People often ask me why I focus on sport in my gender equality advocacy work. I reply that sport is an integral component of Australian society and has featured consistently throughout my entire life, whether as a little person watching from the sidelines when my parents played or as a young person and adult being involved in various team and individual sports.
My First Observation About Sport
I moved my involvement in sport to the side-line when I became older. However I chose to become a contributor, not just a spectator. I coached, managed, scored and eventually became an administrator. My roles in sporting administration enabled me to combine my areas of strength and passion, being leadership, business administration and sport. It also meant that I came face to face with something I hadn’t necessarily observed before then. The sheer lack of women in leadership in the sporting sector.
That awarenessof the paucity of women in leadership (in sport) was the primary driving force behind my choice to create this continuing body of research. However, secondary forces quickly came into play.
- Sheer curiosity. I was genuinely curious to understand if my own observations about sport and the data I had gathered meant that there was a problem with gender inequity in sport.
- When that theory was proved, I decided to deepen my knowledge about the matters that drive and perpetuate the exclusion of women in and out of the sporting arena.
- I did not set out to develop another great body of statistics, data and anecdotes about the woeful under-representation of women in sport. Instead, I set out to create a blueprint for all of us in the industry to drive meaningful change.
My Subsequent Observations About Sport
Observing the state of gender inequity in Australian business and sport over the past few years has been illuminating. My observations, in no particular order:
Observation 1: It is challenging for a layperson (i.e. someone not involved in research, gender equity, equality and inclusion) to gather data and insights about the status of women in leadership in the sporting sector in order to inform their actions;
Observation 2: Activity to address gender inequality in sport in Australia at a system-level appears limited or fragmented;
Observation 3: Men dominate the most powerful roles in sport in Australia and do not yet appear to be actively engaged or engaging in discussions about gender inequality or how to level the playing field for women in sport;
Observation 4: The lack of purposeful intentional discussion and debate about gender equality in sport, particularly at the industry and board level, means that the sports industry has, thus far, failed to leverage the full potential of women from all standpoints, particularly economically.
Why A Sport Podcast and Why Now?
When the global Covid pandemic hit us in 2020, sport was largely decimated. I felt that people in sport, particularly the administrators, simply did not have the capacity to absorb more research. No matter how important it was. So I held off publishing the findings from this third body of research.
That turned out to be a great decision, because I came to the realisation that I could have more impact for women in sport by using one of the most powerful storytelling mediums, podcasting, to tell these important stories. The stories I talk of are of the people in sport that are working to level the playing field for women and girls. So welcome to The Advancing Women in Sport podcast!
In this first season, Not Just a Statistic, you’ll hear from and read about women athletes, elite level coaches, administrators, broadcasters, directors and more. The women we interview identify in many ways and represent the many intersectional communities that sport serves. I look forward to you joining me, weekly from February 2022, for Not Just a Statistic, stories of women in sport from career start to the boardroom.
When people ask me what I do, I say three things:
- I help to fix the system that prevents women from all walks of life from reaching their full potential. The system is industry and workplaces. I work with boards, CEOs executives and leaders to move workplace gender equality, diversity and inclusion from conversation to action and to close the leadership gender and inclusion gap in their organisation.
- I help women from all walks of life to navigate the system that is still so fundamentally stacked against them. Through my corporate women’s leadership development programs, my global businesswomen’s network, A Career that Soars, and through my mentoring and advocacy, I aim to be a human GPS to women who want to succeed.
- And thirdly, I am an advocate for women in sport and I research, advise and consult to the sporting industry about how to close the leadership gender gap in sport.
All three of these things that I do are critically important to close the leadership gap for Women in Sport. That gap still yawns widely, and my advocacy extends to providing sporting administrators and leaders with the tools to do something about it. Contact me if you want to know more and do more for women in sport.