The way in which organisations are governed and led has a major impact on their performance. Sport has much to learn from other sectors and in particular from the corporate world. Extensive research among leading businesses shows that diverse boards make for better decision-making and more effective organisations. Companies where women hold at least 30% of senior management positions are significantly more successful and better able to deal with future challenges.
Internationally, the impetus to empower women through leadership promotion in sport is strong. The United Nations recognises the use of sport to promote gender equality and empower women, the International Olympic Committee is promoting the need for more women in positions of leadership and the involvement of women who have reached the top in sports administration and former athletes as role models, and the International Working Group on Women in Sport wishes to promote equality by increasing the number of women in leadership positions.
In Australia, whilst figures are increasing slowly, representation of women as the CEO of national sporting organisations remains low (37%) while representation as NSO Presidents is very low (19%). Overall, women comprise only 23% of all board positions on NSOs.
It is important to continue to grow the number of women on Australia’s sporting boards and to help promote inclusive cultures that support women in sport. This will also help to promote the Australian Office for Women’s priority of ensuring women’s equal place in society.
Barriers to female leadership
- Lack of champions and role models: existing leaders are perceived to be reluctant to embrace change and foster female talent in their sport and its governance or management; and as there are so few women in leadership positions, women don’t see a role for themselves.
- Institutionalised structures and recruitment processes: boards are too often comprised of volunteers with unlimited tenure, drawn from the ranks of male dominated participants, with recruitment focused on people already in the sector.
- Lack of female participation downstream: women remain in the minority in many sports clubs, and find it hard to progress into leadership positions and become caught in a vicious circle of misrepresentation.
- Inhospitable culture: sport’s “macho” culture, from the failure of facilities to cater for women, to stereo-typing and discrimination, puts women off participating at grass-roots level and thus progressing up the leadership ladder
- Family-unfriendly career: women remain primary carer in most families, so the nature and timing of sports events imposes significantly on family commitments, in a sector that rarely makes childcare provisions.
The ASC has two programs to assist in redressing this issue:
- Sport Leadership Grants and Scholarships for Women program
- Women in Sport Leadership Register (will be available for access in March)
For more information on these programs, please use the respective tab above.