Table Talk: Women in Sports, a Euroleague Basketball documentary

September 19, 2019

Hi, Sukran, nice to meet you! Une, you arrived yesterday? Yes. Anne, we made you wake up 5 o’clock
in the morning this morning? Yes, it’s ok, but it’s normal for me.
I always travel during this time. It’s normal? How can 5 o’clock be normal? With all the trips around Europe, it’s normal because I normally take
the first flight in the morning, so… Alright, Sukran also.
You came yesterday? Yes, I came yesterday. First time in Barcelona?
First time in Barcelona. And?
I love it! I had like a day off. Which was good, I guess.
Yeah. Very nice. Ok. So, the idea, a little bit,
is if we can share some experiences. So, what do you think?
How do we stand right now, today, for women in sports? So, I remember when I was little girl, I was working all the time
with the male coaches, you know? Male managers, because there are few women, you know. I remember when I was… Like in 2000, I was professional at that time. The first time
I worked with a woman manager. And I saw there was an advantage. Also, when you are a young girl,
you need to share your feelings, how you… your emotions. When I realized,
when I was professional, that time, working with women, because they are very supportive. So when you see they’re also
in media sectors… I believe we will find
many more females in media, also. In the coming years, I hope, right?
Coming years, yeah. Nowadays, I will say,
numbers are rising, but not enough, of course. And from the officiating point of view, I recognize that there are
more female referees now. Even in other sports. It is becoming more natural. Ok, there are still only a few, but they are coming up
and they are doing the same job. I, for example, in my club,
we have more females than men actually, but if you ask in the street,
I think that people would say: “No, it’s just something
that is meant to be for guys.” Or people just imagine that there is
more men working in that business area, but actually it’s not true. It’s actually no problem to have
both females and males in this area. For example,
from the management perspective, I see a huge difference
between the number of women that you could see
in meetings when I started and the ones we can see now. At that moment,
I remember back in 2000, it was only one manager from a club, which was CSKA in 2001 and so on, and then it was only
Euroleague executives that were women. Other than that, it was all men. And you cannot imagine how many times when going to a game
with one of my colleagues, they thought I was the wife
of one of them. And it was so many times,
I mean it was not once or twice, it was so many times that it was like:
“What happened?” What happens to me sometimes is
I also meet someone in my free time or something
and they ask me what I do for a living. And I say: “Well,
I work in a basketball club.” The next question right after that is:
“Oh, you’re a cheerleader! That’s so nice!”
Really? Yeah. That happened to me
at least five times or so. So I’m really glad to talk about it,
just to tell people how it is. Cheerleaders aren the only women
that are involved in the basketball business,
that is actually very not true. Probably because we’ve spent, like,
so many years in this culture in which men are the policemen
and men are the doctors, and the firemen and the pilots. And we women, we are the nurses,
and we are the flight attendants. That needs to change. I have similar experience like this,
like you said. For example, every time
when somebody asks me what I am doing, and I say I am a basketball official, they say:
“Basketball? Oh, women’s basketball.” I say: “No.” “What do you mean no?” I said:
“No, I’m also doing the men’s games.” “But they are so tall.” So I said: “Ok, what does that mean,
they are so tall?” Or the other thing, one of my first games
in the BBL in Germany, when I went there,
I went into the gym with my colleagues to have a look around everything and then the guy from the club
came to us and they say hello
to my colleagues and say: “Oh, do you know
where the locker room is? Where you have to go?”
And they said: “Yeah, yeah.” And then he looked at
me and he was like: “Yeah, the VIP room is over there,
so can go up, the ticket is there.” So my colleagues start to laugh
and I didn’t realize. And a few minutes later,
I was standing like: “Oh, no, sorry.
