When I first started out to understand what it was really like for women working in the sporting sector in Australia, I thought I wasn’t going to be surprised. I know a reasonable amount about the sporting sector, particularly from an administration or non-athlete perspective. I also know a lot about leadership, advancing women and identifying and removing the organisational barriers to women advancing into leadership.

I Was Surprised and Shocked

But I was surprised. I was staggered to see that the statistics related to gender equality in the Australian Sporting Sector were much worse than I had anticipated. For example, women represent a mere 3.9% of CEO’s in the sporting sector as compared to roughly 13% female CEO’s in the ASX200 (which is also a deplorable figure for a ‘developed’ country!)

I’m shocked at the gaps in sheer numbers and of the lack of parity, especially when it comes to pay.  However when I dove deeper into the data from my research into the sporting sector, I became acutely aware of the endemic issues, barriers and systematic discrimination women working there are facing. For example, 70% of women believe their gender has caused them to miss out on a salary increase, promotion or chance to get ahead.

Michelle Redfern Advancing Women in Sport

This is despite a 2014 statement from Gillon McLachlan stating that the industry needed to lift its game and this starts at the top. 4 years down the track, not much has changed for women and diversity in sport in Australia.  So what is getting in the way?

‘We need greater diversity in our industry generally. I think to do that it has to start at the top, and I’m committed to a more diverse-looking industry and a more diverse-looking AFL.’  – Gillon McLachlan

Nevertheless, They Persist

Whilst women working in the sporting sector have told me that they think that being a woman is a significant disadvantage to their sporting sector career prospects, they continue to persist and persevere. Why?

The top 3 reasons why women persist in the comparatively tough sporting sector are:

  1. Because they are committed to doing challenging, inspiring work;
  2. Because they want to make a difference in the world and they understand how sport can achieve that;
  3. Because they are committed to helping their sporting organisation excel and grow.

The conclusion is that leaders in the sporting sector generally have good intent and a desire to make a change for the better with regard to women, inclusion and diversity. However, the maturity of the sporting sector is low when it comes to initiating and driving enduring strategies and positive change.

The Female Economy

Women make between 75% and 85% of buying decisions and increasingly wield more corporate buying power. Failure to engage women is a loss of additional revenue from the female wallet as in Australia alone, women made the decisions about $818 Billion worth of purchases. How much of that $818B came your organisations way?

The next time your organisation is assessing its membership numbers, corporate sponsorship profile and revenue performance against target, stop and consider if you have effectively tapped into the female economy.

Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  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 or suppliers?
  3. Does our organisation have a winning strategy when it comes to women?

Advancing Women in Sport Michelle RedfernFor the brutal truth, about the statistics, the sentiment and attitudes of women working in the Australian sporting sector, download my infographic.

Not Just Admiring the Problem!

There is no point piling more research onto the pile that already exists about the poor state of the nation for women in Australia.  There is also no point in me sitting back and admiring the problem. It’s time to get sh*t done about gender equality, inclusion and the advancement of the highly qualified, highly talented and highly frustrated women working in the sporting sector.

With #GSD in mind, here’s what I’m doing:

  • Advisory in Sport: by advising Boards, CEO’s & Execs in the sporting sector (who are predominantly male) about how to attract, engage and develop commercially viable and sustainable relationships with women, I am ensuring sport will be more enduring and sustainable. Whether it’s  athletes, employees, volunteers, corporate partners, suppliers, clients, members or supporters, the industry needs ti disrupt its prevailing pattern of thinking and begin to diagnose, design and deliver environments, products and services that tap into the female economy.

  • Advancing Woman in Sport:   I facilitate design thinking sessions to identify the unmet needs of the target market, whether the market is female talent at all leadership levels, fans, supporters, sponsors, community or suppliers. By diagnosing your clubs problem, a bespoke solution is developed that provides a competitive edge. To win, on and off the field.
  • Leadership in Sport:  The Advancing Women leadership program is customised to industry and delivered in various formats and durations so as to suit female athletes, female employees as well as being ideal for corporate partner programs and community outreach. This 3 phase approach involves business skills capability building, a curated alumni and technology driven mentoring program (the same one used by the Olympic movement)
  • Speaking in Sport:  I am not just a talking head!  I design and deliver really smashing events that engage the audience, of all genders, from all walks of life and business. I’ve provided this end to end service for AFL Clubs, ASX listed companies, Universities and professional women’s networks, including my own social enterprise which has more than 3000 female members.

I Know a Lot About Advancing Women

I also know a lot about leadership, creating high performance teams, identifying and removing the organisational barriers to women advancing, as well as how to turn businesses around so that they flourish, thrive and meet the needs of their people, customers and communities.

The truth in business is that it often takes an outside in perspective to help identify where the opportunity to initiate or accelerate a business improvement opportunity is. Sport is no different. I’m looking forward to updating my research in 12 months time and seeing the attitudes, sentiment and success of women, that work in sport, play sport, support sport and spend money on sport, change for the better.

What Now?

  • Download my Women in Sport Infographic.
  • Request access to the full body of research into the data, attitudes & sentiments of women in the sporting sector.
  • Book a short telephone call to discuss where to now for your organisation.
  • Book a unique and bespoke diagnostic session for your organisation.
  • Email me to initiate or accelerate your organisations gender diversity plan. 

Michelle Redfern Advancing Women Founder


© Copyright 2019 Michelle Redfern