WILD mentoring project

The WILD group in Brussels
Finnish participants in Copenhagen

Saara Naumanen, IWG

Even though sport is the largest social movement in Europe, women are still, in general, not physically active enough and remain underrepresented in sport decision-making bodies. For this reason, ENGSO, an umbrella organization of European sports, developed the WILD project, which is women-targeted mentoring and training project. WILD's aim is to increase women's skills and contribution to sport management and to strengthen the physical activity and sport network of women leaders, both nationally and internationally. Its mentoring project has included meetings with mentors and national and international joint training events for participants. The idea of the project proved to be well-needed and demand from the participating countries has been impressive.

Birgitta Kervinen, ENGSO President and the visionary of the WILD project has been involved in a national mentoring project held in Finland and has seen in practice what can be achieved through its valuable experiences. Out of the twelve women who participated in the project, the majority of them now work in the area of sports management, just like Kervinen herself. 

Inspired by the results of this national initiative, Kervinen wondered why not take mentoring to the international sphere, an idea which eventually evolved into the WILD project. WILD along with the ENTER! project comprise two ENGSO projects devoted to supporting female leadership skills. While WILD is now drawing to a close, Kervinen does not see an end in sight for likeminded efforts as women are still in great need of mentoring.

Jenny Fromer, Joint CEO and Head of Operations for Baseball & Softball UK, was one of the lucky participants in WILD and comments that she was very excited about the opportunity to focus on developing her leadership skills, particularly in concert with other dynamic women, not just from the UK, but across Europe.

How has mentoring then benefited the project’s participants? According to Jenny Fromer, she had hoped that being involved in the project might lead to strong connections being formed with other participants; something that she says has in fact been realized.

Fellow English participant Lara Lill, Head of Health and Participation for ASA, affirms that through the WILD project she has been afforded the opportunity to establish links with other countries through the world of sport and discuss at length sporting structures and current issues, which has allowed for participants tofurther enhance their cultural awareness and explore the commonalities and differences within sport from the grassroots to the elite level. Lara also points out that her personal development within this leadership project has been enhanced by the learning involved and valuable access to top-level sporting leaders.

Finnish participant Mila Kajas-Virtanen, Communications Mangager of the Finnish Figure Skating Association, describes that mentoring has already brought certain changes to her ways of working. For example, she now aims to priorize and focus on several task to do excellently instead of trying to devote her energy to many different things with only monderate results. Kajas-Virtanen also feels increased self confidence, as her mentor has encouraged her to believe in herself and her own ideas despite the fact that others may not always agree with her.

“Learn first how to understand another and then to being yourself understood,” is another life lesson that Kajas-Virtanen takes away from her mentoring with SDP Party Secretary Mikael Jungner. Not only did Kajas-Virtanen gain from her mentoring experience, the experience of mentoring another was also of value for Jungner. The mentoring relationship – one that is between equals – is also beneficial to the mentor who is forced to reflect on his or her own experiences, formulate his or her own understanding of them and find a way to communicate this in a meaningful way to the mentee. The mentor finds him or herself in the position in which he or she needs to really consider his or her own thoughts, values and career.

Kervinen reminds those women who have participated in mentoring that the effect of women’s leadership is weighed by what women in power can accomplish to promote gender equality. Women, she says in closing, endevor that both you and your female colleagues are heard and  seen!

The project is includes national sports federations and/or the Olympic committees from eight different EU countries: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Sweden and the UK. Each country has six participants. The project’s duration is one year and is now drawing to a close in February.

Additional information: http://www.wildsports.eu/