Paula Dunn and Mel Marshall Paula Dunn and Mel Marshall have volunteered as mentors for new trainers.

A long awaited project, Sport UK, aims to improve gender diversity in top sport.

Their goal is to more than double the number of performance coaches for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Currently, 10% of coaching positions in the UK Olympic and Paralympic programmes funded by the UK Sports Agency are held by women.

The State Agency plans to increase this figure to 25% within four years under the new management programme.

Paula Dunn (para-athletics) and Mel Marshall (swimming) will be part of the group of head coaches who will guide other women through the program.

This is a crucial and probably long-awaited step, said Dunn Sports.

Mr Marshall said that the current representation figures apply, and Sally Manday, who took over the executive management of the sport in the United Kingdom last May, agreed with her.

There are currently too few female trainers working at the highest level, and we are trying to solve this problem, says Manday.

UK Sport is determined to see more diversity in a highly effective community.

Besides Dunn and Marshall, Kate Howie (judo), Kate Mills (judo), Becks Mills (para-triathlon) and Tracy Whittaker-Smith (trampolining) will give coaches the chance to see them in action, while Karen Brown, a former ice hockey coach from Great Britain, will serve as mentor.

Why are female role models so important?

Dunn won five Commonwealth medals for England as a sprinter. After her first job in British athletics in 2001, she was promoted to head coach of the British para-athletics team at the end of 2012.

However, at the end of her career in the railways, she did not want to consider coaching as an option, because she had never seen anyone like her in these positions.

We have to cross boundaries and it is important that we have people in positions that athletes can count on, Dunn said.

Marshall, who runs the British National Swimming Centre in Loughborough and leads Adam Peetey to Olympic gold in Rio in 2016, believes change is imminent.

In her opinion it was necessary to give women the self-confidence to express their opinions, and therefore such initiatives were very important.

What has traditionally stopped female coaches?

Women don’t want to be treated differently, but sometimes you have to be a little flexible, says Dunn, who has been juggling like a full-time single mother for a number of years.

Whether you like it or not, women remain the main source of child and household maintenance.

When the meeting is at 8 a.m., it’s terrible for me because I have to take my son to school, so I have to ask him to move or arrange childcare.

British athletics was good for me, but it was only to have that part of consciousness and understanding, not to think: Because she’s a woman who will never bond with her.

Women bring a completely different dynamic, according to Marshall, a former Olympic and European swimming champion.

It is important that more feminine qualities – such as the ability to listen, empathy, friendliness and affection – can not only be conveyed to the table, but also traditionally masculine qualities such as decision making, guidance and rigour, she said.

The mix of male and female personalities changes the conversation, and this gender ratio can have a huge impact on performance.

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