I’m also officiating today.” And he was like:
“What? You are a referee?” I said: “Yes, sorry, but…” Sorry, we sometimes feel
that we have to say sorry, and this is something that is like,
“Hey, come on people, not men or women, welcome to
the real world, 21st century. We all have the same
or should have the same opportunities, so what’s going on here?” What can we do so
that this doesn’t happen again? And we are not facing these situations
in which you are a cheerleader, you are not the referee,
and I’m not somebody’s wife but I’m a professional, right? I’m Anne Panther, I’m from Germany and I’m a Euroleague Basketball referee. I officiated a long time in Germany and then I passed
my FIBA license in 2011, 2012, and then I got the nomination
for the Olympic Games. After that, I got the phone call
and received the question if I’m interested
in officiating in the EuroLeague. Now I’m in my third season. I feel like a referee,
it’s not that I’m a female referee, I’m a referee, so I feel like
a part of all these other referees who are with me. Yes, my first EuroLeague game,
I was very nervous. I was also proud and on the court
I was just enjoying the game. I really remember
when the game was starting. Before the game, the anthem. This was a special feeling in the gym, it was amazing,
you cannot really describe it. It was nice, of course,
I will always remember this game. So how do you see the gender equity
in your organizations right now? Actually, in my organization
we don’t even divide people into males and females, and actually
it’s really never a question that is raised
and it’s not what matters. What matters is your motivation,
it’s your hard work, it’s your personal values, it’s how you are a team person
or not a team person. These kind of things,
your ambitions maybe, and the result that you’re delivering. For me, to be honest, I don’t really
think about male or female because I don’t have the feeling that the organization
is thinking like this. Even in the past, there were
some female referees in the EuroLeague, I’m not the first one. Ok, at the moment,
I’m the only one out of 67… So, it’s not about the gender,
it’s only about the job on the court. Every one of us makes mistakes,
we know this, we know it immediately. But I don’t make a mistake
because I’m a woman on the court, that’s not the case,
I make a mistake because I’m a human. I don’t know,
for example at the Euroleague, I think that one of the things
that is very positive, for the whole team
I’m not saying just for the women, is that we have a team
that is so diverse. We have different ages,
different cultures, different backgrounds,
and different genders. But we have also so many women
in key decision-making positions. So the Chief Financial Officer
is a woman, the General Secretary is a woman,
the Chief Development is a woman… So, I think that this gives us
so much diversity when making decisions. I remember, you know, there wasn’t
even any woman TV presenter, there was not any woman
who presented sports, I’m saying 30 years ago. After ages, you can see yourself
in any part of sports. I can be a manager,
I can be a sports TV presenter, so this is a very important side
I think, emotionally, where you are going,
what you are looking for. My name is Sukran Albayrak,
I’m an ex-basketball player, and now I’m the TV presenter
at beIN Sports. So what’s the most difficult phase
in my job? It’s a male-dominant role, I want to see many more females,
young girls, and being part of it in management also, I need to see many more women. Also in the media sector, women don’t have to be
in front of the camera, it’s also nice to see
them behind the camera. So, which are the challenges
you think we are now facing? How do you think
that we can go to the next phase? I think first of all,
we could start from ourselves, changing our mindset sometimes, as well. Even actually questioning our mindset,
that would be the first step. Why, why can’t you make it? If you don’t like the situation now,
you should do something to change it. She’s right, it will take changing
your mindset, you know? And you have to change first yourself. For me, it was the main point,
to change my mind, because in the past I always thought
I have to do the same as the men, like speaking, like my behavior or like my presentation
on the court for example, and it was not good. And this is also now
what I say to young referees: just be yourself,
don’t start to copy anybody, just be yourself, work for yourself,
set goals and work for them. But I think what you said
about being yourself is very important. So, we are in a world that right now is so male-dominant
that if we don’t do things our way and we copy them, it’s going to… with females or males,
it’s going to stay the same and this is not what will make
the organizations richer. I have one good example. I’m working
with a young female referee now and we have some discussions
about the communication on the court and I say: “Ok, there are some problems
with the coach or player.” I say: “Ok, you can go there
and you can communicate like a woman. It’s allowed to smile sometimes, it’s allowed to be polite.”
