Women in Sport

Women in Sport

Prepared by : Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport
Evaluation by : Professor Clare Hanlon, Susan Alberti Women in Sport, Victoria University (August 2019)
Last updated : 20 July 2020
Content disclaimer : See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer
Women's Sport

Introduction

In Australia, women are under-represented in organised sportas participants, coaches, officials, administrators, and board memberswhen compared to their male cohort. A variety of strategies exist in order to help equalise opportunities for girls and women, however, concerns continue on how gender bias may prevent them from receiving the full benefits that sport and physical activity (PA) can offer.

Key messages

    Participation

    In general women are more likely than men to be insufficiently active [59% compared to 50%, when including workplace PA] and less likely to play sport. AusPlay data shows that 50% of Australian women and 72% of girls regularly participate in sport related activities.

    Leadership

    In 2019, women comprised 24% of CEOs across 63 national sporting organisations (NSOs) funded by Sport Australia, and 15% of the high performance coaches across the system. At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games only 9% of accredited Australian coaches were women.

    Barriers

    Access barriers (time, facilities, transport, cost), cultural barriers (gender roles/expectations, competitive/male oriented sport), self-consciousness, family/caring responsibilities, and a lack of role models can result in girls and women struggling to engage in sport and PA

    Facilitators

    Health, fun and socialising are key motivators for girls and women. Inclusive and less competitive environments can increase their engagement with sport and PA. The provision of entry level and pathway opportunities to learn skills and grow confidence is important (physical, coaching, officiating, administration).

Factors influencing participation

Women’s participation in sport and physical activity is influenced in a multitude of ways. What motivates girls and women to participate will also change over time and factors influencing participation have individual, cultural and social origins. Program designers and providers can leverage the influences that people and environments can have to help motivate girls and women to participate in sport and physical activity programs.

Australian and international research and reports have identified a number of factors that either motivate or provide barriers to women's participation in sport. These factors can be broadly categorised as practical, personal, and socio-cultural.

The AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale national population tracking survey funded and led by Sport Australia. It tracks Australian sport and physical activity participation behaviours to help inform investment, policy and sport delivery. 

Current state

    Women (15+)

    83.9% participate at least 1x per week: 65.4% 3x per week in sport and physical activities. 

    50.1% of women do at least some sport related activities; 40.3% participate in non-sport related activities only.

    Girls (under 15)

    61.1% participate one time per week; 22.8% three times per week in organised (out of school hours) physical activities.

    72.2% of participating girls do at least some sport related activities. 

    Non-playing roles (15+ only)

    14.4% of women (over the age of 15) participate in a non-playing role in sport. 

    The most common roles are: coach/instructor/trainer; official; administrator/committee member. 

    Top activities (girls)

    1. Swimming
    2. Dancing (recreational)
    3. Gymnastics
    4. Netball
    5. Football/soccer
    6. Basketball
    7. Athletics (includes jogging and running)
    8. Tennis
    9. DanceSport
    10. Karate

    Top activities (women)

    1. Walking (Recreational)
    2. Fitness/Gym
    3. Swimming
    4. Athletics (includes jogging and running)
    5. Yoga
    6. Cycling
    7. Bush walking
    8. Pilates
    9. Netball
    10. Tennis
Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

Infographic iconAusplay

The AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale national population tracking survey funded and led by Sport Australia that tracks Australian sport and physical activity participation behaviours to help inform investment, policy and sport delivery. Updated data is provided in April and October annually. Some key reports published based on the AusPlay data include: 

  • AusPlay Focus: Women and Girls Participation (PDF  - 1.7 MB). Australian Sports Commission, (November 2017). This publication delves into the participation of Australian women and girls in sport and physical activity, and the difference between male and female patterns of behaviour. It uses AusPlay data collected from July 2016 to June 2017. The data demonstrates that women are girls and women are just as active as boys and men. However, they are more likely to participate in non-sport related physical activity, and less likely to participate in sport-related activities, particularly club based sport. The key motivators for women to be active are physical health, fun, and socialising. Sports can use this information to potentially target future products more effectively to women and girls. The research also showed that parenthood affects many parents active lifestyles - particularly when children are younger. This effect is evident for both parents.   
  • AusPlay Participation data for the sport sector: Summary of key national findings October 2015 to September 2016 data (PDF  - 1.5 MB), and ebook versionAustralian Sports Commission (2016). Information was collected on 20,021 adults (15 years and over) and 3,849 children (5-14 years) over the period from October 2015 to September 2016. Although the AusPlay survey is ongoing, some insights are emerging about the similarities and differences of participation preferences by gender. 69% of children (i.e. under the age of 15) participated in some form of organised sport or physical activity outside of school hours, but only 19% of children are active at least three or more times per week in activities outside of school hours. Participation rates for boys and girls in physical activities were similar, but boys are more likely to participate in club sports than girls, across all age-groups. While sport remains an important form of physical activity throughout life, non-sport related physical activity becomes more important (i.e. in terms of frequency of participation) as we age. Overall, 87% of adults participated in some form of sport or physical activity during the previous 12 months. Generally, there is a decline in the sport participation rate among adults in successive age-groups. Women are more likely to participate in sport or physical activity for physical and mental health reasons and to lose or maintain weight. Men are more motivated by fun/enjoyment and social reasons.

ReadingReading

  • Australian Cricket demonstrates progress as a leading sport for women and girls, Cricket Australia media release, (30 June 2019). Cricket continues to be a sport of choice for women and girls with figures released today as part of the Australian Cricket Census. 
  • AFL attracts world’s highest percentage of female supporters to live sports, Peter Rolfe, Herald Sun, (9 June 2019). Global research of footy fans found that 41 per cent of AFL fans at games were female, compared to 38 per cent of NRL, 25 per cent of English Premier League and 35 per cent of NFL supporters.
  • Female esports in "terrible state", says Team Vitality CEO, Ministry of Sport, (November 2019). Speaking before the Formula One Esports Pro Series final, Maurer said female representation in esports is in a terrible state and everyone involved in the esports ecosystem is challenged with creating the right structure to grow female engagement in professional gaming.
  • Females and esports progress update, interpret, (21 February 2019). Female eSports watchers have a 30% share compared to all eSports watchers; however, it has consistently gained gender share nearly every quarter since 2016. with a total growth of 6% over the last 2 years. Of those that play games considered an eSport on Console/PC, only 35% are female, of those that consider themselves eSports watchers, 30%, and of those that watch eSports leagues, 20%. Casual Gaming, however (defined as those who log many hours on mobile and few on PC/Console) is dominated by females (66%).
  • GO! Run: Closing the gender gap in girls’ participation in sport and physical activity, Hayley Degaust, WellSpring, (1 May 2019). There are many challenges girls can face when trying to participate in sport and physical activity that have contributed to a decline in their participation. GO! Run is a free, running program for girls only, developed to increase girls’ participation in physical activity opportunities by breaking down some the many barriers.  
  • Gym harassment: how sexism, stalking and surveillance stop women working out, Sirin Kale, The Guardian, (3 February 2020). Last week the story of one woman’s harassment went viral, after her gym responded dismissively. Here, others speak out about the unwanted attention they have received
  • Insufficient physical activity: web report, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, (19 July 2019). Participating in regular physical activity provides many benefits for physical and mental health at all ages, and can also help manage biomedical risk factors such as high body weight, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Insufficient physical activity is a key risk factor contributing to disease burden in Australia. Highlights that women were more likely than men to be insufficiently active (59% compared to 50%) and also less likely to do muscle strengthening activities on two or more days per week (22% women and 25% men) and less likely to meet both physical activity and muscle strengthening guidelines (17% men; 14% women). 
  • Suncorp Australian Youth & Confidence Research 2019, Suncorp Australia, (May 2019). In 2017, Suncorp partnered with Netball Australia to launch Team Girls, an initiative to build a nation of confident girls in sport. This movement was a response to the 2017 Suncorp Australian Youth and Confidence Research. In 2019 they conducted the same research again. The results indicated that Australian girls aged 11-17 are significantly less active than boys the same age, less likely to play sport, and more likely to stop playing sport. 1 in 3 girls stopped playing sport because they thought they weren't good at it but many also felt that sport could make them more confident. Parents also believed that sport is a key confidence booster for girls and admitted that their daughters were not doing enough physical activity. The influence of families and friends in supporting girls to be active was recognised by both parents and children. 
  • Time to tackle the physical activity gender gap, The Lancet Public Health (editorial), Volume 4(8), (August 2019). Insufficient physical activity is a leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases and can also negatively affect mental health and quality of life. WHO recognises physical inactivity as a serious and growing public health problem and aims to reduce it by 10% by 2025. An analysis published in The Lancet Global Health, in 2018, found that more than a quarter of adults globally are insufficiently physically active. Across most countries, women are less active than men (global average of 31·7% for inactive women vs 23·4% for inactive men). Policies that tackle the gender gap in physical activity could therefore have a substantial impact on overall population health.
  • Unleashing the Value of Women’s Sport Fact sheet (PDF  - 469 KB), NSW Office of Sport, (2017). Growing sport for girls makes good business sense. It also helps address the gender imbalance in sport participation and contributes to improving health, social and equality issues. 

Report iconReports

  • Children’s Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, AustraliaAustralian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4901.0 (2013). In the 12 months prior to the survey, its estimated that 60% of all children aged 5 to 14-years participated in at least one organised sport activity outside of school hours. Among children (under the age of 15 years), participation in organised sport was higher among boys (67%) than among girls (54%) and the participation rate varied across the States and Territories. The most popular sports for girls were netball, swimming, gymnastics, football (soccer) and basketball. Among boys the most popular sports were football (soccer), swimming, Australian football, basketball and cricket. 
  • Getting girls active: Reducing gender inequality in physical activity (PDF  - 204 KB), Dr Simon Sebire, Professor Russ Jago, Kate Banfield and Professor Angie Page, University of Bristol, Policy Report 11/2017, (2017). Most girls are less active than boys from childhood to adolescence. Creative and concerted efforts are needed to directly address this gender gap. Our research shows that peers, parents, active travel to school and after-school clubs hold promise to help girls become and stay active.
  • Girls and Young Women Profile, Sport New Zealand, (2018). The information in this resource is based on national and international evidence. It is intended to be a starting point to help organisations better understand the experiences and needs of girls and young women. We recognise that the category of girls and young women aged 10–18 includes many diverse individuals with different and evolving needs. Therefore, the high-level themes identified in this resource won’t be true for all girls and young women in this category all the time. We encourage organisations to build on the knowledge in this resource within their own context, to better understand the specifics of the girls and young women they are targeting.
  • National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18 (4364.0.55.001), Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2019). The 2017-18 National Health Survey is the most recent in a series of Australia-wide health surveys conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The survey was designed to collect a range of information about the health of Australians, including: prevalence of long-term health conditions; health risk factors such as smoking, overweight and obesity, alcohol consumption and physical activity; and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.. Includes physical activity data for men and women aged 18-64, including workplace physical activity (for the first time). 
  • National Womensport and Recreation Survey (PDF  - 62 KB), Australian Womensport and Recreation Association (AWRA) (2007). The survey was conducted on behalf of the AWRA in response to the recommendations made in the Senate report ‘About time! Women in Sport and Recreation in Australia’. Respondents were asked to rate the importance of a range of issues in promoting the involvement and participation of females in sport. 
  • Participation and non-participation of people with disability in sport and active recreationAustralian Sports Commission/University of Technology Sydney (2011).
  • Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2013-14Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4177.0 (2015). Analysis of data from the 2013-14 ABS Multi-Purpose Household Survey (MPHS). Overall, an estimated 60% of the adult population (age 15-years and older) reported that they had participated in some form of sport or physical recreation; participation rate by gender was 61% (males) and 59% (females). The highest participation rate occurred among 15-17 year-olds (73.8%) and there was a general decline by age group to the 65-years and over (46.6%). The participation statistics for organised sport are much lower than participation in ‘sport (i.e. social sport) and physical recreation’ in general. The ABS reported that only 28.8% of Australian adults, 15 years and older, engaged in organised sport as a participant; the organised sport participation by gender was 28.8% (males) and 27.3% (females).
  • Perspectives on Sport, 2011, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4156.0.55.001 (2011).
  • Perspectives on Sport – Women in Sport: the State of Play 2013  Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4156.0.55.001 (June 2013). This report uses data from ABS surveys and the 2011 Census to provide a snapshot of women’s involvement in three general forms of sports engagement; playing, facilitating, and watching.  The report examines: (1) female participation in sport and physical activity - as players or taking part in some other physically active role, (2) female involvement in organised sport in a non-playing role, (3) females as spectators at sporting events, (4) female employment in sport, and (5) female volunteers in sport.  The report revealed that women’s participation was almost twice as great in non-organised activities as compared to sport and recreation activities delivered by a club or recreation association.  Of the 5.8 million females who participated in sport and physical recreation in the 12 months prior to the survey, over half (55% or 3.2 million) participated on average at least twice a week.  The data indicated that women who are socially or economically disadvantaged are less likely to engage in physical activities and are more likely to be sedentary in their leisure time.  There is a clear socio-economic gradient, and this is particularly evident in levels of education and income.  Females with advanced degrees or family income above the mean were more likely to participate in sport and active recreation.  In 2010, an estimated 343,100 females (4% of females over 15 years of age) were involved in organised sport or physical activities in a non-playing capacity only; and a further 391,600 were involved in both a playing and non-playing capacity.  Of those females involved in non-playing roles, 40% reported that they had completed a course or qualification relevant to their role.  Women accounted for approximately 37% of spectators at sporting events.  There were large differences in spectator attendance by age-group, with 54% of females age 15-17 years attending and less than 20% of women over the age of 65 attending a sporting event.  According to the 2011 Census, 40,244 females were employed in sport and physical recreation occupations in Australia, an increase of 31% from the 2006 Census.  The most popular vocations for women were ‘fitness instructor’ and ‘swimming coach or instructor’.
  • Press for Progress Report 2018/19: to be the leading sport for women and girls, Cricket Australia, (2019). Second annual report relating to the aspiration 'to be the leading sport for women and girls', set out in the Australian Cricket Strategy 2017-2022. In the past 12 months, important gains continue to be made: most notably, the sustained growth of girls participation and all-girls teams, the ongoing transition to a standalone Women's Big Bash League, and improved gender diversity within the governance of Australian Cricket. 
  • Sport participation rates - aggregation of 12 sports, Victoria 2017: A report prepared for Sport and Recreation Victoria and VicHealth through the Sport Participation Research Program, VicHealth, Federation University, Victoria University, Sport & Recreation Spartial, (May 2019). This report provides the results of an analysis of participation during 2017 in Victorian club-based sport. It combines data from Victorian State Sporting Associations (SSAs) for 12 major sports: Australian Football League, Basketball, Bowls, Cricket, Football (Soccer), Golf, Gymnastics, Hockey, Netball, Sailing, Swimming, and Tennis. Key results relating to female participation include: 
    • Participation rates were higher for males than females in all age groups (Figure 2). Overall, the male participation rate (20.3%) was approximately double that of the female (10.6%); 
    • The largest difference in participation rates was for the 5-9 and 10-14 year age groups. Male participation rate for ages 5-9 (67.1%) female (45.5%) and for ages 10-14 years males (79.3%) and females (55.0%).
    • While the participation rates beyond age 19 were much lower, the difference between male and female participation rates was proportionally greater, with the male rates being more than double the female rates in all age groups.
    • Notwithstanding the large discrepancies between rates of participation, the profile across the lifespan was similar for both males and females.
  • Women and Girls in Sport, Active Recreation and Physical activity - A Participation Review (PDF  - 1.95 MB), Reece, LJ., Foley, BC., McInerney, C., Bellew, B., Bauman, AE., SPRINTER Group, University of Sydney, (2017). The purpose of this report is to provide strategic guidance for increasing participation in women and girls across the lifecourse, in sport, active recreation and physical activity. This encapsulates all-encompassing movement that is delivered through the sport and active recreation sector. Critically though, no single domain, policy or program will, in isolation, deliver sufficiently meaningful increases in participation at population level; a comprehensive, multifaceted and multisector approach is necessary. 
  • Women's participation in sport and physical activities (PDF  - 154 KB), Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2006). This paper presents findings relating to the participation of women in sports and physical activity. The results are based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002 General Social Survey and the 2003 Survey of Children's Participation in Selected Cultural and Leisure Activities together with two papers presented at the 2005 National Physical Activity conference and the 2005 Sports Management Association of Australia and New Zealand annual conference. 

