With 93% of CEO roles and 71% of Executive roles in sport occupied by men, there is no doubt that men can be the solution to the problem of gender inequality, in sport and in business. These powerful men have a responsibility to deliver many things, including sustainable, enduring growth and prosperity for the sports industry, associations and clubs.

I am counting on these powerful men to take action and deliver results that are economically sustainable AND gender equal, because the two are not mutually exclusive.

Fast Facts About Men in Sport

Here are some fast facts about men in sport from my latest research:

  • 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;
  • 70.6% of men believe they are not, nor will be, disadvantaged due to gender inequality initiatives.

Now, you don’t have to be a mathematician to realise that there are a substantial percentage of men who are convinced or indeed, may already be working towards gender equality in sport. Fabulous!

However, the sharp eyed reader will also note that there are still a reasonable proportion, around 30% – 40% of men,  who do not consider that either gender inequality exists and/or that it is a problem. Given the well proven business case for gender equality (why wouldn’t you want to add $4.5 Trillion to the Asia Pacific economy?) it is perplexing, but also consistent with what we already know about the complex and contradictory views that Australia has about women, work and leadership.

Why Are Men Are Not Engaging?

When examining both the the numbers and the sentiment from the research in more detail, we can see that there is a concerning level of disengagement from the discussion abut gender equality.

Perhaps male disengagement from the debate (and logically, the action) about gender inequality is caused by and causing differences in, the ways that men perceive gender inequality to women? Put simply, if you ask a man about gender inequality and then ask a woman, you are highly likely to receive very different responses about  what gender (in)equality actually is.

Is it these differences, and/or how the differences and debate is managed, that is causing men’s disengagement from the issue? Are men are fearful of treading into territory that they see as the domain of women? Are men are simply disinterested? Perhaps men simply do not want to relinquish the unearned privilege and power that society has awarded them with?

Irrespective, I maintain that men are the solution when they hold power.

The question is, how to get more of them involved and taking action, not just talking!

What Do Men Say?

When I was finalising my second Advancing Women in Sport research report, I wanted to make sure that men had a voice. So I asked men in my sports network to contribute to the report with their own comments.

The gender imbalance traditionally in football is quite prevalent. But still, the facts, when presented somehow hit you in the face like a tonne of bricks! This research is not only a catalyst for change but a measure for positive growth.

Sam Butler

Former AFL Footballer, West Coast Eagles

Women are paving the way for inclusion in sport, not just through breaking the gender barriers for participation, but by being open about their sexuality and taking prominent stances on social justice issues. We value the positive impact of diversity and inclusion, and when women are represented in all levels of sport — in playing groups, employment, and on boards and committees — we see ripple effects throughout not just sport, but also the wider community.

James Lolicato & Jason Ball

Directors and Co-founders, Pride Cup Australia

Contradiction Abounds!

Women are woefully under-represented in leadership in sport. Women are paving the way in sport. Contradictory views which clearly is an issue when it comes to accelerating the current glacial pace of progress. However it can be agued that both statements are true,  because we are seeing women taking action, but we are not seeing the numbers of women in leadership change. What is also true is that to date, I would argue that the  majority of the heavy lifting to create a gender balanced, inclusive, prosperous and sustainable sporting industry in Australia has been done by women.

So that’s why I am calling on those of you who are powerful men, to step up to the plate, take a swing and to help all of us achieve a home run for gender equality in sport and society. I’m counting on you to do it, as are 220, 000 other people employed in the sporting sector in Australia.

Want to know more about moving gender diversity from conversation to action in your workplace? Contact Michelle for a confidential, no obligation discussion.

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