Sometimes? Yeah, it is, yeah! And she’s like: “No, no, no, I won’t do this, I don’t want to use
that fact that I’m a woman.” I said: “Hey, don’t be afraid of this.” I was shocked when she told me this because she’s afraid to be a woman
on the court. Why? I think this is the wrong case. I agree. The other challenge
I’m facing right now, for example, is family reconciliation. [People might say,] ‘You have a kid and you
should be at home.’ And it’s like: “My kid is perfectly fine.” It doesn’t mean that I don’t need her
or she doesn’t need me, but the fact that I can combine it
in a way where I can develop my career and my profession and,
on the other hand, I can be with my daughter
as much as I can whenever I want. So I do really want to develop
my career and my profession, but I also want to be able to pick up
my daughter at school and I also want to be able to do
my hobbies, which are important. But you know what?
I remember when I was playing, men don’t have
a problem like this… But my one of my best friends,
she was thinking about having a child, but while she was playing.
It’s impossible, you know? So, she was planning on having
to stop playing and going and having a child
and then coming back again, if she can play again or not, you know.
She was planning like this. So this is not gender equality,
this is very gender non-equality. So, I don’t know, I mean,
women are struggling with lots of things, not only in the environment. The thing about generations,
also what I think is different, I grew up with parents
who worked all the time. I grew up with both parents working and I remember spending time
with my dad at his work on Sundays. This is how you get
your time with your dad. So when you grow up
in this kind of family, then you want that life balance, and I think this generation
definitely grew up with parents like that,
who worked all the time, and they barely had time
for their families. That’s what is changing
their mindsets now. And in the organization sometimes,
because we come from where we do, it’s difficult and we need to adapt how we can work
from home in some cases, how we can be more efficient
in the time in which we are working… So, there are tools that we need to,
first of all, know and then we need to apply. I am Roser Queralto, I’m the Chief
Business Officer at Euroleague, and it has been a long journey. I started with the Euroleague
back in 2000, and it was a challenge
that at that moment I think none of us thought that it was going to go
as far and as good as it has. So, it was a dream
that has been a dream come true. One of my best memories
at Euroleague was October 16, 2000, and it was the first EuroLeague game. The whole team was in Madrid. It was the Real Madrid-Olympiacos game and I think that the moment
that is one of the most special, at least for me,
is that very second when the referee threw the ball to the air. So the tip-off of that game was very,
very special. Family reconciliation is a must. I think that we all have
three parts of ourselves: work, family and ourselves. And it’s important
that during our day that has 24 hours, we always have some time
for these three parts. For example, in my case,
now that I have a little girl, it’s so important
that I spend time with her, that it’s quality time,
so that we can develop our full family, let’s say. What I would like to see in the future
is that it doesn’t matter whether you are male or female, you can decide freely
to do any profession, to be a mum or a dad that stays at home, and to decide whatever you want to do
in your career and in your personal life.
And that probably, in the near future, let’s hope,
this discussion we’re having today will not take place because it will not be a relevant
discussion right now, right? I mean, in the past
we could not have this discussion because that would have been amazing. Now we are having this discussion. I hope that when my daughter is able
to see this in the future, she will say:
“Why were you discussing this? What happened there?” Why was it even a problem?