Research iconResearch

  • Afterschool school triathlon training for 11- to 14-year old girls: Influences on academic motivation and achievement. Jennifer Gatz & Angela Kelly, Health Education Journal, (November 2017). This study evaluated the effect of a Transformation through Triathlon after school programme in promoting health status, academic motivation and socioemotional development in at-risk girls aged 11–14 years attending middle school in the USA. Qualitative analysis revealed that confidence, interest, and self-determination motivational constructs positively influenced goal setting, strategies, health, fitness, motivation, and academic achievement. The authors suggest that after school community and family inclusive programmes with a structured fitness component increase confidence, self-determination and academic achievement though social support structures. 
  • Chasing Equity: The Triumphs, Challenges, and Opportunities in Sports for Girls and Women (PDF  - 5.2 MB), Women's Sports Foundation, (January 2020). In this report, we examine the state of girls’ and women’s sport in the United States through a broad lens, looking at the triumphs, the challenges, and the tremendous opportunities that are yet to be realized. The areas we focus on include sport participation opportunities for girls and women; the benefits of sport participation for girls and women; the barriers that limit and/or hinder participation; critical health and safety concerns of females in sport; Title IX and its ongoing role in supporting the infrastructure for equal access to sport participation for girls and women; the representation of women working in the sport industry and the climate they encounter while working in sport, including pay equity and equal treatment issues; the level and quality of sport media coverage of female athletes; and the representation of women working in sport media. 
  • Gender and age inequalities in regular sports competition: a cross-national study of 25 European countries, vanTuyckom C, Scheerder J, and Bracke P, Journal of Sports Sciences, Volume 28, Number 10 (2010). This article provides a unique opportunity to compare gender inequalities in sports participation across Europe, and the extent to which this varies by age using large, cross-sections of the population. The Eurobarometer Survey 62.0 (carried out in 2004 at the request of the European Commission and covering the adult population of 25 European member states, N = 23,909) was used to analyse differences in regular sports participation by gender and by age in the different countries. For the majority of countries, the occurrence of regular sporting activity was less than 40%. Additionally, binary logistic regression analyses identified significant gender differences in sports participation in 12 countries. In Belgium, France, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Spain, and the UK, men were more likely to report being regularly active in sports than women, whereas in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands the opposite was true. Moreover, the extent to which these gender inequalities differ by age varies considerably across countries. The results imply that: (i) in some European countries more efforts must be undertaken to promote the original goals of the Sport for All Charter, and (ii) to achieve more female participation in sports will require different policy responses in the diverse European member states.
  • Longitudinal Trends in Sport Participation and Retention of Women and Girls, Rochelle Eime, Jack Harvey, Melanie Charity and Hans Westerbeek, Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, (16 April 2020). Overall 15% of the participants in the particular sport that was the subject of this study played continuously for 7 years. Retention, as defined by three different criteria, was consistently highest for those within the 4–9 year age group. There was a high percentage of people who played this sport, dropped-out and then returned. Further breakdown of ages demonstrated that an optimal starting age for participation in this sport, from the perspective of longevity or retention in the sport, may be 6–9 years. Consideration needs to be given to the age appropriateness of sports programs for very young participants. Strategies specifically relating to retention of girls and young women during adolescence should be developed.
  • The implications of female sport policy developments for the community-level sport sector: a perspective from Victoria, Australia, M. Casey, J. Fowlie, M. Charity, J. Harvey & R. Eime, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, (16 July 2019). This study examined trends in sport participation among females over a six-year period (2011–2016) within five popular sports, by age and region. It also identified future challenges community sports face in increasing female sport participation. Results showed that female sport participation levels increased over the six-year period, with greater proportional increases among the youngest age group (4–9 years) – the common entry age into the organised sport through modified sports programs. Retention of females in sport throughout adolescence and adulthood remains a challenge. Community-level sports face challenges to accommodate growth in female sport participation in terms of availability and quality of sport infrastructure and volunteer capacity – both human resources to deliver sport and organisational capacity to devise and implement strategies to recruit and retain females. They also face challenges associated with the social construction of gender within sport and club environments. Sport policies that encourage female sport participation need to also consider the supply of sport such as maximising infrastructure usage, gender equity facility usage policies and developing volunteer capacity.

resources iconResources

  • The Commonwealth Guide to Advancing Development through Sport (PDF  - 3.9 MB), Kay T and Dudfield O, Commonwealth Secretariat in collaboration with the Commonwealth Advisory Body on Sport (2013). This report provides support to governments and stakeholders seeking to strengthen the contribution of sport to development and peace. Chapter 7 ‘Advancing Gender Equality through Sport’ identifies policy priorities for governments and states that gender equality underpins major development goals, including ensuring education for all, improving child and maternal health, and combating disease. There is a well-established tradition of using sport to address issues of empowerment for girls and women, and sport can act as a powerful mechanism to challenge social attitudes that legitimise unequal female treatment.
  • HERA Toolkit, (accessed 7 May 2020). Whether you’re a coach, teacher or sports organisation we’ve pulled together resources, case studies, videos and research on how best approach getting girls active – have a look for yourself!
  • Women in Sport Communication and Marketing Strategies, Victorian Government Change Our Game, (April 2019). The Change Our Game Women in Sport and Recreation Communication and Marketing Guidelines have been developed in conjunction with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) to assist community sport and recreation organisations looking to develop inclusive communication and marketing practices.

Article iconStrategies

  • No boundaries for women and girls in sport and physical activity (PDF  - 946 KB), Australian Women in Sport Advisory Group, (2019). Our vision is that there are no boundaries for women and girls in sport and physical activity. Our goal is to achieve this by 2025. But what does it look like and how will we know when we have made it? Here we set out what we are striving for, actions to take and measures of success. Key members of the sport sector, governments and industry are onboard.
  • Time for Action: first ever UEFA women's football strategy launchedUEFA, (17 May 2019). UEFA has launched a dedicated women's football strategy for the first time, aiming to double number of female players in Europe by 2024. 
  • Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation, Sport New Zealand, (October 2018). Our Government is committed to championing equality for women and girls in Aotearoa New Zealand. We know there are clear inequalities for women and girls when it comes to participation, and their wider involvement and visibility within sport and active recreation in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Video iconClearinghouse videos

  • Pathway considerations for supporting the Female athlete, Linley Frame, Australian Swimmers Association, Debbie Fisher, Football Federation Australia, Kristen Veal, Basketball Australia COE, Eddie Dennis, South Australian Institute of Sport, Winning Pathways Workshop (13 December 2017)
  • Sport and gender equality, Kate Jenkins, Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Our Sporting Future Conference (16 November 2017) 
  • Growing your game for girls,  Sports Talks, New South Wales Sport and Recreation (20 May 2013). Growing your game for girls not only makes good business sense, it also helps address a gender imbalance in sport participation.  With almost 50% of girls aged 5 to 14 not participating in sport outside of school hours, learning how to engage with this market has long term benefits for your sport.  

Motivators and barriers

    Motivators (women)

    1. Health/fitness 
    2. Enjoyment 
    3. Social reasons 
    4. Psychological/mental health benefits  
    5. To be outdoors/enjoy nature
    6. To lose/manage body weight 
    7. Walk the dog
    8. Active transport
    9. Hobby
    10. Performance/competition

    Barriers (women)

    • Not enough time/too many other commitments
    • Cost (child care, transport, facilities, specific clothing/equipment)
    • Concerns/self-consciousness about appearance, body image, skills
    • Competitive/male dominated sports culture
    • Limited media coverage/role models
    • Social stereotyping (sexuality and ability), harassment
    • Peer pressure (to not participate)

    Barriers (girls)

    Being the wrong age (too old/young) for available activities is the primary barrier for children up to 8 years.

    For girls 9-14 years the main barriers are:

    • Lack of confidence (in competence/self) 
    • Don’t like sport/PA
    • Not enough time/too many other commitments
    • Cost of activities/transport

Socio-cultural factors

girl playing football
Most barriers to sports participation among girls and women have been attributed to sociological and cultural influences.

Gender stereotypes exist across society and within its various institutions. Although social attitudes toward participation by women and girls in sport activities have changed dramatically over time, the predominant social ‘view’ of sport is still a male oriented and dominated activity.

In general very few physical differences exist between boys and girls under the age of 12 years. However, research from the Sport England Active Lives survey (2017-2018) indicates that from seven years of age girls are already reporting less positive attitudes towards, and enjoyment of, physical activity and sport. They also feel less competent and confident in their ability to take part. As girls mature these attitudes and experiences appear to become more entrenched. The complex interaction of factorssocial, cultural, and perhaps biologicalthat impact upon their decision to participate heighten the risk of missing out on the many benefits that sport and physical activity can offer across the life course. 

Gender-related barriers can also have additional impact in certain groups, including culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD), Indigenous, persons with disability or mature-aged women. Access barriers (language, facilities, transport, cost), cultural barriers (dress standards, gender roles/expectations), family/caring responsibilities, and even less role models than women in general can all lead women from these groups to struggle to engage with sport and physical activity. 
Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

ReadingReading

  • Busy mums encouraged to prioritise their own activity levels, Sport England, (17 June 2019). This Girl Can has released a series of new tips, advice and home workout ideas on social media. A survey conducted by Opinium showed that: 61% of mums would feel guilty about taking time to exercise; a lack of time is keeping busy mums from exercising, with 30% reporting to have less than an hour free to themselves per day; but with almost 70% of mothers think it is important for their children to see them exercising; and, outside of work, mothers said they were most likely to prioritise tasks revolving around family, such as spending time with them, housework and cooking, but only 17% of the 1,006 respondents prioritised their own exercise.
  • #FITSPO a flop at inspiring women to get active: New This Girl Can campaign focuses on the feeling not the scales, VicHealth media release, (1 March 2020). While it might be popular on Instagram, new research from health promotion foundation VicHealth has found most Victorian women are turned off exercise by images of taut and toned #FITSPO influencers. Key findings from a survey of over 1000 Victorian women found that: Around two-thirds of women (66%) aren’t motivated by #FITSPO images of women on Instagram; Over three-quarters of women find seeing women of all different body shapes getting active motivating; A third of women feel bad or inadequate about their own bodies and fitness when they see #FITSPO images on Instagram; and, Almost 80% of women want to see more women with a range of body shapes included in physical activity advertising.
  • GO! Run: Closing the gender gap in girls’ participation in sport and physical activity, Hayley Degaust, WellSpring, (1 May 2019). There are many challenges girls can face when trying to participate in sport and physical activity that have contributed to a decline in their participation. GO! Run is a free, running program for girls only, developed to increase girls’ participation in physical activity opportunities by breaking down some the many barriers. 
  • Suncorp Australian Youth & Confidence Research 2019Suncorp Australia, (May 2019). In 2017, Suncorp partnered with Netball Australia to launch Team Girls, an initiative to build a nation of confident girls in sport. This movement was a response to the 2017 Suncorp Australian Youth and Confidence Research. In 2019 they conducted the same research again. The results indicated that Australian girls aged 11-17 are significantly less active than boys the same age, less likely to play sport, and more likely to stop playing sport. 1 in 3 girls stopped playing sport because they thought they weren't good at it but many also felt that sport could make them more confident. Parents also believed that sport is a key confidence booster for girls and admitted that their daughters were not doing enough physical activity. The influence of families and friends in supporting girls to be active was recognised by both parents and children. 
  • Time to tackle the physical activity gender gap, The Lancet Public Health editorial, (22 July 2019). The physical activity gap between boys and girls begins early. Children's exposure to narrow gender norms around boy's versus girl's activities and a failure to adapt the types of sports offered can instil this lack of enjoyment and body confidence, and in turn shape attitudes to physical activity into adulthood. Indeed, many women are put off by certain physical activities over concerns about stereotypes, because of insecurities around body image, or feeling constrained by cultural acceptability. Women and girls' sport generally receives less investment at the grassroots level—including access to equipment, transport, and coaching, and to safe and welcoming facilities. Women still often play the lead role in childcare and managing households—for many, in addition to paid work—which means they generally have less leisure time.
  • Unleashing the Value of Women’s Sport Fact sheet (PDF  - 469 KB), NSW Office of Sport, (2017). Growing sport for girls makes good business sense. It also helps address the gender imbalance in sport participation and contributes to improving health, social and equality issues.  
  • Why Girls Play Sports: Are Girls Motivated Differently in Various Parts of the World?, Global Nomads World, (26 November 2019). Author raises questions about different motivations to participate in sport in Europe and based on a program in India. In Europe key motivators included: Keeping fit; improving physical appearance; controlling weight; maintaining health; relaxation. In India the girls reported wanting to feel: strength, confidence, safety and fun. Additionally, activities of choice were different between the European and Indian groups. The author concludes by saying that "Undoubtedly as grassroots girls sports programs continue to grow and flourish in different parts of the world, it will be very important to better understand the needs and motivations of different groups in order to best develop girls sports programs to help serve these needs." 

