For women’s rowing the 2017 year has been historic. The World Rowing Federation (FISA) proposal for a complete gender equal Olympic programme got approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in July, followed by the decision at FISA’s ordinary congress in October for equal programmes at all World Rowing Championships. This is an important achievement and gives our female athletes the same opportunities as their male colleagues.

Behind this success is an integrated FISA strategic women’s rowing programme, with a key role for FISA’s development team and the Women’s Rowing Cross Commission, with members from all other FISA commissions. The programme aims at improvement of female athletes’ participation, coaching and leadership.

FISA has a successful development programme for athletes. An increasing amount of talented female athletes participated these past years in FISA’s development camps. The policy for teams to bring talents from both gender has been a key factor.

For talents with limited national funding, Olympic Solidarity scholarships have facilitated coaching, training camps and participation at an international level. During the past Olympic cycle 65 scholarships were granted to rowers, 44 per cent of them to female rowers. Two-third of these ‘scholars’ qualified for the Rio Olympics and ten of them became medalists. A big success and a substantial increase in comparison to the London Olympics, with less scholarships and only 24 per cent for female rowers.

Looking at our World Rowing Championships, we see a substantial increase in female participation, in particular with the World Junior and Under 23 Championships.

The women’s four is the new Olympic event which has had immediate effect on the entries. The event brought us exciting races and very close finishes at all 2017 World Rowing Championships.

In the coming years FISA’s strategic women’s rowing programme will focus on female coaches and leadership. The research on ‘What makes a successful coach for female athletes’ and ‘Understanding and redefining the role of men in achieving gender equity in sport leadership’ gave us new insights to implement in our coaching courses and conferences and in our governance policy.

We continue to facilitate participation of female future leaders at the Women in Sport Leadership Academy (WSLA) and the IOC Women in Leadership Forum, will create a leadership network and develop a programme for female coaches.

FISA took some big steps in women’s rowing, as can be expected from a leading international federation. We are proud of what we have achieved so far but we also look forward to the next steps and the impact on women’s rowing.

Jacomine Ravensbergen, Chair Women’s Rowing Commission