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First-Ever Female ITTF President Wants To Inspire Women Leaders In Sports

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December 05, (THEWILL) – Petra Sörling, the first female President of the International Table Tennis Federation, says she aims to “open the door” for more women to rise to positions of influence in sport (ITTF).

In her attempt to ascend the sports administration ladder, the Swede says she felt “pretty much alone” but now wants to encourage aspiring female leaders to be “brave”.

At last month’s Annual General Meeting in Houston, Texas, Sörling became the first woman to be elected as the leader of the 95-year-old organisation, standing unopposed.

“I am both humbled and proud to be elected as the first-ever female President of the ITTF,” said Sörling. “To be here in Houston meeting many members and several of them taking part remotely, it feels like a perfect period of time to take on the position.

“If I can be a role model and open the door to several more [female leaders] that is the main importance of being the first one.”

Sörling has been a member of the ITTF Executive Committee since 2009, having served three times as executive vice-president of finance and eight years as chair of the Swedish Table Tennis Association.

She is also the CEO of Malmo-based real estate company Rosengard Fastighets and a member of the Swedish Olympic Committee’s Executive Board.

“For me it was always the case where I was pretty much alone,” said Sörling.

“I was elected into the ITTF in 2009 and I have been their only female vice-president so it is difficult to say that there were many role models for me within table tennis.

“I am also working in real estate and [Hélène Barnekow] the chief executive of Microsoft Sweden is a role model for me because of the way she is tackling the leadership there.”

Sörling joins Marisol Casado of World Triathlon and Annika Sörenstam of the International Golf Federation as the only female leaders of Summer Olympic International Federations.

In May, she attended the Women Lead Sports masterclass hosted by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF).

The goal of the virtual gathering was to boost the number of women in leadership roles within the Olympic Movement.

“As a female, you like to know the job and the answers of the questions before you take on the tasks,” said Sörling. “I have seen many times that when it comes to my male colleagues they are not always aware of the answer or even the questions to come before they say ‘yes I can do it’.

“We have to push ourselves a little bit more as females to do things that we may not have all the answers for when we take on the position or the tasks. You will find out things by how you handle and deal with that.

“I hope that I can help others to be brave.”