Report iconReports

  • Active Lives Children and Young People Survey: attitudes towards sport and physical activity academic year 2017/18, Sport England, (March 2019). More than 130,000 children and young people were surveyed in the academic year 2017/18, with participation figures published in December. This new analysis has identified five key findings that give us further insight into the attitudes of children and young people towards sport and physical activity. One of the key findings of the report is that enjoyment is the biggest driver of activity levels. Despite the majority of children (68%) understanding that sport and activity is good for them, understanding had the least impact on activity levels. However, girls are less likely to say they enjoy or feel confident about doing sport and physical activity. (58% of boys enjoy it, compared to 43% of girls. 47% of boys feel confident, compared to 31% of girls.) Among children aged 5-7, boys are more likely to love playing sport, while girls are more likely to love being active.
  • Actively engaging women and girls: Addressing the psycho-social factors (PDF  - 1.10 MB), Johnstone L and Millar S, Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (2012). This resource supplements material published as part of Canadian Sport for Life (CS4L) foundation documents, which are part of ‘Long-Term Athlete Development’ (LTAD) resources. Psycho-social factors relate to: autonomy and control; involvement and empowerment; social capital and social cohesion; social support and support networks; social diversity and tolerance; vulnerability and security, and; role conflicts and imbalance. These psycho-social factors can either contribute to, or discourage, girls and women from sport and physical activity participation; depending upon the actions taken by parents, peers, coaches, educators, officials, and leaders. Factors identified in this report as enabling participation include:
    • perceived and demonstrated value of the activity;
    • positive perception of one’s own skills and ability;
    • progress in the successful mastery and refinement of skills;
    • high self-esteem and positive perceptions of physical competence;
    • positive self-perception of physical appearance;
    • experiences that are enjoyable and satisfying;
    • acceptance of one’s actual or perceived sex, gender identity and/or gender expression;
    • acceptance of one’s socio-economic status, race, culture, disability;
    • feelings of cohesion, belongingness, emotional support from peers and others;
    • effective conflict resolution; and,
    • a sense of security.
  • Coaching through a Gender Lens: Maximizing Girls’ Play and Potential,  Zarrett, N., Cooky, C., & Veliz, P.T., Women’s Sports Foundation, (2018). The report indicates a number of positive ways parents, coaches, and programs are meeting the needs of girl athletes, and programs tell us more can be done to help address the challenges of recruiting and retaining girls in sport.
  • Count Us In: developing physical activity programs for womenVictorian Government and Victoria University (2007). This publication provides advice to program providers in private, community, sport and leisure organisations on developing physical activity programs for women, retaining participants, and evaluating the success of programs.  These guidelines have been developed from the findings of a three year research project, Count Us In: Developing Physical Activity Programs for Women.
  • Engaging culturally and linguistically diverse Queenslanders in physical activity: findings from the CALD Physical Activity mapping project (PDF  - 347 KB), Queensland Health, (2010). This project explored what physical activity initiatives were available in Queensland for CALD communities, the extent to which mainstream initiatives engaged CALD communities and CALD community awareness of and access to physical activity initiatives. Includes some case studies and information relevant to engaging CALD women in sport and physical activity. 
  • Go where women are: Insight on engaging women and girls in sport and exercise (PDF  - 1.5 MB), Sport England (June 2015). This review explores our current understanding of what women want from sport and exercise programs; their relevant motivations, barriers, and triggers that prompt them into being more active. This review also identifies what this means for sports and exercise activities and initiatives, so that program deliverers can adjust to the needs of women and girls. Seven key principles for program providers are discussed: (1) change the offer to suit the women being targeted, listen to marketing and customer experiences of women; (2) don’t just talk about sport, consider how to present and explain the intended experience; (3) differentiate sport from other interests by promoting (not preaching) the benefits; (4) make sport the ‘norm’ for women of all ages, sizes, and cultural backgrounds by celebrating it; (5) use positivity and encouragement to drive action (rather than fear of the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle); (6) make it easy for women to act, address both practical and emotional barriers to participation; and (7) remember that people make or break the experience, ensure participants are properly supported along the way.
  • HSBC Women in Sports Survey (PDF  - 112 KB), HSBC, (2018). Brief report of a survey undertaken of 684 Australian women who play team sports. Primarily looks at the benefits that women feel they have gotten, personally and professionally, from playing team sports. Almost all women involved in the survey (97.72%) agreed that playing team sports has increased their professional confidence. The vast majority of women (97.66%) agree that involvement in team sports contributes to a successful career. When asked to list these in order of which have provided them with the most benefit to their professional career, the top five were: 1. Teamwork ranked the highest with 22.95% of women agreeing to the benefits this has provided their professional career; 2. Mental strength (13.30%); 3. Confidence (11.99%); 4. Time management (8.48%); 5. Ambition (8.33%). 
  • The Ideal Sports Club for WomenWomen’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) (2011). Sports clubs face a significant challenge in overcoming the negative perceptions that prevent women from being drawn to them.  Sports clubs are still very much associated with competitive participation, and as a result, many women do not think that sports clubs are there for ‘people like them’.  Research commissioned by the WSFF found that the most common motivations women gave for participating in sport were fitness and fun rather than competition and skill acquisition.  Women  want to see sports clubs that are more open and welcoming, that cater for a range of abilities, and that can offer them the greater flexibility so they can fit sport into their increasingly complex and busy lifestyle.
  • Motivations and Barriers to Women Participating in Sport and Netball: Research Report (PDF  - 392 KB), AC Nielsen for Netball Australia, (February 2007). The key objectives of this study were to assist Netball Australia develop effective recruitment and retention strategies by exploring and identifying the motivations and barriers for women to participate in sport in general, and in netball in particular.
  • Muslim Women in Sport (PDF  - 142 KB), Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) and Sporting Equals (2010). This report identifies perceived or real barriers and suggests how sporting organisations can become more inclusive for Muslim women.  In general, Islam promotes good health and fitness and encourages both men and women to engage in physical activity to maintain healthy lifestyles.  However, there are aspects of the religion which affect how sports can be practised by women. For example, their faith does not allow them to engage in mixed gender sports and the environment and dress code also requires consideration.  Due to religious misinterpretations or simply a lack of awareness, many Muslim women face barriers to sports participation.  For many, apprehension about taking part stems from a fear of discrimination or of facing negative attitudes from service providers in relation to their religious and cultural needs.
  • Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls: Building strong foundations for their futuresWomen in Sport, (Apirl 2019). Funded by Sport England this research provides evidence supporting the need to reframe sport and physical activity as something that girls’ value and perceive to enhance their lives. It includes 8 Principles of Success to support organisations to bridge the ‘relevance gap’ in sport for girls and ensure it has a more meaningful place in their lives.seeks to reframe sport and physical activity as something that girls’ value and perceive to enhance their lives. We have developed 8 Principles of Success to support organisations to bridge the ‘relevance gap’ in sport for girls and ensure it has a more meaningful place in their lives. A Toolkit to help organisations implement the Principles is also available. 
  • Retaining the membership of women in sport (PDF  - 1.8 MB), Confederation of Australian Sport, report to the Government of Australia, Office for Sport, Department of Health (December 2013). The multi-dimensional and highly demanding lifestyles of women in Australian society present many challenges and obstacles to the way women engage in sport during their adult life stages. This study provided insights from 1,121 Australian women 'masters sport' competitors on their motivations, challenges, needs, and issues faced in their decision to continue playing sport. The study acquired data from female participants at four Australian Masters Games from 2007 to 2013. On-line survey methods were used to collect data and 21 in-depth, face-to-face interviews with female competitors were conducted during the 14th Australian Masters Games held in Geelong in October 2013. A range of practical issues that would facilitate greater women’s participation in sport were identified in the survey:
    • Provision of child care facilities;
    • Increasing affordability – reducing costs of participation in sporting competition and events;
    • Scheduling of sporting competitions – insights were provided about the structure and timing of sporting competition;
    • Access and availability of local sporting facilities;
    • Access and availability of sports officials and;
    • Promotion of local sporting opportunities – improved advertising and promotion.
  • Strategies to improve sport participation of females from non-English speaking backgrounds, Tracy Taylor and Kristine Toohey, Australian Sports Commission, (1998). Lists a number of recommended strategies that National and State Sporting Organisations could implement to break down barriers. Some of the key strategies put forward to improve participation were: (1) the introduction of pilot programs to attract CaLD groups into sport, (2) training programs for service providers to make them more aware of cultural diversity, (3) development of promotional materials and role model programs to promote sports participation, and (4) the inclusion of more women, particularly from CaLD backgrounds, in sports leadership positions.
  • What sways women to play sport? Using influencers to unlock opportunities that positively impact women’s sporting behaviours (PDF  - 1.7 MB), Women in Sport (2015). Statistics show that in England there are 1.9 million fewer women than men playing sport regularly (at least once per week). This report looks at the motivations behind female sporting participation to help providers gain a better understanding of how to further drive and sustain participation by girls and women. The Behavioural Architects, a research group with specialist knowledge in applying behavioural theory, conducted research on the impact that 'influencers' and 'role models' have on female sporting participation. The study found six key spheres of influence that sport providers can use to leverage greater participation among women:
    • Possibilities – opening her eyes to what she can do. Inspiring women with real stories they can relate to can help to prime participation.
    • Togetherness – sharing her intentions increases commitment. A friend’s invitation makes sport participation more attractive and there is also greater safety in numbers.
    • Socialising with friends is rewarding and bonding becomes a strong external motivator.
    • Support – ensuring she has behind the scenes support. Support from the people in her everyday life (particularly family) is critical to sustained participation.
    • Progression – giving her a sense of direction. Progressive improvement, positive reinforcement and setting realistic goals help sustain participation.
    • Belonging – making her feel included and valued. Participation in sport must be enjoyable and provide an experience worth repeating; personalised contact that underlies respect and recognition.
    • Internalise – helping her reflect on her achievements. Focusing on feeling good about oneself and the sporting experience, internalising her own behavioural journey.
  • Women and Girls in Sport, Active Recreation and Physical activity - A Participation Review (PDF  - 1.95 MB), Reece, LJ., Foley, BC., McInerney, C., Bellew, B., Bauman, AE., SPRINTER Group, University of Sydney, (2017). The purpose of this report is to provide strategic guidance for increasing participation in women and girls across the lifecourse, in sport, active recreation and physical activity. This encapsulates all-encompassing movement that is delivered through the sport and active recreation sector. Critically though, no single domain, policy or program will, in isolation, deliver sufficiently meaningful increases in participation at population level; a comprehensive, multifaceted and multisector approach is necessary. 
  • Women and informal sport: a report for the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (PDF  - 3.2 MB), UK Sports Coach (2013). Social research in the United Kingdom helps to inform sporting organisations about barriers and drivers of women's participation in sport. National governing bodies for sport in the United Kingdom are challenged with encouraging more women to take up sport and physical activity on a more frequent basis.  Latest consumer research suggests that traditional formal sport, as offered by sports clubs, does not appeal to the majority of women and that there is a need for more informal or social based sports programs. This report identifies barriers that prevent women from participating more fully in sport and physical activity, why informal sport activities are more appealing, and what these participants want.  The report also examines the role of the coach.  Three sports and their programs were examined in detail: Football (Just Play), Badminton (No Strings) and Athletics (Run England); participants and coaches in these sports formed the basis for the research conducted.  Reported barriers to participation included: (1) the cost of club membership, equipment, and venue hire; (2) activities that were socially isolating; (3) worry about skill level, and; (4) logistics of organising.  The reported appeal of participation in informal sport and physical activity was: (1) motivation from the group; (2) convenience; (3) fun (no pressure to perform); (4) meeting people and socialising with friends; and (5) visible improvement in fitness and performance.  
  • Womensport West Survey (PDF  - 308 KB), Western Australian Department of Sport and Recreation and Healthways (2007). This survey listed the four most significant barriers to participation by adult women as: (1) family related time pressures, (2) work or study related time pressures, (3) costs, and (4) lack of childcare.