Exactly. But when you check like a…
when you are a player of basketball, men’s and women’s,
there is a big difference. Football. There is a big difference. The salary, about… So what about the referees, you know? Being men or not. I think that I can really say it’s equal. We are paid by the game. Same field, same running,
but what about… But this is a really good point,
I never thought about this. But, okay, for us as the referees,
it’s totally equal. There’s no paper that says the female
gets this and the male gets this. No, everybody’s paid the same way
because we are doing the same job. Education in gender equity. How do you think it should be treated? Which do you think is the importance
of that particular one? I think it’s important
that everybody has the same chance. If you want to study,
if you want to become a doctor, if you want to study economics,
if you want to work somewhere else, it doesn’t matter
if you’re male or female, you should have the chance to do it. Volunteering my time to the children
to show them the way, whatever they want to do they can do it. This is not a female issue, I believe. Sometimes,
when you check all the sides of it, you will see that we have
to understand each other, females and males. Open-minded. Absolutely. Do you think
that we have a glass ceiling? Well, I think that it’s also,
it could be a problem in some places, and it especially used to be a problem, but I think nowadays,
it would be very much… it has a lot to do
with our mindset, again. If you think you can’t aim higher, if you think that position
is just for men, not for you… It is very important to free your mind
from that cage or box or wherever and stop judging yourself
in every single step. So, my name is Une and I work
in a basketball club, Zalgiris Kaunas. We also operate Zalgiris Arena. So my main responsibility
is business development. I was never even like planning to be
in Zalgiris since my childhood. It was not
that I was pursuing exactly that, I was just at the right time
at the right moment, but of course I was very happy about it. In Lithuania, we do have initiatives
for women in technology because we do have
a lot less women in technology, so we have great initiatives
like “Women Go Tech” and the leaders
of that industry who are women, they are very inspiring and they share their leadership and they encourage other girls
and women to go into that market. My secret is don’t give up. Winning or losing doesn’t matter,
but don’t give up and keep pushing. This is the life I believe, isn’t it? You are the top of the Euroleague.
Tell me, I mean, how did you start? It’s true.
I started at Euroleague back in 2000, and I was the CEO’s assistant. And I was fortunate enough
to have someone, who is the Euroleague CEO, who trusted that I could do it
and I trusted that I could do it. So I think that that was the path. If you would have asked me 20 years ago
if I would be here today, sitting with you all, having
this conversation in this position, I would have said: “You’re crazy.” That probably would have been my answer. It’s not easy. I’m sure
you had a hard time, didn’t you? But you don’t give up. I don’t give up. I had a hard time, but it was also challenging and it was also,
I would say, fun in a way. So to build what we have built
and to see the results, and to see how the Euroleague started, how it is today. It’s such a great path. We should also understand
that we are opening the doors for many behind us,
for the new generation. And this is important. There are still
some closed doors for sure, so there is still a glass ceiling. Talking about this particular one,
what you just said. What do you think about quotas? So, now, especially in some governments
or at some governments in companies, they are talking about percentages
of women in certain positions. Quotas are not, let’s say, the solution. My question might be:
is… are quotas the transition? Actually, yeah, for decision-makers, I believe, in politics,
because they actually represent society. And if society is half men, half women
and there is no woman, and they’re making decisions
about society that is half women, that I think could be a problem
and maybe that would be a transition. Just to have your own representative, that would be quite a good idea,
I guess. I think it’s important, that. But I think that this is
the future in some cases. So fortunately,
it’s the present for you, but in some other cases
and in some other places, it still is the future.
So how do you see the future? I believe the next generation
will be better than us. Of course they will.
Of course! We are in progress. This is what I hope for the future,
that everybody is open-minded and we don’t need to speak about this. I agree, I think that we are setting
a path and this is non-stop. Regarding the future,
for example at the Euroleague, more and more at the Euroleague
we see dance squads that have men, and I think that this, again, is very enriching for the purpose
of the entertainment that we have so everybody can participate,
everybody can see. Boys and girls can see, can take part
in this and they can enjoy it. And so maybe
there will be a day that a guy says: “I work in a basketball club.”
“Oh, are you a cheerleader?” Maybe one day, you never know! Maybe, why not? For future generations,
I would like people to be free, to be who they want. Basically you have
to understand yourself, you have to learn what you want, what makes you happy
and just go for that. We don’t need to talk about gender. We are only looking for the job and for the humans
who are doing this job, and this is the main aspect I think. What I expect for women in the future is to all have importance
at the same level, for females and for males. I think future generations
have a big challenge, but so many opportunities. The fact that now we are here talking about this means
that we have already planted a seed. I want the tree and I want to see
the forest at the end of the road, So, I think that what is going to be
important is that for the future, we are all equals.

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