Juliana Groß (no pronouns/they)

As adults we need to be more reflective of ourselves and our behavior in order to provide more opportunities for children to develop, whether it's in sports or career choices.
Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Juliana Groß and I have been leading the project “Klischeefrei im Sport – no stereotypes” since March 2023. Although I am a native of the Baltic Sea, I can neither surf nor sail or swim particularly well – I much prefer to climb mountains on my mountain bike and ride down them again with great enthusiasm, or I run as fast as I can through the beautiful Teutoburg Forest here in the Bielefeld area.

I have always been moved and motivated by the topic of equal opportunities, since it bothered me as a child when I was denied certain abilities and characteristics as a girl. My professional background is in social sciences and gender studies.

If you could change one thing in Germany, what would it be?

My wish is that we as a society create freedom for children and stop telling them that they supposedly can’t do certain things because of their gender. It’s surprising how early children pick up on and are confronted with these kinds of messages from adults. We adults need to reflect better on ourselves and our behavior in order to offer children more opportunities for development, whether in sports or in choosing a career.

How did you come to “Klischeefrei im Sport” and what are your plans for the coming years?

I have been employed at the Kompetenzzentrum Technik-Diversity-Chancengleichheit e. V. (kompetenzz) in Bielefeld since 2018. kompetenzz is Germany’s largest network for these topics and is known to the general public primarily for the projects based there. These include projects such as Girls’ Day and Boys’ Day and the initiative Klischeefrei (Cliché-Free), which promotes career and study choices free of gender stereotypes. The kompetenzz office employs around 90 people in a wide range of projects, for example in the fields of demography, digital participation, and women in innovation and STEM.

With a great deal of experience in the area of stereotype-free career and study choices under my belt, I am now able to combine the professional with my personal enthusiasm for sports as part of the “Stereotype-Free in Sports” project. Together with all those involved, we want to further promote equal opportunities in sports, break down gender stereotypes and promote a stereotype-free sports culture in order to sustainably strengthen participation and development opportunities in top-level and mass sports, regardless of gender.

What about equality of opportunity in sports? A few years ago it seemed unthinkable to watch women's soccer on prime-time TV, but today it's more normal. How do you assess the current situation and the trend for the future?

There are clear gender inequalities in many sports, whether it’s training or playing conditions, pay or representation on important committees and in leadership positions in associations and clubs, for example. But it all starts with the fact that we perceive certain sports as suitable or unsuitable for ourselves or others because of gender stereotypes. It is often assumed that soccer is not for girls and ballet is not for boys – we want to overcome these outdated and limiting ideas.

We continue to see differences in the visibility of female and male athletes in the media. Women are less present in the media than male athletes, and this affects many sports. There are also differences in professionalization, due to unequal training opportunities. Many female athletes – contrary to their male colleagues – still have to pursue a gainful employment alongside their sports career, which can have an impact on their performance.

Our goal is to raise awareness of these challenges and work with sports associations to improve the situation in both professional and amateur sports.

Why does it seem in the public perception that more progress is being made in soccer in terms of equal opportunities than in other sports?

In soccer, there was a huge boost from the 2022 European Championship. The women’s national team was extremely successful – this aroused and strengthened enthusiasm among the population. The high viewing figures reflect society’s great interest – soccer also has a prominent position in Germany. That’s why it’s important that women’s soccer and women in soccer receive more attention, and we are determined to further and sustainably strengthen this enthusiasm with the “Klischeefrei in Sports” project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, and all those involved.

What about salaries - is there equal pay in professional sports?

When it comes to equal pay, we still have a lot of room for improvement in many sports, even though there have already been numerous demands for equal pay. However, in exchanges with the players, it becomes apparent that equal framework and playing conditions are even more important to them than pay. This does not mean that financial appreciation is unimportant; there is definitely a lack of understanding for the unequal pay for men and women.

However, feedback from the female players shows that what they want most of all is equal training and playing conditions so that they can play their sport professionally, without financial worries. Unlike men’s soccer, where large sums of money are often at stake, women’s soccer does not strive for financial oversizing. Instead, the focus is on protecting and expanding fan culture and making the sport a place for leisure and family.

And what about training children: Are you in favor of separate or mixed teams from the start?

I think children should be able to train and play together in all sports for as long as possible. In soccer, there is the possibility of playing in mixed teams not only in the children’s and youth area, but also in the amateur area. Such approaches contribute to equal opportunities and, above all, to recruiting new talent, because there are often not enough girls’ or women’s teams locally for soccer enthusiasts to join.

As a recreational athlete, I like to train and play in mixed teams, be it basketball, cycling or running. In whatever constellation, gender-mixed or, for example, in different age groups, team spirit and consideration are always at the top of the list when it comes to having fun together – and by that, I mean sportswomen as well, who in my experience are more than willing to take things down a notch.

Sport has a unifying function in our society – for me, mixed teams stand for fun, team spirit and fair play.

What is the vision of “Klischeefrei im Sport”?

Our vision at “Klischeefrei im Sport” is a stereotype-free sports culture without gender stereotypes and equal opportunities for all sports enthusiasts. We work closely with all committed partners to sustainably strengthen participation and development opportunities for all people. It also includes promoting diversity and representation in committees to bring in different perspectives.

In addition, we want our work to contribute to the promotion of young talent, as no game is possible without referees and coaches, who in most cases volunteer their time.

We mainly target sports associations, but also offer information and advice to media professionals, because journalists have a great influence on how sports are portrayed in society. We want to make a contribution to the appropriate representation of athletes.

We also want to raise awareness of how female athletes in particular are often portrayed in the media. Personal topics such as appearance or family are often in the foreground. We advocate sports reporting that is free of clichés and focuses on athletic performance.

How can people support you concretely?

The good thing is that we can all contribute to a stereotype-free sports culture. It starts with ourselves and with critically examining the (gender) stereotypes in our own heads. What assumptions and expectations do we have, what attributions do we make? Can we do something in our immediate environment to counteract inequalities? We can all be a role model and encourage others.

On our website klischeefrei-sport.de, we will soon make visible stakeholders who, as an institution, association, club, with projects, events or various practical examples, are committed to equal opportunities and stereotypical freedom in sports. We want to make this commitment visible, network it and invite people to follow suit. We are very happy to receive suggestions from the sports community!

And of course, you can follow us on Instagram or LinkedIn and continue to share the stereotype-free idea.

What does diversity mean to you personally?

To me, diversity means recognizing that we are made up of different experiences and characteristics that affect how we view the world. This diversity can be both enriching and vulnerable to discrimination, so it requires heightened attention. Diversity encourages us to be open to self-reflection and new perspectives. It is a source of diverse experiences and offers the opportunity for personal growth.

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