Research iconResearch

  • Associations between environmental attributes of facilities and female participation in sport: a systematic review, Clare Hanlon, Claire Jenkin & Melinda Craike, Managing Sport and Leisure, (July 2019). Relevant articles were identified through seven databases and included if female specific results were reported on the association between attributes of the physical environment and sports participation. Most studies were moderate quality and in terms of life stage focused on adolescent girls. Environmental attributes of facilities including perceived safety, convenient location and suitable amenities in sport and school facilities were associated with female participation in sport. The authors conclude that attributes of the physical environment may influence female participation in sport. Conclusions are tentative based on minimal studies in this area. More attention to identify environmental attributes of facilities associated with encouraging female participation in sport across their transitional life stage is required to enhance understanding and guide facility development.
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun: Understanding perceptions of effective strategies and outcomes in a female youth-driven physical activity-based life skills programme, Bean C, Forneris T and Fortier M, Journal of Sport for Development, Volume 3, Issue 4 (2015). The Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (GJWHF) program is community-based and youth-driven, the program is designed to help Canada’s female youth (ages 5 – 18 years) by providing opportunities for girls from low-income families to increase their physical activity and develop life skills. This study explored the contextual factors viewed by participants as important in the delivery of GJWHF and the perceived developmental outcomes resulting from participation. From the results, several critical factors emerged as themes, they were: (1) the importance of a girls’ only environment; (2) establishment of a trusting and caring environment; (3) the importance of positive leader support; (4) the emergence and strengthening of friendships; (5) development of a positive future orientation; (6) strong identity formation; and (7) development of leadership and teamwork. Overall, results from this study indicated that the GJWHF program met these expectations. Participants perceived the program as providing a positive context, including supportive external leaders, and providing an opportunity to learn a number of life skills.
  • Engaging Fathers to Increase Physical Activity in Girls: The “Dads And Daughters Exercising and Empowered” (DADEE) Randomized Controlled Trial, Philip J Morgan, Myles D Young, Alyce T Barnes, et al., Annals of Behavioral Medicine, (10 April 2018). This study looked at the ways in which fathers may influence their daughter’s physical activity. Previous evidence has demonstrated that father's often spend more physically active time with their sons and rarely participate in family-based programs. The trial intervention was an 8-week program including weekly educational and practical sessions plus home tasks. Assessments were at baseline, 2 months (post intervention), and 9 months. The primary outcomes were father–daughter physical activity levels (pedometry). Secondary outcomes included screen-time, daughters’ fundamental movement skill proficiency (FMS: perceived and objective), and fathers’ physical activity parenting practices. This study provided the first experimental evidence that efforts to increase physical activity behavior in preadolescent girls would benefit from a meaningful engagement of fathers.
  • Fitness- and appearance-related self-conscious emotions and sport experiences: A prospective longitudinal investigation among adolescent girls, Eva Pila, Catherine M.Sabiston, Diane E.Mack, et.al., Psychology of Sport and Exercise, Volume 47, (March 2020). The objectives of this longitudinal study were to describe changes in fitness-related and appearance-related self-conscious emotions (i.e., guilt, shame, authentic pride, hubristic pride) and sport experiences (i.e., sport commitment, enjoyment, anxiety) over time, and examine whether between- and within-person differences in these emotions predict sport experiences during adolescence. Some key insights from the research suggest that: Fitness-related shame and guilt increased; pride, sport commitment and enjoyment decreased over 3-years. Girls with higher levels of fitness-related shame and guilt, and lower levels of pride reported worsened sport experiences. Girls reported poor sport experiences at times when all emotions were worse than their own average. Fitness-related self-conscious emotions contribute to sport experiences above and beyond appearance emotions.
  • Indigenous Australian women promoting health through sport, Megan Stronach, Hazel Maxwell, Sonya Pearce, Sport Management Review, Volume 22(1), pp.5-20, (February 2019). Listening to Indigenous women and facilitating opportunities for them to take control of their own participation can help facilitate this process. Indigenous-women's only opportunities, partnerships with health agencies and sports organisations, culturally safe spaces and Indigenous women acting as role models are some factors that may augment Indigenous women's agency, and thus empowerment. Government, sports, community organisations and health agencies which provide these conditions in their program design can help to overcome entrenched social, historical and health inequalities that Indigenous women may experience.
  • “It's all about the journey”: women and cycling events, Simone Fullagar, Adele Pavlidis, International Journal of Event and Festival Management, Volume 3(2), pp.149-170, (2012). The purpose of this paper is to develop a gendered understanding of women's experience of a mass cycle tour event. The research findings identify a number of gender issues for professionals to reflexively consider in designing, promoting, managing and evaluating mass cycle tour events. The findings have implications for how active tourism events are conceptualised, promoted and managed as gender inclusive.
  • More opportunities, same challenges: adolescent girls in sports that are traditionally constructed as masculine, Nadia Bevan, Claire Drummond, Liz Abery, et.al., Sport, Education and Society, (18  May 2020). The present study investigated adolescent girls’ experiences (N = 34, aged 13–17 years) in three sports that are traditionally constructed as masculine in Australia; football, cricket, and Australian Rules Football. Through a sociological gendered lens, results from narrative inquiry indicated that adolescent girls are required to navigate gender constructs and sexuality stereotypes. Numerous inequities between girls and boys exist and are challenging to negotiate. The present findings suggest that social connectedness, mentors and same-sex role models assist girls to navigate their sport involvement. These findings provide a sound basis for future research to explore practical solutions to keep girls engaged in such sports.
  • Narrating the Multiplicity of ‘Derby Grrrl’: Exploring Intersectionality and the Dynamics of Affect in Roller Derby, Adele Pavlidis & Simone Fullagar, Leisure Sciences, Volume 35(5), pp.422-437, (2013). This article explores how identity categories intersect to shape the meaning of roller derby for different women. Narratives recount the complex affective relations (passion, frustration, pride, shame) that women negotiate in forming leisure identities in relation to the social context of their lives. The article aims to contribute to the development of feminist thinking about leisure as a negotiated space of transformation, creativity, and difference.
  • Physical Activity of Remote Indigenous Australian Women: A Postcolonial Analysis of Lifestyle, Doune Macdonald, Rebecca Abbott, & David Jenkins, Leisure Sciences, Volume 34(1), pp.39-54, (2012). In the context of rising chronic diseases amongst Indigenous peoples, there are calls for the adoption of more healthy “lifestyles.” In this context, this paper explores thoughts about physical activity from 21 Indigenous families through the voices of women and girls living in remote rural communities in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area, Australia. Speaking back to physical activity as a lifestyle “choice,” three consistent themes emerged: shame, gendered positioning, and welfarism. In conclusion, the perspectives of Torres Strait islanders and Northern Peninsula Area communities suggest that there are deeply embedded ways of thinking about the body, familial obligations, and the provision of and access to being active that are not consistent with Western health policies predicated upon individuals shouldering responsibility for “taking exercise.”
  • Sistas’ and Aunties: sport, physical activity, and Indigenous Australian women. Stronach, Megan, Maxwell, Hazel and Taylor, Tracy, Annals of Leisure Research, April 2016, Vol. 19 Issue 1. Indigenous women have alarmingly low rates of participation in organized sport and physical activity (PA) in contemporary Australian society. To gain a better contextual and cultural understanding of the issues involved, we discussed the life experiences and the place of sport and PA with 22 Indigenous women. A complex amalgamation of cultural beliefs and traditions, history, gendered factors, and geography are presented in the women's stories. Sport and PA were highly regarded, providing the women with opportunities to maintain strong communities, preserve culture, and develop distinct identities as ‘enablers’. The women called for culturally safe spaces in which to engage in PA and noted the need for Indigenous females to act as role models. The study provides preliminary understandings that can be used to facilitate greater sport and PA inclusion, and implications for future research are presented. 
  • Which Women are Highly Active Over a 12-Year Period? A Prospective Analysis of Data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, Toby Pavey, Tracy Kolbe-Alexander, Leonie Uijdewilligen, Wendy Brown, Sports Medicine, Volume 47(12), pp.2653-2666, (December 2017). The aims of this study were to identify the proportion of younger and mid-aged women who met the 300-min recommendation over a 12-year period, examine how the “highly active” women achieved this level of activity (in terms of walking, moderate activity, and vigorous activity), and to identify the sociodemographic, biological, lifestyle, and work-related determinants of being “highly active”. The findings clearly indicate that the upper limit of the Australian PA guidelines is achievable for large numbers of women. Factors associated with being highly active were different for younger and mid-age women, but healthy weight, high education, and paid work (full-time in the younger women, part-time in mid-age) were common characteristics of highly active women in both cohorts. 

resources iconResources

  • Coaching Girls, How to Coach Kids, (accessed 2 December 2019). How to Coach Kids is co-created by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and Nike and inspired by Aspen Institute Project Play. The Coaching Girls course module is is designed for any coach that has girls on their team to help keep girls active and loving sport for life. Additional tips, information and resources for coaches of all levels are also available. 
  • International Guide to Designing Sport Programmes for GirlsWomen Win. This is a collaboratively-authored tool designed to help organisations develop and improve effective and sustainable programmes. It is intended to promote a global conversation between people who are passionate about changing girls' lives through sport. Programme Design includes these considerations: (1) understanding and overcoming challenges; (2) choosing the right sport for your programme; (3) using a curriculum; (4) building support for your programme; (5) safe spaces; (6) recruiting girls; (7) developing leadership.
  • Project 51 Toolkit, Women in Sport, (accessed 27 November 2019). This toolkit was inspired by Project 51, a partnership project with Sported funded by Comic Relief. Project 51 aims to help girls in the most deprived areas of the UK fulfil their potential and use sport to overcome the impact of negative gender stereotypes. Provides practical advice, tools and research relating to the themes 'think', 'say', and 'do'. 

Video iconClearinghouse videos

  • Pathway considerations for supporting the Female athlete, Linley Frame, Australian Swimmers Association, Debbie Fisher, Football Federation Australia, Kristen Veal, Basketball Australia COE, Eddie Dennis, South Australian Institute of Sport, Winning Pathways Workshop (13 December 2017)
  • Women in Sport - breaking the mould, Giles Thompson, CEO, Racing Victoria, Mandy Spear, COO, Titanium Security Arena, Laura Johnston, General Manager Performance & Culture, Swimming Australia, Our Sporting Future Conference (16 November 2017) 
  • Sport and gender equality, Kate Jenkins, Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Our Sporting Future Conference (16 November 2017) 
  • Growing your game for girls,  Sports Talks, New South Wales Sport and Recreation (20 May 2013). Growing your game for girls not only makes good business sense, it also helps address a gender imbalance in sport participation.  With almost 50% of girls aged 5 to 14 not participating in sport outside of school hours, learning how to engage with this market has long term benefits for your sport. 
  • Research to practice, Cathy Gorman-Brown, Project Officer, NSW Sport and Recreation, Sports Talks (20 May 2013)
  • You kick like a girl, Good for you, Libby Sadler, AFL, Sports Talks (20 May 2013)
  • Growing the game for school girls, Michael Doyle, Australian Rugby Union, Sports Talks (20 May 2013)
  • Linking with local Government, Amanda Spalding, Sport and Recreation NSW, Sports Talks (20 May 2013)
  • Understanding the Female Athlete, Sue Robson, Head of Physiology, Sportscotland Institute of Sport, Smart Talk Seminar Series (17 April 2012) 

Video iconOther videos

  • Play and Win. Women Win have put together a video that connects sport and empowerment as a means for women and girls to overcome gender-based violence.
  • Play Fair, Fast and Female, Canada (2015). This documentary film questions the assumption that women’s fight for full rights in the world of sports is over. The film explores five decades of activism and legal challenges that women fought to ensure they would have equal access and rights to compete in sports on elite and community levels. 
  • This Girl Can – what about you? (YouTube) Are you up for breaking a sweat? The UK Lottery-funded This Girl Can campaign s designed to inspire you to ‘sweat like a pig’ – and ‘feel like a fox’ while you’re doing it.
  • Women Win: digital storytelling project. Women Win is committed to not just telling stories of girls' sport achievement and the impact those stories have, but helping build the skill and leadership of girls to tell their own story. A collection of videos is available to listen to and view. 

Physical literacy

Parents with child on bike
Gender is not generally seen as a barrier to becoming physically literate. Some, but not all, of the differences in participation rates and skill acquisition among boys and girls, are due to maturation differences. Where differences exist, they are easily understood and can be accommodated by variations in programs being offered to boys and girls. 

However, cultural, social, and economic influences do impact upon a person’s opportunity to be exposed to the necessary experiences and environments that will help them develop fundamental movement skills (FMS) and guide them on the pathway to physical literacy.

For example, boys have traditionally engaged in more physically active games and activities, and have been more likely to be provided with toys or equipment that help to develop movement skills (i.e. bats, balls, running around). Girls have more traditionally been expected to be more sedentary and less encouraged to participate in physically demanding play. Parents can play an important role in encouraging both girls and boys to develop skills by modelling active lifestyles and active play.

More information on physical literacy is available in the Clearinghouse topic, Physical Literacy and Sport

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

Report iconReports

  • Active Lives: Children & Young People Survey - Attitudes towards sport and physical activitySport England, (March 2019). This new analysis has identified five key findings that give us further insight into the attitudes of children and young people towards sport and physical activity. The key findings are: Physically literate children do twice as much activity. The more of the five elements of physical literacy - enjoyment, confidence, competence, understanding and knowledge - children have, the more active they are. Enjoyment is the biggest driver of activity levels. Despite the majority of children (68%) understanding that sport and activity is good for them, understanding had the least impact on activity levels. Children who have all five elements of physically literacy report higher levels of happiness, are more trusting of other children, and report higher levels of resilience (continuing to try if you find something difficult). Physical literacy decreases with age. As children grow older, they report lower levels of enjoyment, confidence, competence, and understanding. Previous research from Sport England shows that activity levels drop when children reach their teenage years. Additionally there are inequalities between certain groups of children: Girls are less likely to say they enjoy or feel confident about doing sport and physical activity. (58% of boys enjoy it, compared to 43% of girls. 47% of boys feel confident, compared to 31% of girls.) Among children aged 5-7, boys are more likely to love playing sport, while girls are more likely to love being active. Children from the least affluent families are less likely to enjoy activity than those from the most affluent families, and previous research shows they are also far less likely to be active. Black children are more physically literate than other ethnic groups – driven by boys, but they're less active than the population as a whole.

