Episode 3: Moving from awareness to action for gender equality in sport

Moving from awareness to action for gender equality in sport is easy to say, and as the latest statistic prove, harder to do

When I started to research how wide the gender gap in sport was, I was very very surprised. I had laboured under the belief that sport was more equal and more inclusive than business. In fact, that theory was going to underpin my (now defunct) doctoral studies on gender equality.   

So imagine my surprise when I became aware of the paucity of women in leadership in sport! Surprise turned to awareness, then awareness turned to action. I was and still am determined to close the leadership gender gap in sport.

This is why the Advancing Women in Sport research series and now the Advancing Women in Sport podcast exist. To not only build awareness but to help all of us move that awareness to action so all of us in the sports industry can drive meaningful change for women.


Facts and data start useful conversations and useful conversations can turn into action. Data is also a useful way to create the aha moment that I seek in leaders who want to understand how to increase the performance of their organisation through greater diversity and inclusion. Check out these data points about people who work in sport in Australia:

  • 58% of SPORTS WORKERS are women
  • 11% of BOARD CHAIRS are women
  • 12% of CEOs are women
  • 29% of BOARD DIRECTORS are women
  • 32% of EXECUTIVES are women
  • 59% of NON-MANAGERS are women
  • 67% of CLERICAL WORKERS are women
  • 60% of COMMUNITY WORKERS are women

These statistics about sport speak for themselves. Women are under-represented in leadership in sport. Women are over-represented in non-leadership roles. And, as a result, the gender pay gap in sport yawns widely.

Sport is run and governed largely by men. So what are the men in power doing to address systemic gender inequality in sports leadership?


The collective effort to address gender inequality in sport must include men. Because they hold the power to make change!  But not enough men are actively engaged or engaging in discussions or taking action on, gender inequality.  Not enough men are proactively seeking out ways to level the playing field for women in sport.

Facts about men in sport that my research discovered:

·        63.1% of men in sport agree that gender inequality exists. 
·        59.5% of men in sport agree that gender inequality in sport is a problem.
·        51.3% of men in sport believe their organisation should progress gender equality initiatives. 
·        86.9% of men in sport believe they have a role to play in creating gender equality.
·        29.4% of men believe they are, or will be, disadvantaged due to gender inequality initiatives.

Now, you don’t have to be a mathematician to realise that there is a substantial percentage of men who are not yet convinced or indeed, may be against gender equality in sport. But you would also note that there are weirdly contradictory numbers in that data set, ie: 86.9% of men know they have a role to play in creating gender equality. Perplexing, but also consistent with what we already know about the complex and contradictory views that Australia has about women, work and leadership.

Women’s Stories of Gender Equality in Sport  

The fact that men are not engaging in gender equality in sport is jaw-droppingly obvious to many people, particularly those women who work in the industry.  Irrespective of why men are not (currently) engaging, I remain passionately committed to solving the thorny issue of the lack of women in sport and business leadership. I am engaging with men to try to understand then eliminate, the barriers to them not being involved in and actively working towards gender equality. After all, there is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that gender equality initiatives will benefit men. There is also not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that gender inequality is not just a women’s issue.

However, it is important to hear about the lived experience that women in sport have. Because women in sport are not just a statistic. I have interviewed 8 women in sport about their lived experience in my podcast, the Advancing Women in Sport podcast.  

Season 1 is called Not just a Statistic: stories of women in sport from career start to the boardroom.” The 8 interviews, released weekly from 8th March 2022,  are with women athletes, coaches, administrators, broadcasters, directors and more. The women identify in many ways and represent the many intersectional communities that sport serves. They share their experience in sport, both the good and the bad, with me. They also share what their call to action is for all people in sport to close the leadership gender gap.

So if you want to move from awareness to action for gender equality in sport, you must tune in. You can download the episodes HERE and on all the usual podcast platforms.