contribution happening in the FIFA ExCo, the top table of world football.

Women’s football has certainly seen its struggles in efforts of sustainable leagues in the United States, and elsewhere in the world, almost always taking a back seat to the men’s game. Having women in these types of leadership positions not just within FIFA, but in soccer organizations the world over, can only benefit the game by keeping women’s soccer top of mind. However, that wouldn’t by any means be the only benefit to having women in those leadership positions. The most successful organizations in the world are often some of the most diverse. The more people you bring together with different backgrounds and ideas, the more likely that group will generate new and innovative solutions, as long as they share and can agree upon a common goal. Leaders of different genders are absolutely a part of that. Dodd went on to say,

One day I would love to get to the point where your gender is not a matter of comment. I don’t want to be famous for being female, I would just like to be good at what I do and become known for having made a contribution but that day is some way off.

The point she raises here is a very good one, and something that the headlines (including this one) probably don’t help with. In a perfect world, it shouldn’t matter that a woman was elected to the Executive Committee of FIFA yesterday. Women leaders like Nsekera, Dodd, and Bien-Aime should be known and remembered for their contributions to their respective organizations and to the progression of world soccer not because of the fact that they’re women, but because of the fact that they made a significant impact worthy of mentioning. But, as Dodd said,

All things happen eventually, but it would be a long time. So creating seats for female members will accelerate something that would otherwise be a very slow process.

A realist, like myself, Dodd recognizes that we simply don’t live in a perfect world (obviously), and that sometimes we have to give people a nudge in the right direction. This mandated female seat on the Executive Committee is certainly a good first step for FIFA, and congratulations are certainly in order for Nsekera, as well as Dodd and Bien-Aime. But, just like in the rest of the business world, FIFA still has a long way to go to bring gender equality into its culture. That said, well done ladies, and well deserved.

What do you think about FIFA’s Executive Committee getting its first ever woman elected to its ranks? Let us know in the comments section below, or on Twitter.

Reporting on the business side of the world's game.