Research iconResearch 

  • Associations between young children's perceived and actual ball skill competence and physical activity, Barnetta L, Ridgersb N and Salmon J, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, published online (12 March 2014). A total of 102 children (56% boys, 44% girls) aged 4–8 years completed assessments. The results showed that girls had lower perceived and actual object control competence and were less active than boys. Actual object control competence was positively associated with perceived object control competence and this relationship did not differ by sex. However, neither actual nor perceived object control competence were associated with moderate to vigorous physical activity. Young children's perceived ball skill abilities appear to relate to actual competence. In older children, object control skill is associated with physical activity, so targeting young children's object control skills may be an intervention priority.
  • Benefits of early development of eye-hand coordination: Evidence from the LOOK longitudinal study (abstract) Telford RD, Cunningham R, Telford RM, Olive L, Byrne D, and Abhayaratna W, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, Volume 5 (2013). Data from the LOOK Study was used to investigate the longitudinal and cross-sectional relationships between eye-hand coordination (EHC) and cardiorespiratory fitness, physical activity, percent body fat, body image, and organised sport participation in 406 boys and 384 girls at both 8 and 10 years of age. Cross-sectional analyses showed that boys and girls with better EHC were significantly fitter; and a longitudinal relationship showed that girls who improved their EHC over the two years became fitter. There was also evidence that children with better EHC possessed a more positive body image. At age 8 years, boys and girls participating in organised sport possessed better EHC than non-participants. These data provide evidence for the premise that early acquisition of this single motor skill promotes the development of a child's fitness, body image, and participation in sport.
  • Child, family and environmental correlates of children's motor skill proficiency, Barnett L, Hinkley T, Okely A and Salmon J (abstract), Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 16, Number 4 (2013). This study looked at what factors were correlated with motor skill proficiency among 76 Australian preschool children, 34 boys and 42 girls (mean age 4.1 years). The researchers found that age, prior swimming lessons, and access to home exercise/sports equipment were positively associated with motor skill proficiency. These factors explained 20% of the variance in motor skill. In addition, gender, parental involvement in play activity, and the amount of unstructured physical activity that was classified as moderate-to-vigorous in intensity, accounted for 32% of the variance in object control skill.
  • Contribution of organized and non-organized activity to children's motor skills and fitness (abstract), Hardy L, O’Hara B, Rogers K, St George A and Bauman A, Journal of School Health, Volume 84, Issue 11 (2014). This study examined the associations between children's organised physical activity (OPA), non-organised physical activity (NOPA), and two health-related outcomes – fundamental movement skill (FMS) and fitness in a sample of children aged 10-16 years. The authors concluded that both OPA and NOPA are important contributors to children's health-related outcomes. Among the girls, OPA was more strongly associated with both fitness and FMS competency. These findings support the importance of providing children with opportunities to engage in a range of daily physical activities, both organised (school physical education programs and school sport) and non-organised activities (active transport to school, play, and social sport).
  • Development of selected motor skills in boys and girls in relation to their rate of maturation – A longitudinal study (PDF  - 1.1 MB), Sokolowski B and Chrzanowska M,Human Movement, Volume 13, Numbver 2 (2012). This study made use of data from a longitudinal study of Polish children from 1980-1990 to examine the process of motor skill development in relation to maturation. The results indicated that early maturing children (both boys and girls) performed best in tests involving static strength. Early maturing boys performed best in tests involving speed and explosive strength, while late maturing girls performed best in all strength tests. The authors concluded that the rate of maturation had a significant effect on certain test results.
  • Early motor skill competence as a mediator of child and adult physical activity, Loprinzi P, Davis R and Fu Y, Preventive Medicine Reports, Volume 2 (2015). The authors provide an overview of current empirical research related to early motor skill development and its impact on child and adult physical activity. There is consistent evidence showing that adequate motor skill competence, particularly locomotor and gross motor skills, is associated with increased physical activity levels during the preschool, child, and adolescent years. Early motor skill development also influences enjoyment of physical activity and long-term motor skill performance. The physical education setting appears to be a well-suited environment for motor skill development and strategies that target motor skill development across the childhood years are recommended.
  • The effectiveness of a community-based fundamental motor skill intervention in children aged 3-8 years: Results of the “Multimove for Kids” project, Bardid F, Lenoir M, Huyben F, De Martelaer K, Seghers J, Goodway J and Deconinck F, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, published online ahead of print (28 July 2016). This study examined the effectiveness of a 30-week fundamental motor skill program in typically developing young children, and investigated possible gender differences. The intervention group (N=523) of 280 boys and 243 girls was compared to a control group (N=469) of 233 boys and 236 girls. The intervention group received 60 minutes of motor skill instruction weekly, delivered by trained instructors in a child care setting; the control group received no specific instruction. The intervention group demonstrated significantly better scores on object control tests, compared to the control group. The gains in object control were greater for boys than girls within the intervention group, but girls had greater gains in locomotor skills than boys. This study demonstrated the effectiveness of motor skill instruction in a community setting. The authors speculate that gender differences may be due to instructional strategies.
  • Gender and age affect balance performance in primary school-aged children, Mickle K Munro B and Steele J, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 14, Issue 3 (2011). Compromised ability to balance (stability control) may hinder a child's ability to master fundamental movement skills and, in turn, the capacity to participate in sporting activities. This study looked at the postural stability of primary school-aged children to determine if gender had an effect. The ability to maintain postural stability is an essential pre-requisite to competently perform many activities of daily living as well as sports skills. Stability (balance) is an important component of fundamental movement skills and a significant transition occurs between the ages of 7 to 10 years. It was hypothesised that gender differences may exist due to earlier maturation of the neurological, visual, vestibular and proprioceptive systems in girls. It was also postulated that postural stability would improve with age among both boys and girls. This study concluded that static postural stability in children was affected by age and gender, young boys displayed greater postural sway than girls. Proficiency in dual limb balance tasks are usually obtained by 9 years of age, although the more difficult single limb balance is more competently performed by children age 10.
  • Global self-esteem, perceived athletic competence, and physical activity in children: A longitudinal cohort study, Noordstar J, van der Net J, Kak S, Helders P and Jongmans M, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, Volume 22 (January 2016). Two groups of Dutch children were followed; one group from kindergarten to grade 2 and the other group from grades 2 to 4. This study found that an increase in global self-esteem was significantly associated with perceived athletic competence and the amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) for girls, but not for boys. Perceived athletic competence declined slightly over time in boys, but remained stable in girls. The authors speculate that the decline in boys was due to their greater participation in vigorous activity. Because boys participated more in MVPA than girls, they were also more exposed to situations in which they could compare their athletic performance with their peers, resulting in a decline in perceived athletic competence. Other studies have shown similar responses among boys and girls and the authors offer no clear explanation for the results in this study.
  • Prevalence and correlates of low Fundamental Movement Skill competency in children (PDF  - 676 KB), Hardy L, Reinten-Reynolds T, Espinel P, Zack A and Okely A, Pediatrics, published online (23 July 2012). This study examined the demographic and health-related characteristics of Australian school-aged children assessed as having low competency in fundamental movement skills (FMS). Overall, the prevalence of students with low motor skill competency was high. Girls with low socioeconomic status (SES) were twice as likely to be less competent in locomotor skills compared with high SES peers. Among boys, there was a strong association between low competency in FMS and the likelihood of being from non–English-speaking cultural backgrounds. There was a clear and consistent association between low competency in FMS and inadequate cardiorespiratory fitness. It was concluded that primary school-based interventions focusing on skill acquisition, as well as fitness education, could significantly improve health-related fitness and physical activity levels in older children.
  • Relationships between fundamental movement skills and objectively measured physical activity in pre-school children, Cliff D, Okely A, Smith L and Mckeen K, Pediatric Exercise Science, Volume 21, Number 4 (2009). Gender differences in the relationships between fundamental movement skill (FMS) sub-domains (locomotor skills and object- control skills) were examined in preschool children. Among boys, object-control skills accounted for 17% of the variance in time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Among girls, locomotor skills accounted for 19% of the variance in time spent in MVPA. The authors concluded that gender and sub-domain of FMS may influence the relationship between FMS and time spent in MVPA among preschool children.
  • Skeletal maturation, fundamental motor skills and motor coordination in children 7–10 years, Freitas D, Lausen B, Maia J, Lefevre J, Gouveia E, Thomis M, Antunes A, Claessens A, Beunen G and Malina R, Journal of Sport Sciences, Volume 33, Number 9 (2015). This study looked at the relationship between skeletal age and fundamental motor skills (FMS) and gross motor coordination (GMC) in a large sample (N=429 children, 213 boys and 216 girls). Skeletal maturity is influenced by gender. However, this study found that skeletal age alone, or interacting with body size, had a negligible influence on FMS and GMC, accounting for only 9% of the variance.
  • Sport motor competencies and the experience of social recognition among peers in physical education – a video-based study, Grimminger E, Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, Volume 18, Issue 5 (2013). Being recognised as a competent and accepted member in the peer group is one of the most important basic human needs for children and adolescents. However, it is the peer group itself that decides which competencies are valued and which are not. Through this process a social order, as well as peer power constellations, is created. This study aimed to determine if, and how, sport motor competencies are used as a criterion for recognition or non-recognition among peers. The results of this study show that sport motor competencies and the social position in a peer group are significantly related. However, the findings were only significant for boys’ peer group and not for girls. The authors concluded that sport motor competencies play an important role in the everyday struggles of children for recognition within their peer group.

Role models: 'you can't be what you can't see'

female high jumper going over bar

A role model is a person whose behaviour, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. (Dictionary.com

Motivation to participate is one of the major challenges in establishing and maintaining adolescent girls’ involvement in sport and physical activity. Several variables, such as self-esteem, social influences, and enjoyment have been associated with physical activity participation. Role models are a key factor in increasing adolescent girls’ participation in sport. Alongside a number of other elements, role models can encourage girls to play sport and become more physically active.

While high performance and professional athletes are often highlighted as role models, recent research and evidence suggests that the most important role models, particularly for girls and women, are family members, friends and other important people close to them such as coaches or teachers. This suggests that everyone has a role to play in helping to make being fit and physically active visible and acceptable for everyone.  

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

Radio IconAudio

Finder iconPrograms

ReadingReading

  • Australian kids need active, sporty parents (PDF  - 438 KB), Factsheet, Australian Sports Commission, AusPlay Survey (2017). Recent AusPlay results confirm a high correlation between a parent’s engagement in sport and that of their child, indicating that active parents can be a positive influence on their children. Nearly 90 per cent of kids with at least one parent who plays and volunteers in sport are active in organised sport or physical activity outside of school. 
  • #FITSPO a flop at inspiring women to get active: New This Girl Can campaign focuses on the feeling not the scalesVicHealth media release, (1 March 2020). While it might be popular on Instagram, new research from health promotion foundation VicHealth has found most Victorian women are turned off exercise by images of taut and toned #FITSPO influencers. Key findings from a survey of over 1000 Victorian women found that: Around two-thirds of women (66%) aren’t motivated by #FITSPO images of women on Instagram; Over three-quarters of women find seeing women of all different body shapes getting active motivating; A third of women feel bad or inadequate about their own bodies and fitness when they see #FITSPO images on Instagram; and, Almost 80% of women want to see more women with a range of body shapes included in physical activity advertising.
  • The Importance of role models in making adolescent girls more active: A review of literature. Kirby J, Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit, (2009), University of Edinburgh. A review of the literature was carried out in order to help inform the sport and recreation sectors of the importance of role models in getting adolescent girls to be more active. A presentation was given to the Teenactive Research Group, October 2009, download presentation (PPT  - 1.1 MB).
  • Parents Making Youth Sports a Positive Experience: Role Models, Daniel Francis Perkins, PennState Extension, (20 October 2017). The atmosphere set by organizations, parents, and coaches is a major factor in determining whether or not youth will have a positive experience in a sports program. This bulletin is written to assist parents in fostering a positive climate that enables children and youth involved in sports to enjoy them-selves and reach their full potential. It focuses on the benefits and risks of youth sports, discusses parents as role models, and provides practical tips for parents.  
  • The Power of Role Models, Football Federation Australia, from the Women's Football Development Guide, p.36, (May 2016). If a girl has never seen women participating in sport, it will be virtually impossible for her to imagine playing herself. What can you do to raise awareness of female role models? 
  • Why do girls need athletic role models? SIRC Blog, (10 June 2015). When role models are mentioned in sport, the first thing that comes to mind are high profile celebrities. While positive role models can be found in amateur and professional sports, it's the people they see every day that make the biggest difference.

Report iconReports

  • Case Study: Measuring the impact of the FA player appearances programme 2015-2016, Women in Sport, (2017). This report looks at the impact of elite sport stars on girls. The Football Association (FA) runs an established ambassador programme, enabling female football players to share their stories and inspire at a local level, with female players visiting schools and community groups for a number of years. Key findings reported are that player appearances provide a really positive experience for girls in school and community settings. Additionally, the four key impacts reported were: Re-enthusing and validating girls’ participation in football; Actively and meaningfully getting across positive life lessons; Inspiring girls to believe they can achieve in football; Driving interest in the women’s elite game.

Research iconResearch

  • Elite footballers as role models: promoting young women’s football participation. Dunn, C. Soccer & Society, (2016), Vol. 17, Issue 6, pp.843-856. Reports the experiences and thoughts of elite female footballers in Great Britain in relation to role models. In particular, it discusses their views on how to encourage young women’s football participation from elite down to grass-roots levels.
  • Esther Phiri and the Moutawakel effect in Zambia: an analysis of the use of female role models in sport-for-development. Marianne Meier & Martha Saavedra, Sport in Society, (2009), Vol. 12, Issue 9, pp. 1158-1176. In the field of sport and development, ‘role models’ have been invoked as an important element to increase participation. Based on a case study of Zambian women's sports and the boxer, Esther Phiri, this essay examines the discourse around the use of ‘role models’ and begins to elaborate a theory around their use specifically in the experience of sport-in-development projects and programs which have gender-specific outcomes.
  • The inspirational effect of sporting achievements and potential role models in football: a gender-specific analysis. Wicker, P., Frick, B. Managing Sport & Leisure, (2016), Vol. 21, Issue 5, pp. 265-282. This study examines the trickle-down effect of potential role models and sporting achievements, respectively. Specifically, it examined the inspirational effect of same-sex and opposite-sex role models on male and female participation in German amateur football. Longitudinal data on German football club memberships and amateur teams were collected for 21 regional football associations over a 15-year-period. The results found that sporting success does not automatically lead to the development of positive role models and inspirational effects.
  • Role models of Australian female adolescents: A longitudinal study to inform programmes designed to increase physical activity and sport participation. Young, J.  et. al., European Physical Education Review,(2015) Vol. 21, Issue 4, pp. 451-466. This study examined role models of adolescent girls and their influence on physical activity by surveying 732 girls in Years 7 and 11 from metropolitan and non-metropolitan regions of Victoria, Australia. Survey questions included whether they had a role model and if they did, the gender, age, type and sporting background of that individual. Survey found the majority of participants nominated a family member, peer or celebrity sportsperson as their role model who was female, played sport and was less than 50 years of age. Non-metropolitan-based adolescent girls, and Year 11 adolescent girls, were more likely to select a role model who they knew played sport than metropolitan-based adolescent girls and Year 7 girls respectively.  This study highlighted that family members, peers and sports people should be included as role models in programmes designed to increase physical activity.
  • Sports role models and their impact on participation in physical activity: a literature review (PDF  - 232 KB). Payne W, Reynolds M, Brown S, Flemming A, for VicHealth, (2003). This extensive review of 95 peer-reviewed articles examined the extent of evidence for the hypotheses that: (i) sports people act as role models and have a positive impact on individuals and the broader community; (ii) there is a link between sporting success and wider health improvements. The conclusions included: (i) Role model programmes should be seen as a continuum from a single exposure to a long term mentoring approach. (ii) There is ample theoretical evidence to support the idea for conducting role model programs. (iii) Role model programmes should encompass parents, teachers and other significant adults, as well as celebrities and sports people. (iv) Role models are not always positive; they can be seen to promote negative social images, beliefs and behaviours. (v) There are significant gender differences in the way athletes are viewed as role models, with males being more likely to identify with successful athletes while females tend to identify with parents. (vi) The most effective role model programmes are those that focus on developing a long term, mentor relationship, particularly for individuals from socially disadvantaged and "at risk" groups.
  • The value of female sporting role models. Meiera, M. Sport in Society, (2015), Vol. 18, Issue 8, pp.968-982. This article examines the evidence in relation to the value and functions of female sporting role models. Areas discussed included: participation, leadership, advocacy, gender stereotypes, inspiration, ethics, safeguarding and prevention, media and business and giving back to sport. The author argues that rather than just increasing female SRMs in numbers, attention should be dedicated to the selection variety that encompasses the functions of role models.

