Why There Is Too Much Talk in Sport and What You Need To Do About It

I received some great career advice once. I had just completed a stint in a senior position, so had some scheduled feedback from the ‘big boss’ to talk about my performance. The first thing he told me was that my facial expressions often give away exactly what I am thinking. Yes, my face is like an open book as my mother used to tell me, which in the context of leadership, is not always a good thing. So my first piece of useful advice was to be conscious of that and perhaps practice my poker face a bit more. This is something that I am still practicing. Suffice to say, a poker player I am not!

The second piece of advice was far easier to follow. My boss said;

“There are three types of people in the world;

1. Those that make things happen

2. Those that watch things happen

3. Those that wonder what happened.

Make sure you are always in category number one.”

When it comes to gender equality and inclusive workplaces, I am most certainly in category number one. Now I work to make sure that leaders in sport and business can be in that first category too. 

Too Much Watching and Wondering

There is no doubt in my mind that there has been too much talk and too little action when it comes to advancing women into sports leadership. The issue of gender diversity is a well admired, watched and wondered about phenomena. The facts about the watching and wondering are captured in my research paper “Moving Gender Diversity from Conversation to Action”. The brutal truths of reality in sport are also captured in the report and include the fact that despite women comprising 57.3% of the 220, 000 strong paid sports workforce, leadership in sport is dominated by men.

Australian sports organisations are made up of;

  • 92.9% Male CEOs;
  • 71.2% Male Executives;
  • 87.6% Male Chairs;
  • 72% Male Board Members.

To put it bluntly, sport in Australia is largely governed and led by men. 

Picture: Herald Sun

Be a Category #1 Person

If you are reading this, you are clearly in the first category. You are one of the “Make it Happen” types. However, make it happen is easier said than done I have found. Especially when it comes to shifting the needle on equality in sport.

I am not going to spout any more figures, or quote the business case, or provide any more justification about why it’s important for us to create a more gender equal, diverse and inclusive sports leadership environment. That ship sailed long ago. However, I am going to tell you how you can start the process to move from conversation to action your organisation. Whether it’s in sport or not. 

3 Questions for Leaders to Ask

When you are next with your leadership team or board, there are three questions that you must ask, then set about answering, to ensure that your organisation is tapping into the significant benefits that being inclusive and gender balanced will provide.

  1. Do we know our own brutal truths of reality when it comes to women?
  2. Do we understand the lived experience of our female employees, supporters, fans, sponsors and suppliers?
  3. Does our organisation have a winning strategy when it comes to women?

If the answers to any of those questions are no, then it’s time for you to stop talking and start doing so your female employees, supporters, fans, sponsors and suppliers feel welcome, are included and belong in your organisation.  

3 Actions for Leaders to Take

  1. Ask for a collective commitment from your leadership to take action.
  2. Diagnose your status quo (brutal truths of reality) where are you now, what are the facts, what are the numbers?
  3. Define the problem to solve and what success looks like.

There is undeniable evidence that advancing more women in sports leadership is a win/win for sport and women. So now is the time for sports leaders to stop the conversation and start the action.  

If your organisation needs to move from conversation to action on gender diversity, then contact Michelle for advice and guidance about your next best move.

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