My Advancing Women in Sport research tells me that many men are frustrated to the core about the lack of equity and equality in business and in sport. I also know from my research, my work in diversity and inclusion consulting along with conversations with many men that they want to make change happen. Tapping into those and other men’s progressive attitudes, or the desire to be progressive, is critical in the journey towards gender equality. I’m proud that the team of people at Advancing Women is very diverse. So it is a joy to share this reflective piece on the role that men have to play in solving gender inequality by Advancing Women facilitator, Adam Tardif. Adam is a progressive man, and a man who is frustrated to the core about the lack of gender-equal workplaces and sport. Together, we are working to level the playing field for women – in particular in the hyper-masculine, male-dominated sports industry.
A Symbol of Change
In 2017, the Australian Football League, a league that has been largely male-dominated since 1858, started their first women’s football league. In the lead up to the first game to kick off the inaugural season, there was speculation from the general public the crowd would be small. Instead, it was so packed out, the AFL CEO entered the ground at quarter time to announce the gates were closed and publicly apologized to those who could not make it in. In thirty-plus years of going to football games, I had never seen those before.
To us and many others, it was a symbol of significant change for women in sport, a change that appeared to be and still is a very positive step forward, however, soon enough I would learn there is still a long way to go for gender equality.
It is not to say I was not aware that women are treated unfairly in business and sport beforehand, but it was never as abundantly clear to me as it was when I spent time coaching female sporting teams in male-dominated clubs.
Still a Long Way to Go
When it comes to diversity, it is important to note that the clubs I have worked with are doing well, working towards greater inclusivity however at this point there is still a long way to go. What I mostly observed was women working tirelessly to get even the smallest of things, battling for opportunities and basic resources they needed to succeed that come to men far easier.
When I first met Michelle Redfern from Advancing Women in Business and Sport in 2019, it was like that moment when stars align. It was during my time as an assistant coach at Williamstown Football Club for the women’s VFL team. I had never been this close to a powerhouse figure, a warrior for change in gender equality. For me, this is where things went from forming an opinion based on observation to greater awareness of a significant global issue backed by research and data.
The following image is based on research conducted by Advancing Women in Business and Sport in 2018, this image really opened my eyes and frustrated me to the core.
How to Make the Change
In order to make a change to the gender dynamics and bridge the gap demonstrated in the graphic, it is crucial for the men within those environments to:
- Engage in the change;
- Understand the importance of it, and:
- Take action.
When Michelle approached me about joining her dynamic team, I had to pinch myself. Michelle helped me realize the pivotal role I play as a male in effecting change for women in business and sport. This gave me the perfect opportunity to take my frustration and put my energy into action rather than just a conversation.
What Drives Me
What is it that drives me to be actively engaged in change for gender dynamics? I think about the type of environment I would want my future daughter to work or play sport in, I think about the opportunities I would want her to have to succeed, an environment where equality is normal. It matters to me to be part of the solution for my wife, my future daughter/s, women in my family and friendship circles, and women, in general, to have the same opportunities as men do.
Furthermore, what drives me is our son, for him to have a strong understanding of the importance of gender diversity and equality, engaging in the empowerment of women. In order to effect real change in gender dynamics for women in business and sport, we need more men to be involved in that change.
In my opinion, I believe we are moving in the right direction. Thankfully, today there are many businesses and sporting organizations working towards providing greater opportunities for women and inclusive. If we continue going down this path our future looks very bright and I hope I am alive to see it.
This article about being frustrated to the core was written by the very progressive Adam Tardif, Leadership Development Consultant at Advancing Women in Business & Sport.
If you are serious about moving gender diversity from conversation to action in your workplace, organization, club, or industry, then contact us to have a confidential discussion.