Video iconVideos

  • Play. Sport. Australia. Sporting Heroes, Sport Australia/YouTube, (2 November 2016). Watch these kids talk about their greatest sporting heroes. Their answers may surprise you.  
  • Role Models: Dr Clare Hanlon, Change our Game/YouTube, (27 November 2016). We are incredibly lucky to have so many inspiring women leading the way to level the playing field for women and girls and sport and recreation in Victoria. Dr Clare Hanlon is just one of them.

Media coverage and representation

laptop with icons

In Australia, and most other countries, men playing and commentating in sport is more likely to feature in print and electronic media, providing a biased view of sport participation as a male oriented activity.  

Since media coverage can have a direct effect on a sport's ability to attract commercial sponsorship, the lack of coverage can have significant impact on the sustainability of female athletes, sports, and competitions. The 2017 BCG Intergenerational Review of Australian Sport (PDF  - 1.6 MB) highlighted that in Australia approximately 8% of sponsorship is directed to women’s sport and 7% of broadcast coverage – so the correlation appears quite strong. 

The UK report ‘Women’s Sport: Say ‘Yes’ to Success’ also highlighted that despite increased interest in women’s sport and broadcasting (more than half of sports fans report wanting to see more women’s sport on TV), women’s sport attracted 0.4% of reported sponsorship money (September 2011-December 2013). Men’s sport attracted 85.5% of the total with the remainder identified as going to mixed sports. 

A 2019 survey by Imagen of sports TV and digital professionals indicated that 94% of them were planning to invest more in women's sport content, motivated by commercial interest and new opportunities for digital distribution. Most of this interest appears to be focused on social media and direct to consumer (e.g. streaming services) rather than traditional broadcast or media. 

Research and evidence over the past thirty years has shown that during major sporting events media coverage of women’s sports increases, yet outside such events coverage remains stuck at less than 10%.  During the Olympic Games the coverage given to women in certain sports may increase substantially and women are more likely to be discussed in contexts beyond simple results (such as training and preparation, and as part of the sporting industry). However, overall the balance remains weighted toward men in sport.  

Detailed and current analysis of media coverage is often difficult to find. A 2014 report by Repucom, on behalf of the Australian Sports Commission [now Sport Australia], compared data from 2013/14 to previous data from 2008/09. It found that: 
  • Women's sport maintained a similar proportion of dedicated TV sport coverage (7%) to the previous research, but that TV news and print coverage declined (9% to 6%).
  • The ABC broadcast the highest proportion of female sports content (20%). However, 70% of female coverage was broadcast on pay TV – substantially limiting the potential audience. 
  • The range of female sports was comparatively narrow and focused on tennis, surfing, cycling, golf, and netball.
  • Social media coverage for women's sport was significantly higher than other channels, accounting for 26% of social media sport coverage (volume of posts) in July 2013, and over 36% of coverage during the 2012 London Olympic Games. 

In both coverage of the Olympic Games and year-round television news reporting the proportion of men speaking about female sport is also greater than the proportion of female spokespeople discussing male sport. Analysis of the top 15 most influential news sites in Australia in October 2018 demonstrated that sports media is not reflecting that women make up 50.7% of the Australian population. While it was a fairly small sample size it showed that only 12% of sports stories during the analysis period were authored by female journalists; 95% of direct sources and 89% of indirect sources in the included stories were male. This indicates a perception that men are more likely to have something interesting to say about sport.

The disparity in media coverage by gender is not unique to Australia. A 2018 study by the European Union looking at media coverage in five countries found that in four of the five countries, women in sport coverage failed to achieve above 10% of all sport’s coverage in any single monitoring period. It was at its lowest in Malta and Greece, where it failed to achieve more than 2% of the total coverage in either period. In Sweden and the UK, the picture was marginally better, but still variable and only achieved between 3%- 6% (Sweden) and 4%-10% (UK). Romania had the highest and most consistent coverage, peaking at 14%, but this was heavily driven by tennis champion, Simona Halep, and helped by her celebrity status in the country.

Highlighting the gender imbalance that exists within the professional sports media. At the 2016 Rio Olympic Summer Games and 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, approximately 80% of accredited journalists and photographers were male. The International Sports Press Survey 2011 also concluded that 90% of sports media articles were written by male journalists and more than 85% of the articles focused on sports men. 

The focus and tone of media attention towards female athletes and sports is often quite different to that of male sport. There is a more pronounced focus physical appearance, femininity and/or sexuality rather than athletic abilities; more frequent use of infantilising language; and images accompanying stories are more likely to be ‘passive’ rather than ‘active’ (i.e male athletes are more often depicted with ‘action shots’ from competition).  

Research from Cambridge University Press highlighted the different style of language and images that people used to discuss men and women in sport at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Words associated with male athletes in the media were: mastermind, battle, fastest, strong, dominate, real, great, win, male, beat, big, man. Words associated with female athletes were: unmarried, married, ladies, older, participate, women, pregnant, aged, compete, strive, girls.

New Zealand based research also highlighted that female athletes were 20% more likely to be spoken for by their coach, nine times more likely to be pictured with a male spouse or partner, 67% less likely to be the lead story, and 39% more likely to be referred to as girls, especially by male journalists. 

While there is some evidence (often anecdotal) indicating that the male-dominated focus of media coverage has started to shift, the tone of coverage for men’s and women’s sports and athletes remains quite different. 

Social media

With the advent and overwhelming popularity of social mediaincluding Facebook, Twitter and Instagramthere are increasing pressures on sportspeople to engage directly with fans. While this can have positive effects in raising the profile of female athletes, teams and competitions, it is another area where the difference between the treatment of male and female athletes are plainly seen.

Research by Plan International in 2019 analysed a selection of social media commentary on Facebook posts shared by major sports news broadcasters in Australia over a 12 month period. They found that sportswomen received three times as many negative comments as men (27% versus 9%) and that over a quarter of all comments towards sportswomen were negative, sexist, sexualised or belittled women's sports. Although gender stereotypes (such as that men shouldn't display weakness or emotion) were apparent in 15% of negative comments towards male athletes, none were sexualised. For female athletes 14% of all negative comments were sexualised. 

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

Radio IconAudio 

  • Content is queen: digital lessons from women's sport, SportsPro Podcast, (23 October 2019).To mark the launch of 'Content is Queen: Digital Lessons from Women's Sport' - a new whitepaper from SportsPro and Imagen - editor at large Eoin Connolly is joined by an expert panel to discuss how new media and best practice are helping to grow audiences across a range of female disciplines. Alexandra Willis, the head of communications, content and digital at the AELTC, International Netball Federation chief executive Clare Briegal and Imagen's Kerry Freeman discuss the importance of a comprehensive approach to content distribution, what goes into a careful and data-led strategy, and what excites them about the future in women's sport. 

Infographic iconInfographics

  • The case for change (PDF  - 70 KB), Sport New Zealand, (2018). Provides an overview of research illustrating the 'case for change' for women and girls in sport. Focus areas are: Leadership, Participation, and Value and Visibility.

Article iconPolicies

  • Women and Girls in sport and active recreation: Government strategy (PDF  - 4.9 MB), Sport New Zealand, (October 2018). This strategy aims to create an equitable and inclusive sport and recreation culture for Aotearoa New Zealand, and a system that empowers and supports all women and girls – as active participants, athletes and leaders. 

ReadingReading

  • Aesthetics or athletics? Cambridge University Press, (1 August 2016). As athletes around the world descend on Rio for the 2016 Olympics Games, the pinnacle of the global sporting calendar, a new study of English language reveals wide discrepancies in how the media and fans alike talk about men and women in sport. 
  • An epic tale of storytelling, authenticity and value of women's sport, Samara Kitchener, House of Kitch Communications, (October 2017). Provides an overview, including some key case studies/examples from presentations, of the NSW Office of Sport 'Unleashing the Value of Women's Sport' forum, held in Sydney. Six key themes emerged through the day that illuminate why women’s sport is so hot right now. 
  • Facts and figures on gender (in)equalities and differences (PDF  - 637 KB), Fact Sheet #1 of the Toolkit: How to make an impact on gender equality in sport All you need to knowEuropean Union and the Council of Europe, (September 2019). This factsheet is composed of five sections presenting facts and figures relating to gender inequalities and differences in participation (from grass-roots to elite sport), coaching, leadership and the media and to the prevalence of gender-based violence in sports. 
  • Girl Power: Measuring the rise of Women's Sport in Australia, Monique Perry and Kayla Ramiscal, Nielsen Sport, (6 March 2019). Today, the ‘value’ of a sport is primarily based on TV viewership and attendance. For women’s sport, it is widely assumed that ‘the attendance and viewing is just not there.’ While these traditional yardsticks are an important trading currency, our research shows that women’s sport has broader engagement, influence and value.
  • Has the media changed the game for women’s sports coverage? Women's Sport Trust, (4 September 2019). This summer we embarked on our own analysis that looked in detail at the volume and prominence around women’s sport coverage on leading websites in the UK. The study, during this peak summer period, found: 45.7% of the top ten stories on the BBC Sport home page each day featured women’s sport; On three days during the period, over half of all the stories (normally 60-75 stories) on the BBC Sport home page featured women’s sport; 54.5% of the ‘most watched’ video clips on the BBC Sport website contained women’s sport, despite the BBC website also having rights to other major men’s events in this period, including the ICC Cricket World Cup; Telegraph Sport’s website led on stories about women’s sport for 45% of the days; and Almost a third of the leading stories, defined as the top 12 stories on the Telegraph sport section and the main sports stories on the Guardian Sport home page, each day during the Women’s World Cup and Wimbledon featured women’s sport – 30.2% stories at The Guardian and 28.3% at The Telegraph.
  • Here’s proof we absolutely do want to watch women’s sport, Angela Priestley, Women's Agenda, (10 October 2018). Provides an overview of some recent record-breaking game attendance and viewing audience statistics that demonstrate an increased interest in women's sport in Australia.   
  • International Sports Press Survey 2011: Results and Outlook (PDF  - 221 KB), Prof. Dr. Thomas Horky andDr. Jörg-Uwe Nieland, Presented at Play the Game, Aarhus, (October 2013). Sport is one of the most important topics covered by media around the world. However, only very few cross-national comparative research studies exist in this field.
  • IOC Young Reporters: Spreading the word for gender equality, International Olympic Committee, (7 May 2020). Approximately 80 per cent of accredited journalists and photographers at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 were male, underlining the gender imbalance that currently exists in the sports media. At each YOG, an equal number of budding male and female sports reporters from around the world have come together to receive training and mentoring from seasoned Olympic media professionals, with class- and field-based tuition giving participants all the tools required to work in today’s modern newsrooms. And the unique experience has proven to be incredibly valuable for the graduates of the programme, with many going on to pursue promising careers in sports journalism.
  • Kids across Australia need more female sport role modelsCommonwealth Bank media release, (21 January 2018). While interest in women’s sport in Australia is soaring, two thirds of Australians (68 per cent) believe our kids should have more exposure to female sporting role models, new CommBank research reveals. 
  • Matildas soccer World Cup win over Brazil ignites debate about media coverage of women's sport, Mandie Sami, ABC News – The World Today(22 June 2015). The Matildas have made soccer history, becoming the first Australian football side to win a knockout match at a FIFA World Cup. Some in Australia's soccer community are hoping this historic win will reignite the debate about how little media coverage women's sport gets and the huge pay gap that remains between male and female athletes.
  • New study uncovers the top performing sponsorships in Australian sport, Josh Loh, Marketing Mag, (28 November 2018). True North Research has revealed a preview of its upcoming study comparing the impact of sports sponsorships and how brands should evaluate them. According to the study, of the 62 national and league teams evaluated, those that delivered the most positive reactions for sponsors – taking into account sentiment, consideration and usage – were all women's teams, primarily from the Netball league. The most recognised sponsors of sporting teams were still for men's teams. 
  • Research reveals over half of Australians follow women's sport, Mike Hytner, The Guardian, (16 February 2019). Interest has risen by almost 50% thanks to an increase in TV coverage and more positive portrayals in the media
  • The rise of women's sports: identifying and maximizing the opportunityNeilsen Sports, (2018). This research project highlights untapped potential and new commercial opportunities for rights holders, brands and media.
  • Stop saying no one watches women’s sport, Sarah Leberman and Rachel Froggatt op-ed, Women in Sport Aotearoa/stuff.co.nz, (15 August 2019). Interest in women's sport in New Zealand and around the globe has grown so fast in recent years that this idea is seriously out-of-date. We need to start busting the myth and challenging those still spouting it.
  • Unleashing the Value of Women’s Sport Fact sheet (PDF  - 469 KB), NSW Office of Sport, (2017). Growing sport for girls makes good business sense. It also helps address the gender imbalance in sport participation and contributes to improving health, social and equality issues. 
  • Women’s sport coverage set to ‘skyrocket’, Tim Dams, Broadcast Now, (10 October 2019). Survey says 94% of sports TV and digital professionals are planning to invest more in women’s sport. Its survey of more than 300 senior sports industry executives found that this development is predominately being motivated by commercial interest (29%) and new opportunities for digital distribution (25%).
  • Women’s sport: less talk more action, Professor Toni Bruce, University of Auckland, (9 March 2018). Talks about some of the broader issues relating to gender equity and sport in New Zealand but also highlights research showing that New Zealand news media still generally ignores women’s sport, dishing out on average a paltry 10 percent to female athletes. Even though the media pay a lot of attention to New Zealand female Olympians, if we look at coverage of all Olympic athletes, sportsmen still end up with twice the overall coverage, mostly because the media doesn’t pay attention to sportswomen from other countries. Recent NZOC research found that female Olympians were 20 percent more likely to be spoken for by their coach, nine times more likely to be pictured with a male spouse or partner, 67 percent less likely to be the lead story, and 39 percent more likely to be referred to as girls, especially by male journalists. 

