Around the world there is a growing call for women representation in leadership roles in the sporting industry and President of CFF Olympia Las Rozas, Sonia Soria, is eager to make a change.
Soria and her team recently launched LOBBY SSPORTS, a global network which seeks to empower women and provide them with necessary leadership skills.
She hopes that through her initiative, women will be able to become leaders in all sectors of the sports industry, particularly in managerial positions with decision-making power.
Coming from a banking background and currently a holder of a Masters in Sport Management, Soria recommends women to take a stand for what they believe in to pursue their dreams.
Speaking with gsport, the Spaniard reflects on her journey in sport and shares thoughts on what needs to be done to change the state of women’s sport globally.
Sonia, welcome to gsport! How have you been handling this year and all the disruptions caused by Covid-19?
In March during the first days of the pandemic and due to the uncertainty, I was a little scared because we did not have clear information about what was happening and how we should act.
As the days went by, I realized that we had to react and remain active despite all that we were experiencing.
It was in our hands to send a positive message and the best way was to maintain the girls active. Therefore, from the club that I preside, CFF OLYMPIA Las Rozas, we devised different activities and talks with the players so that they would be entertained as well as freeing the parents from stress.
On the other hand, we did a very nice social action, sending handwritten letters by all the players of the Olympia and we sent them with the collaboration of the Town Hall of Las Rozas (Madrid) to all the “grandparents” who were in the residences to transmit them a message of hope, affection and to tell them that our thoughts were with them.
Another initiative was to help collecting donations for a food bank for people in need.
Looking back, you realize that whoever wants to do things, can! On the other hand, during this time, I was molding the idea of what LOBBY SSPORTS is today.
Please tell us more about your global network – LOBBY SSPORTS – and how women from around the globe can get involved.
The idea arises for several reasons:
– The low visibility of professional women in the sports industry,
– The business of the sports industry in most sectors is led by men, however, there are many professional women capable of managing and leading from public or private corporations (companies, federations, leagues, clubs, etc …)
– In many of the events or congresses that take place at a global level, the presence of women must be increased,
– Many of the decisions on issues of interest related to sport where women are the focus are taken by men.
These issues made us think of a new model of sports industry where women are integrated, where diversity is the norm and not the news, hence the creation of @lobbyssports.
Why is this network so important for the growth of women’s sport globally?
It is very important for women’s sports but also for the business of the sports industry. Our objective is the creation of a GROUP of influence with an international character where all sports and countries are represented in order to promote the development of women and their empowerment, especially in the economic, sports, labour, social and business areas of the sports industry.
In addition to providing professional women with the tools they need to become global leaders.
Tell us about your journey in sport and how did you get involved?
Sport has always been part of my life. My first steps were in Vitoria (Spain) where I practiced athletics but also played football and basketball.
Once in Madrid, although I was working in banking, I did a Masters in Sports Management through FIFA/CIES in the RFEF because something inside me said that one day it would come in handy…
The fact that my youngest daughter liked and played football made me learn more about how women’s football was managed in the different clubs from another perspective, seeing the shortcomings and the lack of interest in this sport from the part of the leaders. I was encouraged to create a new all-female football club with a great team that helped me in the project.
The aim was to leave a good legacy so that all girls who want to play football have their space, grow in values and be strong for the future. We started this journey in 2015 with 13 players and today we are almost 200.
What are your current roles in sport and what do you enjoy most about what you do?
My functions as President of the CFF OLYMPIA is above all, to lead a project together with my fellow travelers so that we continue to grow with QUALITY and have happy girls practicing sport.
As founder of Lobby SSPORTS my duties are multiple but the most important one is to share leadership with BIG professional women in the sports industry with the aim of helping empower other women so that we have leaders in all sectors of the sports industry as well as in managerial positions with decision-making power.
What do I like most? Without a doubt, going to the pitch to see my club play…From the youngest ones of 4-years to the senior team with players older than thirty. I also really enjoy playing football with my veteran’s team!
In the Lobby, I love to see so much potential and that we BIG professional women are really joined to achieve a COMMON OBJECTIVE.
Who are the women in sport who inspire you?
I love this question. I would spend all day telling you which women inspire me because there are so many…
Fatma Samoura (General Secretary of FIFA) is an inspiring woman whom I admire for her character, professionalism, humility, generosity, fighter, defender of equality, etc.
A woman who has broken the glass ceiling in a world like football. For me she is number one!
Serena Williams – professional tennis player. Serena inspires me not only as a sportswoman but also as a woman. She is a strong advocate for women’s rights and black women. Successful and generous entrepreneur, qualities of a good leader. I also have a lot of sympathy for her daughter Olympia, whose name is the same as the football club I preside over.
Carolina Marin, who is a Badminton World Champion. Undisputed leader in an Asian-dominated sport. Her mental strength, professionalism, determination, her desire to be BEST in a minority sport in our country and to be able to be a world and an Olympic champion, is an inspiration for any athlete who wants to achieve their goals.
Carolina represents sacrifice, struggle and determination like no other. She is a great example to me.
Where are you based and how is women’s sport viewed there?
I am in Las Rozas, a fantastic village on the outskirts of Madrid in Spain. Women’s sport is very popular, there are more and more women practicing sport.
In relation to football, there are more and more girls who play without prejudices just because they like this sport. Therefore, I see a very promising future.
However, we need more female leaders in order to have more visibility and decision-making power in the offices of public and private corporations.
We need more visibility in the media, as well as financial support from public and private entities
What can we do to improve the state of women’s sport around the world?
We have to involve all the actors involved in women’s sport, work together men and women to make diversity normal, promote equal opportunities, seek support from public corporations and present them with projects, align their strategy with the interests of private entities.
Raise awareness among all women that the one who wants to, can…but has to try.
What is your advice to women in sport who are perhaps struggling to breakthrough and need some encouragement?
I would give several recommendations:
1.- BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. You are worth it!
One has to believe in it and fight to pursue her dreams.
2.- Look for references that inspire them and not people that make them feel small or handicapped. We have many examples of professional women who inspire us.
3.- Join a Global Network to have references from other countries and experiences that can serve.
What is your big dream with Lobby SSPORTS?
My dream? To position professional women in the sports industry, regardless of country, in decision-making positions.
To have women representing us in all areas where the sports industry is discussed. To see that in a few years, we have presidents in federations, leagues, clubs. CEO’s, General Directors of private corporations. To have generations prepared to assume any position of responsibility.
I would love to make society aware that success lies in diversity.
How can women in sport reach out and be part of the network. What are the details to register to be part of this exciting new initiative?
Professional women in the sports industry can join, from professional players to decision-makers and entrepreneurs in any sector related to the industry.
Of course, this network is open to men who want to participate in these objectives.
Registration is very simple, all you have to do is fill in this questionnaire, and from there the machinery is set in motion to continue with the selection process
Contact: [email protected]
What are your hopes and wishes for 2021?
My wish is that 2021 comes loaded with good health and to make a better world together for those of us who are here and for future generations.
And of course, for Lobby SSPORTS to be full of women and men so that we can improve the future of the sports industry on the basis of diversity and equal opportunities.