Gender equality in sport still a challenge for leadership roles


As the world gears up for the start of the Tokyo Olympics - touted as a landmark in gender equality - an Australian report has found women are still being left behind when it comes to leadership roles in our elite sporting bodies.


The Champions of Change Coalition - Sport Group looked at 17 sporting organisations (11 major Australian sporting organisations and six AFL clubs) across national, state and professional club environments.

It found that while there have been improvements in areas of gender equality across some of Australia’s elite sporting organisations, the number of women in top management roles and high performance jobs has dropped over the past financial year.

The Champions of Change Sport Group’s Pathway to Gender Equality in Sport: Progress Report 2019-2020 confirmed that increasing women’s representation in key management personnel and in high performance roles (including coaching) remains a challenge for the sport sector.

Only 30.8% of key management personnel were women in these organisations (down from 38.2% the previous year) and 33.8 per cent for women in high performance roles (down from 35.8% in previous year).

The report tracks improvement on group-wide and organisation performance on gender equality across five key categories of:

  1. leadership
  2. participation
  3. pathway
  4. investment
  5. practical actions.

First launched in 2019, the Champions of Change Pathway to Gender Equality in Sport framework was the first collaboration to bring together leaders across the sport sector to monitor and report on a consistent set of measures to accelerate gender equality in sport, including pay equality.

The report showed that many of the organisations who participated had a greater board gender balance in 2019-20 as compared to the previous year. There was also a sharp increase in promotion and public appearance opportunities afforded to women athletes in the same period.

Key findings include:

  • 35.3% of of the organisations have achieved gender balance of Board Directors (40–60%), up from 29.4%
  • 49.5% of total funded development pathway opportunities are for female athletes, up from 39.0%
  • 47.1% of organisations have achieved equity in prize money for elite athletes/teams, up from 43.8%

In a statement, the coalition said: “The overall pace of change is slow across the industry and there is some way to go to achieve gender equality, particularly in terms of women in leadership and progress towards pay equality for elite women athletes.”

Nick Hockley, CEO of Cricket Australia, said now is more important than ever to maintain focus on gender equality in the sports sector.

“As leaders, our continued commitment to gender equality, reporting and transparency is critical to informing our strategies and developing comprehensive action plans to ensure we are progressing towards a gender equal future and minimise the adverse effects of the pandemic on gender equality."

Reporting in the Pathway to Gender Equality in Sport requires organisations to measure women’s representation in governance and leadership as well as participation and track talent pipelines into both individual organisations and sports.

Elizabeth Broderick AO, Champions of Change Coalition Founder, and Sport Group Convenor said the sport industry has the ability to influence gender equality globally.

“Sport has unparalleled influence to shift cultures and mindsets across the world. Our Members have stepped up and committed to transparent annual reporting and review, so we can accelerate the pace of change and move our organisations towards equality – for the benefit of all women athletes, coaches, leaders, participants and fans.”

´╗┐The sporting organisations who participated were:

  1. Basketball Australia
  2. Carlton Football Club
  3. Collingwood Football Club
  4. Cricket Australia
  5. Football Australia
  6. Geelong Football Club
  7. Golf Australia
  8. National Rugby League
  9. Netball Australia
  10. Racing Victoria
  11. Richmond Football Club
  12. Rowing Australia
  13. Rugby Australia
  14. St Kilda Football Club
  15. Swimming Australia
  16. Tennis Australia
  17. Western´╗┐ Bulldogs Football Club

Download the full report HERE

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