Report iconReports

  • 2019 Women for Media Report: You can't be what you can't see, Jenna Price with Anne Maree Payne, Women's Leadership Institute Australia, (2019). The research provides a snapshot of Australia’s 15 most influential news sites on four consecutive Thursdays in October 2018. Key findings relating to sports stories include: 6 per cent of stories (18 stories) were sport-related. Female journalists authored only 12 per cent of the sports stories featured in our data set. 95 per cent of the direct sources and 89 per cent of the indirect sources for these stories were male. Two women photographers account for the relatively high proportion of female photo credits: a series of “crowd shots” taken by a female journalist who authored one sports-related story, and photos of AFL players taken by one female sports photographer from The Herald Sun. The one sports-related photograph of a female subject was of the family member of an Invictus games competitor, not of an actual sportswoman.
  • About time! Women in sport and recreation in Australia, The Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee, (September 2006). On 29 March 2006, the Senate asked the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee to conduct an inquiry into women in sport and recreation in Australia, for report by the first sitting day of September 2006. On 15 August 2006 the Senate granted the Committee an extension of time to report to 6 September 2006. Chapter 6 of the report covers "Women's Sport and the Media'. 
  • An evaluation of participation levels and media representation of girls and women in sport and physical activity in Scotland (PDF  - 358 KB), Dr Yvonne Laird, Jillian Manner, Audrey Buelo, and Dr Ruth Jepson, The Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy, University of Edinburgh for the Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Advisory Board, (2019). Physical activity levels and sport participation are consistently lower for women and girls in Scotland compared with men and boys. The authors of this report conducted a rapid evidence review and content analysis of online news media and social media (Instagram and Twitter). This included a search of five online news outlets on two separate dates (BBC News, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Sun, and the Mirror). They identified a total of 1095 articles on the sport homepages of the five media outlets, of which 11% (119 out of 1095) were related to women, 22% of the articles relating to women included content perceived to sexualise women and 65% were related to women's sport performance. 
  • The case for commercial investment in women’s sport (PDF  - 458 KB), Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (2011). This is the second major report from the WSFF examining the levels of commercial investment afforded to women’s sport in the UK. The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final became the most tweeted about event on the planet; but women’s sport accounted for only 0.5% of all sports sponsorship in the UK. Great audiences and public demand for women’s events and a home Olympics and Paralympics should provide a great opportunity. However, between January 2010 and August 2011, this report shows that women’s sport received just 0.5% of all UK sports sponsorship. During the same period, men’s sport received 61.1%. The figures do not tell the true story of what women’s sport is really worth. The best women’s events enjoy large television audiences that compare favourably with men’s; in fact 70% of viewers for women’s events are male sports fans. According to the WSFF survey, sports fans see women’s sport as exciting, skilful and just as internationally successful as men’s, and 61% of respondents want to see more high quality women’s sport on television.
  • Chasing Equity: The Triumphs, Challenges, and Opportunities in Sports for Girls and Women (PDF  - 5.2 MB), Women's Sports Foundation, (January 2020). In this report, we examine the state of girls’ and women’s sport in the United States through a broad lens, looking at the triumphs, the challenges, and the tremendous opportunities that are yet to be realized. One area of focus is media coverage and the report highlights that there has been a decline in coverage of women's sports in America from 1989-2014. They also report other similar trends to other research including the differences in the way in which female athletes are represented or discussed versus their male compatriots. They also highlight a study of 75 newspapers and websites which gave every organisation an 'F' for gender hiring practices. On average over 70% of editors, assistant editors, columnists, reporters, and copy editors/designers were male (predominantly white). Without balanced media coverage and representation the report suggests that women's sport, and female participation, will continue to lag behind men's. 
  • The Circus Comes to Town (PDF  - 1.0 MB), Dennehy J, Gender Hub (2013). This report provides a look at media coverage during the 2012 London Olympic Games. For two weeks every four years the Olympics provides audiences around the world with a kaleidoscope of sport, showcasing many ‘minor’ sports alongside mainstream sports.  This report presents the results of research conducted during the 2012 London Olympic Games on the way media represented the Games and examines two key issues.  First, the interdependent relationship of mainstream media and certain sports; and second, the ‘gendering’ of sport and media. The report does not challenge the interdependent relationship between media and major international men’s sports (i.e. football, cricket, motor sports, golf and basketball, etc.) and its merchandising and attendance; this would require a major shift in our cultural preferences.  Since this is unlikely, the prospect of equal media coverage of men’s and women’s sport and better access to sponsorship deals by women’s sport is at best 'aspirational' and at worst 'naive'. To find solutions this report suggests that new debates need to be explored, new realities need to be realised, and there needs to be fixed points which can be periodically measured to demonstrate change.
  • Content is Queen: digital lessons from women's sport, Imagen, (2019). Incorporating the views of over 300 sports professionals, we’ve teamed up with SportsPro to explore the relationship between content distribution, new digital channels and the rise of women's sports in our new whitepaper.
  • Gender equality in sport: Getting closer every day (PDF  - 2.2 MB), Ivana Katsarova; graphics: Samy Chahr, European Parliamentary Research Service Briefing, (March 2019). Briefing paper covers background and research relating to gender equality and sport. Specific focus areas include: Women's (long) road to the Olympics; Women in sports-related decision-making; Women as coaches; Gender pay inequalities; Gender-related stereotypes in media representation; Popularity and coverage of women's sports events in the EU; European parliament views on gender equality in sport. 
  • Illusory Image, a report on the media coverage and portrayal of women's sport in Australia 1996  (PDF  - 4.2 MB), Phillips M, Australian Sports Commission (1997). A 1996 survey took a snapshot of media coverage of women’s sport from newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations during a two-week period, establishing a measurement of coverage and additional information about the portrayal of women’s sport in the media. The results showed that media coverage of women in sport is treated very differently from that of men.
  • Improving the media coverage of our sportswomen (PDF  - 2.0 MB), Chantal Brunner, Megan Compain, Sarah Cowley Ross, Jackie Smith, Robyn Wong, New Zealand Women's Sport Leadership Academy, (2018). The purpose of this report is to examine the visibility, or otherwise, of female athletes in the media; set out the case for change; and recommend strategies to improve the visibility of sportswomen in traditional and digital media. Ten percent of the overall sports media coverage is not good enough. We recommend three actions to increase this - empower, collaborate and champion. 
  • Intergenerational Review of Australian Sport (PDF  - 1.6 MB), Boston Consulting Group for the Australian Sports Commission, (2017). To achieve the aspiration of Australia being the most active sporting nation, known for its integrity, thriving sports organisations, continued exceptional international success, and a world-leading sports industry for Australian sport, all parties involved in the sector must work together to drive sustainable change on several fronts. Five major areas of activity have been identified, including a small number of “game changers” in each that together can fundamentally shift the direction of Australian sport and ensure the many benefits derived from sport are enhanced into the future. 
  • Prime Time: the case for commercial investment in women's sport (PDF  - 264 KB), The Commission on the Future of Women's Sport [UK], (2015). According to UK sports fans, women’s sport is exciting, skilful, internationally successful and growing faster than men’s. Some of the best of women’s sport is already attracting sizeable audiences and wide media interest, and there is clear demand from sports fans for more. Yet it attracts just a tiny percentage of sponsorship and broadcast expenditure: hundreds, if not thousands of times less than men’s sport. New, independent research and analysis provides strong evidence to suggest that women’s sport is being overlooked and under-valued. There is a compelling case for increased investment in a market that’s different to men’s sport; and yet one that offers unique commercial and social potential. By taking a new approach to a different market and working creatively in partnership, rights holders, sponsors, broadcasters and  government stand to realise a significant return.
  • The Real Value of Women's Sport (PDF  - 1.1 MB), Nielsen Sports produced in partnership with Women’s Sport Trust and England Hockey, (2 August 2018). Nielsen Sports research demonstrating the value and importance of women’s sport internationally including highlighting growth opportunities, brand demands and the drive for equality. 
  • The Rise in Women's Sports, Nielsen, (2018). For rights holders, brands and the media, the rapid change in women's sports represents a chance to develop a new commercial proposition and engage fans in a different way. Across the eight markets, 84% of general sports fans have an interest in women’s sports (they stated they had an interest in both male and female sports, or just in women’s sports). Of those, 51% are male. This confirms  that women are interested in watching women’s sports and that women’s sports represents a major opportunity to engage male fans. 66% of the population are interested in at least one women's sport. 
  • Snapshot analysis: social media commentary of sportswomen and men, PLAN International, (April 2019). The snapshot analysis of social media commentary found that more than a quarter of all comments towards sportswomen were sexist, sexualised, belittled women’s sports or were otherwise negative in nature. The analysis looked at a selection of social media commentary on Facebook posts shared by major sports news broadcasters in Australia in the past 12 months, and found: 
    • Sportswomen face three times as many negative comments as men, at 27% compared to 9%
    • Social media abuse of sportswomen is overwhelmingly sexist – 23% of all negative comments towards sportswomen were sexist in nature, referring to traditional gender stereotypes, while 20% belittled women’s sports, their athletic abilities and skills.
    • Sexualised comments are only aimed at sportswomen – 14% of all negative comments towards sportswomen were sexualised, compared to 0% for male athletes.
    • Whilst the majority of negative comments towards men focused on cheating or drugs, some sportsmen were also subjected to sexist abuse towards men: 15% of negative comments towards men referred to traditional gender stereotypes, which deem that they must not display weakness or emotion.
  • Towards a Level Playing Field: sport and gender in Australian media January 2008 to July 2009 (PDF  - 5.4 MB), Lumby C, Caple H and Greenwood K, University of New South Wales Journalism and Media Research Centre and Media Monitors, joint research for the Australian Sports Commission, published 2010, last updated January 2014. The promotion of women in sport has been identified by the Australian Government as a key focus area for the future development of sport in Australia. This report presents a number of key findings concerning the gender bias in sports media coverage.
  • Where are all the Women? Shining a light on the visibility of women’s sport in the mediaEuropean Union, (October 2018). The EU funded five organisations; EILD (Greece); FOPSIM (Malta); West University Timisoara (Romania), Girls in Sport (Sweden), and Women in Sport (UK) to explore the visibility of women’s sport in the media. The objective of the project was to identify how well the media represents women’s sport across the five countries and from this evidence base, challenge the current situation with journalists, broadcasters, and the sector as a whole, to understand how best to drive change. The coverage of women’s sport has a long way to go to achieve its fair share of media attention. This is true in terms of the low proportion compared to men’s sport, the limited variety of women’s sports covered and lack of a consistent presence. There are examples of time periods when women’s sport is barely visible, sports channels where no women’s sport is in evidence and countries where it fails to achieve more than 2% of the reporting time.
  • WINS: Women in Sport (PDF  - 558 KB), Dinsdale S, White K, de Vries A and Mendelsohn J, Accenture, co-sponsored by Cricket Australia and Australian Rugby Union (2017). Women’s sports in Australia, particularly professional sports, are a hot topic. However, the current gap in the development and value of women’s sport is often cited as a “chicken and egg” problem; media exposure and sponsorship drive popularity and value, yet obtaining media coverage and sponsorship demands popularity. This report helps to illuminate some of the key issues and actions in breaking this conundrum. The views expressed in this report are based upon interviews with prominent individuals in women’s sport across several codes, as well as available research.
  • Women and Sport: insights into the growing rise and importance of female fans and female athletesRepucom, (2014). The rapid rise in the importance, influence, and value of female fans has been one of the most distinctive shifts in the sports marketing landscape in the last 50 years. This has been driven by some major societal and cultural changes around the world, and the increasing participation of women in sport. Fans are at the centre of the sports marketing equation and one of the primary reasons why sponsors invest in sport; female fans are considered of particularly high value to some sponsors given their influence over purchasing decisions. Using data derived from a large number of interviews around the world, this report looks at several commercial and societal implications of the growing female fan population, as well as factors influencing women's participation in sport. Key findings regarding fan interest in sport and participation in sport by women.
    • The gap between men’s and women’s interest in sport has narrowed over the last 50 years. Among women under 50 years-of-age, 48% were interested or very interested in sport, compared to 69% of men under 50. In addition, 36% of women over 50 years-of-age were interested or very interested in sport.
    • Overall, in six key television markets (USA, India, Brazil, France, Germany and Australia), 69% of men and 43% of women were interested in watching sport on TV.
    • Motorsports had the largest gender gap in interest and TV viewing, Tennis and some Olympic sports (figure skating and gymnastics for example) were more popular among women than men.
    • Comparing the media habits of persons under the age of 30, it appears that internet and mobile-device behaviour among men and women is converging (less than 4% difference by gender), but a gap exists between men and women in their Pay TV viewing of sports (9% difference). This difference probably reflects the types of sports men and women are interested in watching and the way they can be accessed.
    • Women who participated in sports at school were three times more likely to be interested in sports throughout their life. About 52% of the Australian women surveyed said they did not participate in sports at school.
    • The main drivers for women’s participation in sports were: general health; stress relief; weight loss; being around friends; social connections; personal reward (feeling good), and; getting out of the house.
    • The main barriers for women’s participation in sports were: feeling outside one’s comfort zone; injury; cost; fear of failure; embarrassment (body image); not meeting self-expectations, and; logistics (child care, transport, facility location).
  • Women in sport broadcasting analysis, final report (PDF  - 6.3 MB), Paterson J and Matzelle R, Australian Sports Commission (with expertise by REPUCOM), April 2014. This research helps to establish the proportion of media exposure dedicated to women’s sport in Australia in both traditional and new media platforms. It analyses emerging trends since the publication, Toward a Level Playing Field: sport and gender in Australian media, was released in 2010. A secondary analysis provides insight into the relationship between sports broadcast exposure and the popularity of sports. A number of key insights are presented and recommendations are made.
  • Women’s Sport: say yes to success (PDF  - 989 KB), Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (2014). This is the third major report from the WSFF examining the levels of commercial investment afforded to women’s sport in the UK. As well as updating these figures, we also include for the first time, the results of a media audit providing a detailed breakdown of the coverage different media types give to women’s sport. Commercial investment in sport and the media coverage it receives are inextricably linked; brands are looking for profile and media outlets need exciting competitions and events in packed sporting arenas to make for spectacular viewing and reporting. To improve one the other must also be addressed, hence this new combined analysis. This report reveals that despite some positive developments in a handful of sports, women’s sport in the UK still accounts for only 0.4% of the commercial investment going into all sports and for only 7% of total sports coverage in the media. 

