This feature is the first in a new series in which we profile the outstanding recipients of the Women’s Leadership Award.
Female athletes might have equality on the field of play but there is an unquestionable disparity in many other areas of the sport. The Women’s Leadership Awards recognise outstanding women who have excelled as a coach, volunteer, administrator or elected official.
The Women’s Leadership Awards were created in 2009 and remain an important strategy to promote the development of women leaders and gender equity in athletics. Last year, 19 women representing 19 Member Federations were recognised for their outstanding contributions to athletics.
If there has been a sporting event of any consequence in Serbia over the last decade, the chances are Ana Todoric has been involved in some capacity.
Todoric was nominated for a Women’s Leadership Award on behalf of the Athletics Federation of Serbia for her senior role in organising two major European Athletics events in recent years: the 2013 SPAR European Cross Country Championships and the 2017 European Athletics Indoor Championships which were both held in Belgrade.
Todoric, whose first prominent appointment was as Entries Manager for the 2009 World University Games in Belgrade, has been on numerous Local Organising Committees since then across a broad spectrum of sports. She drew on her vast and varied background in her role as Project Leader for both championships in which she was involved all the way from the initial bidding process right through to delivering the event itself.
“When you have the opportunity to organise a big event such as the European Indoor Championships and you know that you are behind all details, there are no words to describe the feeling and pride of being part of that story,” said Todoric.
“I can honestly say on the last day when I was one of the presenters for the medal ceremony together with European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen, my legs were shaking!”
In the first of our profiles on recipients of the Women's Leadership Award, we spoke to Serbia's Ana Todoric who hopes her career path will inspire other young women to follow her lead. https://t.co/w59GFhxG7T pic.twitter.com/XjTnVVZPdd
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) November 16, 2018
The highlight of those championships was Ivana Spanovic reaching out to 7.24m to defend her long jump title on home territory on the final day of the championships. Female athletes in Serbia might be growing in recognition and enjoying more column inches than before but Todoric laments how change is moving at a much slower pace behind the scenes.
“Last month, the women won gold at the World Volleyball Championships; we have two women who have medals from the Olympic Games in taekwondo; Ivana Spanovic is a very well-known athlete; the women in basketball are also excellent,” said Todoric, reeling off an impressive list of sporting achievements for a country with a population of a little over seven million.
“But on the other hand, there are not too many women in sport administration, especially in the leading positions. In the last few years, the situation has changed but in my opinion, this change is far too slow.”
Todoric was entering uncharted territory herself, often finding that she was the only women on Local Organising Committees and Steering Committees for various sporting events.
She didn’t have any role models in sport to aspire to, and had to overcome some gender discrimination (“I was once told at a job interview that I am good candidate but it’s a pity I am a woman because as I will get married and have kids”) but credits the role her sister has played in proving women can reach the top in a male-oriented sphere.
“In the first few years, there weren’t any women in sport who had an influence in my career - all positions were occupied by men. But my sister had - and still has - an influence on me, even though she is in a different type of business; she has managed to hold down a high position in very big worldwide company, and she also has her own family,” said Todoric.
Todoric credits how coming into contact with prominent women within the European Athletics family has been an empowering and reaffirming experience. “The moment I became closer to the European Athletics family, I also met women who have always reminded me of what I can be,” she said.
Like her sister, Todoric has also taken time away from her career to start a family but she still has unfilled professional ambitions. She aspires to be involved in bigger sporting events in years to come and hopes this will serve as an example to young women looking to move into leadership positions.
“What I can do is continue building my career and give inspiration to women all over the world to be leaders themselves,” she said.