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Kate O'Halloran the Advancing Women in Sport podcast
Dr. Kate O’Halloran: The Impact of Gendered Online Abuse in Sports Media

About Dr. Kate O’Halloran

Kate is an award-winning journalist, media consultant, and academic, and is currently working for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as Digital Sport Journalist. In 2019, Kate cofounded Siren, a women in sport collective calling for better coverage of women’s sport and raising the voice of women and marginalised identities in media. 

Kate has completed a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Psychology, as well as a Postgraduate Diploma in Cinema Studies at the University of Melbourne. She also completed a PhD in Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney.

In 2019, Kate was awarded the VicHealth award for Outstanding Reporting of Women’s Sport, and in 2018 was shortlisted for a Quill Award for Excellence in coverage of Women in Sport. She was also shortlisted for Excellence in Sports Programming at the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia Awards for her radio show and podcast ‘Kick Like a Girl’.

On Gender Discrimination in Sport

In her interview with Michelle, Kate walks us through her experience playing sport, moving from boys’ cricket, to girls’ cricket, and going on to become a player for the women’s Victorian squad. Having played amongst boys in her earliest years, Kate observed stark differences in the ways that teams were treated and resourced, as the girls team received poorer facilities, coaching and training, and enjoyed far less prestige.

Kate says it was “a bit of a culture shock”, moving from an environment of privilege that came with more kudos and access to better facilities, to an environment in which girls were deprioritised for training, and forced to play on substandard grounds.

Kate says, when girls and women are not given inadequate grounds to play on, their game suffers. She says, “It breeds a sort of resentment, but also sends a very clear message that [girls and women] are inferior”. She adds,

“You provide us with less quality facilities, resources, investment, et cetera, and that plays out in the end product”.

Unfortunately, Kate’s time playing cricket was cut short after she incurred injury to her back. She says, due to limited resourcing and investment in women’s sport, she received poor medical advice and was forced to give up the game. She says, without the same privileges granted to the men’s team, such as access to medical staff or an income, she was unable to continue playing and at the same time afford regular treatment for her back.

On Gender Inequity in Sports Media 

Moving from cricket to sport media, Kate says the same inequities apply. Not only is there poorer coverage of women’s sport, women in sport journalism too often have insecure work that is either underpaid or unpaid. Take Kate for example, despite her numerous accolades, at the time of this interview, she did not have a paid and secure job in media.

Kate also talks about her experience as a journalist, and the backlash she has received, particularly when writing about gender inequality. Kate says, “I’ve never been able to write about gender inequality in sport without some form of trollling or harassment. Whether that’s online or in person, or conversations in the pub with men or boys who want to tell me that they’re not interested in women’s sport and no one is, and why do I bother writing about it.” Kate says people will go out of their way to justify and minimise gender inequality.

People will go out of their way to justify and minimise gender inequality.

Kate says, after talking to other women in the industry, it became clear to her that her position was not unique. In response, Kate co-founded Siren—an initiative that serves to diversify the newsroom and support women and people of diverse backgrounds to successfully pursue a career in sport media. Siren aims to increase coverage of women’s sport, and appropriately pay those who contribute.

While Siren is a great initiative that serves to disrupt structural inequality, it relies on the hard work of those who are already on the outskirts of mainstream media. Therefore, as Michelle notes, it is an example of how “the burden of inclusion has been placed on the excluded”.

In response to this, Kate says media organisations also need to be held to account to improve the economic wellbeing and experience of women in the industry. According to Kate, “the most successful initiatives require a public commitment, but also accountability to that commitment.”

Kate uses the example of the Women on Boards initiative, championed by the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation Victoria, that required 40% of positions on boards to be occupied by women. According to Kate, this initiative was able to create dramatic change in an area that has been relatively stagnant in its response to gender inequity. She says it was able to do so through the use of quotas, accountability reporting and by tying in funding to requirements.

Kate believes some sports and organisations are doing better than others. For example, she talks about cricket and the success of the T 20 World Cup final in bringing an audience to women’s cricket— she believes, if it were not for the pandemic and widespread fear of COVID, they would have broken their record for attendance.

We’ve Come A Long Way … but

For Kate, watching the women’s cricket at the T 20 World Cup was an emotional experience. Not only because she sadly feels she has missed out on a career in cricket, but more positively because women’s cricket has evolved and is now drawing in largescale audiences. In this way, Kate believes we have made genuine strides forward, though admits there is still much more to do.

Call to Action

Kate calls for media organisations to commit to 50:50; not only in the representation of women’s sport, but the people producing the content. She says organisations need to hold themselves to account by making their commitment public and acting transparently through accountability reporting.  

Michelle also calls for people who are looking to make a difference to turn to non-mainstream media lines, such as Siren, and contribute, whether as a subscriber, writer or investor.

Listen to the Episode

About the Podcast

The need to tell the stories of women in sport and to create a clarion call to action to close the gender gaps in sport has never been stronger. The Advancing Women in Sport podcast goes beyond the statistics about women in sport so that all of us can become more aware of women’s lived experience n sport. We’re uncovering the stories beneath the stats….

In this first season, you will be able to hear the stories of women at different career and life stages, from different sporting disciplines and sectors within the very large sports industry about their lived experience in the sporting sector.

The women interviewed are athletes, coaches, administrators, broadcasters, directors and more. They identify in many ways and represent the many intersectional communities that sport serves. You can tune in via all the usual podcast services or at the podcast website.