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In sport, like many other industries, women are generally under-represented in leadership and governance positions.

While AusPlay data shows high participation at grassroots levels, other data suggests that women are not transitioning through the pathway to professional or high performance roles. 1, 2, 146 This includes board appointments, executive leadership, high performance coaching and officiating roles, and media. While various reasons are suggested for why, it seems a series of social, cultural and sometimes procedural barriers remain.


In 2022, approximately 49% of Australian sport and recreation administrators and 64% of team managers were women. 1
In 2023, 22% of CEOs, across 65 Australian Sports Commission funded National Sporting Organisations were women. 2
In 2023, 25% of Board Chairs across 65 Australian Sports Commission funded National Sporting Organisations were women. 2
In 2022, approximately 40% of Australians who participated as a coach, instructor, trainer or teacher in the sport and recreation sector were women [aged 15+]. 1
In 2022, approximately 44% of Australians who participated as officials were women [aged 15+].  1
18% of Australian accredited coaches at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and 23% at the Paralympic Games were women.  3
51% of Australian athletes were women during the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. 4, 5
At the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games 85% of Olympic sports and 59% of Paralympic sports had an equal number of medal events for women and men. 6, 7


Leadership and governance

Improving gender diversity in leadership and governance helps create stronger and more sustainable organisations.

Coaching and officiating

Like other aspects of sport, coaching and officiating have traditionally been male-dominated activities.

Professionalisation and pay equity

Recognition of women in sports’ skill and value is growing, but challenges remain for professionalisation and pay equity.

Media coverage and representation

In Australia, and internationally, men are more likely to feature in the media (both playing and commentating).

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  60. How female cricket coaches are blocked by the league of gentlemen, Raf Nicholson, The Guardian, (17 May 2019).
  61. Women rarely coached high-level footy when Michelle Cowan forged her path, but that has changed with the AFLW, Erin Delahunty, Siren Sport/ABC, (5 February 2022).
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  63. 'Little bit surprised': NRL appoints first female referee, Adam Pengilly, The Sydney Morning Herald, (15 July 2019).
  64. Kate Jacewicz says time will tell if she's a trailblazer despite A-League refereeing debut, Simon Smale, ABC News, (22 January 2020).
  65. 'Nothing will change': More is needed to boost Australian women's referee numbers, AAP/SBS, (20 September 2019).
  66. Two female referees to officiate same game for first time in NBA history, Chris Bengel, CBS Sports, (2015).
  67. WNBA announces officials for WNBA Playoffs 2021, NBA, (22 September 2021).
  68. WNBA Announces The Officials For The 2018 Playoffs, WNBA, (20 August 2018).
  69. World Triathlon strikes gender balance in technical officials for Paris 2024, Geoff Berkeley, Inside the Games, (13 March 2023).
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  71. Women Are Largely Untapped Resource In Alleviating Youth Sports Referee Shortage, Bob Cook, Forbes, (16 June 2017).
  72. Debate over experience keeps door shut to female coaches seeking to enter men's sport, Kasey Symons, The Guardian, (10 November 2020).
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  87. Rugby Australia, Super Rugby Clubs and Players finalise new CBA, Rugby Australia, (16 March 2023).
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  134. Sugar and spice, fire and ice: the changing dynamics of women’s cricket and social media, Mrinal Asija, Siren, (22 November 2022).
  135. ‘You feel a need to inspire and be active on these sites otherwise...people won’t remember your name’: Elite female athletes and the need to maintain ‘appropriate distance’ in navigating online gendered space, Molly Pocock, Michael Skey, New Media & Society, (27 January 2022).
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  141. Insights & Impact Report: Edition 2, AFL Players Association, (June 2023).
  142. Holding up a mirror to cricket, The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC), (June 2023).
  143. ECB responds to ICEC report on equity in cricket, which finds evidence of discrimination across the game, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), (26 June 2023).
  144. State of Play Survey 2022-23, Change our Game, Victorian Government, (June 2023).
  145. The volunteer capacity of community sports clubs to support women and girls in sportChange Our Game, (2023).
  146. Women in High Performance Coaching: Fixing the leaky pipeline action plan, Michelle De Highden, Patrick Sharry, David Joyce, Pip Taylor, Australian Sports Commission, (November 2023).
  147. Shaping attitudes: Exposure to women coaches and officials influences children and parent perceptions, Victoria University for Change our Game, (April 2024).


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