By Nick Butler at the Susesi Convention Center in Belek

The first all-female panel in the history of SportAccord spoke about a variety of issues affecting female sport ©TwitterApril 9 - Ensuring women have confidence in their own ability and are able to fit sport into life patterns was the key message of the "Women's World" discussion panel here today.

As well as being the opening panel of this year's SportAccord International Convention, it was also the first all-female one in the history of the event and consisted of speakers with a combined experience of 210 years working in the sports world.

All five speakers, including two-time Tokyo 1964 swimming champion Donna De Varona and Turkish Olympic Committee secretary general Neşe Gündoğan, outlined challenges they had faced throughout their respective careers.

This included the fact that, although many women start out in the sports world as in other professional spheres, they are often forced to abandon these careers in order to start a family.
Another problem they had noticed was how women can be less confident in their own ability than their male counterparts, particularly with regard to their suitability to tackle a new job.

But although it was outlined that sport was developed "by men and for men" they highlighted how more opportunities are appearing for women today.

In a sporting sense this included provisions such as a new rule in the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) where world ranking points are now frozen during pregnancy in order to provide an incentive for women to subsequently resume their riding careers.

A number of women's leadership programmes were also highlighted, as well as the growing profile of women's events such as the 1999 FIFA World Cup, of which the chairman was former swimmer De Varona

The 1999 FIFA World Cup, won by host nation United States, was hailed as a major breakthrough for women's sport ©Getty ImagesThe 1999 FIFA World Cup, won by host nation United States, was hailed as a major breakthrough for women's sport ©Getty Images

The debate was attended by women across a variety of professional and sporting backgrounds, as well as by many male figures, and there was an impressive number of suggestions by various audience members as to possible improvements for the future.

One of the most interesting was raised by Britain's Beijing 2008 modern pentathlon silver medal winner Heather Fell, who claimed, despite there being a lot of rhetoric about rising the role of women in sport, she was unsure as to the actual levers for this change.

In response Amanda Bennett, head coach of the England under-20 rugby team, described having strong policies, a good concept, and interaction with sponsors and the media as important steps forward.

With regard to media, Bennett suggested that online rather than print forms may be the best approach as she expressed her disappointment with the lack of print coverage of the England women's football team's 9-0 win over Montenegro last week in comparison to on the internet. 

"Women are seizing the power of social media," she said.

Engaging better with the 110,000 female athletes worldwide was also cited in order to boost women's sport at a more general level.

The success of high profile female figures in the Olympic Movement, including the chairman and vice-chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes' Commission, Claudia Bokel and Anita DeFrantz respectively, was cited as evidence of this potential.