Advocating for gender equality in sport

Erika Montemor Ferreira, the Head of Players’ Status at FIFA, spoke to SportWorks about her journey in the industry and her roles and responsibilities leading a large team at world football’s governing body.  

As a woman in a leadership position in sport, Erika Montemor Ferreira has worn multiple hats as she has worked her way up the ladder. Now the Head of Players’ Status at FIFA, she shared with SportWorks her journey, the challenges, and what it took for her to reach her position. A resident of Switzerland, she came from Brazil and specialised in International Sports Law in Spain before starting work at FIFA in 2010.   

As a woman in sport, Erika explains how “women need to find each other and be connected.” She is a member of WISLAW – Women in Sports Law and the FIFA Women’s Network, networks which have been pivotal for her to connect with other women in the industry. Talking about the importance of mentors and role models, Erika cites her mother, Marisa Montemor Ferreira, a strong woman from whom she learnt to never give up. As to finding each other, she mentions Kimberly Morris, the Chief of HR & Services and another leading female figure at FIFA and the founder of the Women’s Network.   

That powerful network didn’t stop Erika from having her fair share of struggles – both as an immigrant and a woman. However, she chose to look at it differently, focusing on her background to show what she could bring to the table. As a woman working in a predominantly masculine sport like football, she is encouraged by the steps taken and changes implemented. “FIFA is acting on it” and that is evident through a number of women who are leading the way in the organisation. The presence of a Women’s Division is a step in that direction too.  

Discussing her role in this, we can look into the ground-breaking changes being made at FIFA. With new protections in place, female footballers have a renewed hope with the recent rules introduced in the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players around pregnancy, maternity leave and returning to the field afterwards. Now the Players’ Status department led by Erika will be instrumental to enforce these rules. 

Being in her position, Erika also understands the responsibility she has in promoting other women. “I try to provide opportunities for women in my team. I also believe that by sharing my story and always being open to talk and mentor, I can help other women achieve their goals, she says. In giving advice, Erika believes that there are two crucial things for women in sport – “Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and speak openly about your goals.” And these two ideas are very personal for her, as she recounts her first steps in the sports law field – Apart from dedication and hard work, it was really important for me to network, which opened the opportunity for my first job at FIFA. After seven years there, I moved to a new organisation and to a new field at UEFA, only to be rehired later as the Head of Players’ Status.”  

Networking for Erika is more than enhancing careers – it is about creating support systems between women to face together their human struggles. Sharing a deeply personal story, she opened up about her breast cancer diagnosis in 2019, she states: “I was very open about it. And I received a lot of support from my family, my team, my superiors at FIFA and everybody around me.” This is why having strong support systems was crucial to her continued success. It is also important to have them if we are to have more women in sport. She encourages other women to participate more in the sports industry, and emphasises that visibility and communication are essential for the promotion of women in sport.   

We at SportWorks are proud to share Erika’s story and happy for her being an advocate for gender equality.

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