Research iconResearch 

  • Female athletes, women's sport, and the sport media commercial complex: Have we really “come a long way, baby”? Fink J, Sport Management Review, Volume 18, Issue 3 (2015). The 2012 London Olympic Games were heralded as the ‘Year of the Woman’ as every delegation sent a female athlete to compete. However, female athletes and women's sport still receive disparate treatment by the sport media commercial complex, compared to male athletes and men's sport. This review documents the qualitative and quantitative differences and discusses the negative impact this differential coverage has on consumer perceptions of women's sport and female athletes.
  • The influence of gender-role socialization, media use and sports participation on perceptions of gender-appropriate sports (PDF  - 1.1 MB), Hardin M and Greer J,Journal of Sport Behavior, Volume 32, Number 2 (2009). This study seeks to update understanding of how sports in U.S. society are viewed in light of gender norms. A survey of 340 college students found that the majority still rate most sports as either masculine or feminine. The study also examined the relationship between media coverage, sports participation, and gender role socialisation with the typing of sports as masculine or feminine. Although these factors seemed to impact gender typing for some sports by degrees, overall findings suggest that traditional gender-typing of sports persists.  The authors suggest that until media coverage becomes more inclusive of women in a variety of sports, rising overall participation rates by women in sports and fitness activities will do little to change traditional gender-typing.
  • “It’s Dude Time!” A quarter century of excluding women’s sports in televised news and highlight shows, Cooky C, Messner M and Musto M, Communication & Sport, Volume 3, Number 3 (2015). The last quarter century has seen a dramatic movement of girls and women into sport, but this social change is reflected unevenly in sports media. This study, a 5-year update to a 25-year longitudinal study, indicates that the quantity of coverage of women’s sports in televised sports news and highlights shows remains dismally low. The study reveals some qualitative changes over time, including a decline in the once-common tendency to present women as sexualized objects of humour replaced by a tendency to view women athletes in their roles as mothers. The analysis highlights a stark contrast between the exciting, amplified delivery of stories about men’s sports, and the often dull, matter-of-fact delivery of women’s sports stories. This article also provides three broadcast policy recommendations that would move TV sports news and highlights shows toward greater gender equity and fairness. First, present a roughly equitable quantity of coverage of women’s sports; defining ‘equity’ in this context would account for the fact that there are still more men’s sports, especially in the US college and professional spectator sports, than equivalent women’s sports. Second, present women’s sports stories in ways roughly equivalent in quality with the typical presentation of men’s sports. This refers to both the technical quality (deploying ample game footage, graphics, music, and interviews to accompany a story) and to the quality of the sports reporter’s verbal presentation (including amplifying the enthusiasm in reporting women’s sports to a level on the excitement meter that is equivalent with the usual presentation of men’s sports). Third, broadcasters should hire and retain on-camera sports commentators who are capable and willing to present women’s sport in the same light as men’s sport.
  • Twitter, Team GB and the Australian Olympic Team: representations of gender in social media spaces, Chelsea Litchfield and Emma Kavanagh, Sport in Society, Volume 22(7), pp.1148-1164, (2018). Twitter is used by athletes, sporting teams and sports media to provide updates on the results of sporting events as they happen. Unlike traditional forms of sports media, online sports media offers the potential for diverse representations of athletes. The current study examined gender in social media coverage of the 2016 Olympic Games using a third wave feminist lens. The analysis focused on the Twitter pages of ‘Team GB’ and the ‘Australian Olympic team’ and the sports stories and images posted during the Rio Olympic Games. Despite a number of traditional differences in the ways that male and females were represented being present, such as the presence of ‘active’ images of male athletes accompanying sports stories and the presence of infantalization in the language used to represent female performers, this analysis demonstrated significant strides forward in terms of the quantity of coverage received by women in online spaces. It further highlights virtual platforms as dynamic spaces for the representation of women athletes.
  • Women’s sports coverage: online images of the 2008 Olympic Games (PDF  - 110 KB), Jones D, Australian Journalism Review, Volume 32, Number 2 (2010). Overall, female athletes received far fewer photographs than male athletes and coverage was heavily tilted towards three types of sports – swimming, athletics and basketball; limiting the opportunity for portrayals of successful female athletes in other Olympic sports. 

resources iconResources 

  • Changing the visual landscape of women's sport (PDF  - 7.4 MB), Women's Sport Trust, Insight to Action series, (October 2016). Our panel and audience made compelling arguments for how the sports, media and branding sectors can make changes in the representation of women’s sport. Suggestions include: 1. Focus on ability, not appearance; 2. Beware of 'cliches'; 3. Sex doesn't sell sport; 4. Present the full diversity and breadth of women and sports; 5. Respond to demand; 6. Everyone needs to take responsibility; and, 7. Women photographers matter. 
  • Gender Equality in Sports Media, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), (ccessed 3 July 2019). Sports coverage is hugely powerful in shaping norms and stereotypes about gender. Media has the ability to challenge these norms, promoting a balanced coverage of men's and women's sports and a fair portrayal of sportspeople – irrespective of gender. Includes resources such as: Her Moments Matter video clips, Her Headline - a Chrome extension to highlight sexist language in sports media, and Gender-sensitive indicators for Media framework. 
  • Women in sport and recreation communication and marketing strategies, Change Our Game developed in conjunction with Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and Victorian State Government, (2019). The Change Our Game Women in Sport and Recreation Communication and Marketing Guidelines have been developed in conjunction with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) to assist community sport and recreation organisations looking to develop inclusive communication and marketing practices. These guidelines focus on four key areas: Smart strategies for marketing to women; Smart strategies for selecting imagery; Smart strategies for using social media; Smart strategies to using inclusive language and terminology.

Pregnancy

Pregnant women exercise class
From grassroots to elite participation an additional consideration for many women is the impact of pregnancypre-, during and post-partumon their ability to participate in sport and physical activity.

As for any professional, choosing to have children has significantly more impact on female than male elite athletes and can lead not only to career disruption but also to reductions in income (sponsorship, match fees, etc.) and additional difficulties when returning to elite or professional sport commitments (such as a lack of child care). 

For grass roots participation advice has often been difficult to find or contradictory. While the risks have often been considered the benefits were not necessarily understood.

Today, physical activityincluding sportfor women before, during and after pregnancy is considered important for a healthy pregnancy and the long term health of mother and child. 

Meeting the normal physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity per week is still recommended, through a variety of activities that best suit the individual. Surveys in Australia however, indicate that only a third of pregnant women met these guidelines, compared to 50% in the general female population.

Some sporting organisations, including Netball Australia and Basketball Australia, have developed specific guidelines for athletes competing in their sport.
Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

Article iconPolicies and Guidelines

  • 2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancyCanadian Society for Exercise Physiology, (October 2018). New evidence-based guideline outlines the right amount of physical activity women should get throughout pregnancy to promote maternal, fetal, and neonatal health. Physical activity is now seen as a critical part of a healthy pregnancy. Following the guideline can reduce the risk of pregnancy-related illnesses such as depression by at least 25%, and the risk of developing gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and preeclampsia by 40%. Unless contraindicated pregnant women should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week over a minimum of three days per week; however, being active in a variety of ways every day is encouraged.
  • Pregnancy exercise guide, approved by the BabyCenter Australia Medical Advisory Board (last reviewed October 2009)

Article iconSport Specific Policies and Guidelines

Finder iconPrograms

  • SmartHER: EIS prioritising female athlete health, Mark Jamieson, English Institute of Sport, (8 March 2019). The English Institute of Sport (EIS) has prioritised opening up conversations amongst athletes, coaches and staff in high performance sport around female athletes’ menstrual cycle and its possible effects, as well as offering expertise to help elite British female athletes be healthy, happy and deliver world class performances.
  • This Mum Moves is an initiative aimed at supporting pregnant women and new mums to be active. It looks to do this in two key ways: Providing healthcare professionals with the tools and training to knowledgeably and confidently discuss physical activity; and, providing women with further information on the benefits of being active, and activities to try. 
    • ukactive kicks off This Mum Moves project with first insights from mothers and healthcare professionals, ukactive, (25 April 2019). ukactive has kicked-off a ground-breaking project called This Mum Moves, aimed at supporting women to be active during and after pregnancy. A survey of more than 400 healthcare professionals’ showed that 27% did not know whether pregnant women should continue to engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week, as recommended in specific guidance introduced by the Chief Medical Officer in 2017. This is in keeping with recommendations for the general adult population. However, 97% said they would be interested in further training to support their practice. The findings were consistent with existing literature in this area that shows there is a lack of knowledge and confidence in providing physical activity advice and guidance during pregnancy and the postnatal period. The insights from the work will be used to develop a toolkit for healthcare professionals and a wider campaign aimed at supporting pregnant women and new mothers in maintaining regular physical activity during pregnancy and beyond. 

ReadingReading

Report iconReports

  • Physical activity during pregnancy 2011–12, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, (2 May 2019). Currently, little is known about how much, and what types of, physical activity pregnant women undertake in Australia. This short report investigates the types and amount of physical activity undertaken by women during pregnancy, with comparisons made between pregnant and non-pregnant women of the same age, and against Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for adults. The report found that only one third of pregnant women met the Australian physical activity guideline of at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous activity [compared to around 50% in the general female population as reported in other AIHW reports].  

Research iconResearch

  • Benefits of Physical Activity during Pregnancy and Postpartum: An Umbrella Review, Dipietro, Loretta, et al. for the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Committee, Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, Volume 51(6), pp.1292-1302, (June 2019). This study aimed to summarize the evidence from the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report, including new evidence from an updated search of the effects of physical activity on maternal health during pregnancy and postpartum. The reviewers concluded that the gestational period is an opportunity to promote positive health behaviors that can have both short- and long-term benefits for the mother. Given the low prevalence of physical activity in young women in general, and the high prevalence of obesity and cardio metabolic diseases among the U.S. population, the public health importance of increasing physical activity in women of childbearing age before, during, and after pregnancy is substantial.
  • Considerations for the Postpartum Runner, Kate Mihevc Edwards, Strength and Conditioning Journal, (January 2019). According to Running USA, today there are over 35 million runners in the United States and greater than half are women. The psychological, physiological and biomechanical differences between male and female runners are well cited however, there is little guidance provided to healthcare providers including running and strength coaches about how to transition runners back to running postpartum. This article can serve as a reference for understanding the unique challenges female runners face postpartum and give clinicians the knowledge to manage the athlete’s expectations and training progression.
  • Elite athletes get pregnant, have healthy babies and return to sport early postpartum, Jorunn Sundgot-Borgen, Christine Sundgot-Borgen, Grethe Myklebust, Nina Sølvberg, Monica Klungland Torstveit, BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, Volume 5(1), (November 2019).  34 Norwegian elite athletes (33.1 years) and 34 active controls (31.5 years) were asked about training and competitive history, pregnancy-related issues, injuries, body dissatisfaction (BD), drive for thinness (DT), eating disorders (ED) and practical experiences, through a questionnaire and interview. The results showed that both elite athletes and active controls got pregnant easily, delivered healthy babies and decreased training during pregnancy and the first postpartum periods compared with prepregnancy. Most athletes and every third control returned to sport or exercise at week 0–6 postpartum. Athletes reported stress fractures and increased BD and DT, but decreased ED postpartum. However, since relatively few athletes were included these findings need further investigation.
  • Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 1—exercise in women planning pregnancy and those who are pregnant, Bo K, Aertal R, Barakat R, et.al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 50, Issue 10 (2016). The IOC assembled an international expert committee to review the literature on physical activity and exercise (1) during pregnancy and (2) after childbirth, using rigorous systematic review and search criteria. Part 1 focuses on the effects of training during pregnancy and on the management of common pregnancy-related symptoms experienced by athletes.
  • Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 2—the effect of exercise on the fetus, labour and birth, Bø K, Artal R, Barakat R, et al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 50(21), pp.1297-1305, (2016). This evidence statement, based on a systematic literature search, examines how strenuous exercise affects the fetus. It also addresses issues relating to birth, such as risk of preterm birth, prolonged labour and mode of delivery, including injuries to the pelvic floor muscles and the perineum.
  • Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016/17 evidence summary from the IOC Expert Group Meeting, Lausanne. Part 3—exercise in the postpartum period, Bø K, Artal R, Barakat R IOC Medical Commission, et al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 51(21), pp.1516-1525, (2017). The aims of this paper are to present (1) the findings from a systematic review of the scientific literature on factors related to returning to exercise after childbirth in recreational and elite athletes, and (2) the prevalence, risk factors and evidence for prevention and treatment of common postpartum conditions that may affect sport performance and overall quality of life.
  • Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016/17 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 4—Recommendations for future research, Bø K, Artal R, Barakat R, et al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 51(24), pp.1724-1726, (2017). In Part 4, we recommend future research based on Parts 1–3. The systematic reviews, on which the previous Parts were based, revealed many gaps in knowledge relating to strenuous exercise during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, in both regular recreational exercisers and elite athletes. Important research questions are listed below, in relation to the foci of Parts 1–3, under the following headings: exercise during pregnancy, exercise related to birth outcomes and exercise in the postpartum period. 
  • Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016/2017 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 5. Recommendations for health professionals and active women, Bø K, Artal R, Barakat R, et al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 52(17), pp.1080-1085, (2018). Summarises the recommendations for exercise during pregnancy and after childbirth in recreational exercisers and elite athletes experiencing healthy pregnancies. Part 5 also serves as a background for healthcare personnel to advise women who wish to stay active at a high level.
  • How the menstrual cycle and menstruation affect sporting performance: experiences and perceptions of elite female rugby players, Rebekka J Findlay, Eilidh H R Macrae, Ian Y Whyte, et.al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, (29 April 2020). This study provides the first in-depth insight into athlete’s experiences of the menstrual cycle and perceived impact on training and competition. It highlights individual responses to menstrual ‘issues’ and emphasises the need for clinicians and support staff to undertake menstrual cycle profiling, monitoring and continue to develop awareness, openness, knowledge and understanding of the menstrual cycle.
  • Postpartum exercise, Brad Roy, ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal, Volume 18(6), pp.3–4, (November/December 2014). There are numerous benefits to being physically active after pregnancy, including a reduction in fat mass, increased lean mass, improved lipid profiles, and enhanced mental outlook and acuity. All women are encouraged to begin exercising as soon as medically appropriate and to remain physically active throughout their lifetimes.
  • ‘Provide clarity and consistency’: the practicalities of following UK national policies and advice for exercise and sport during pregnancy and early motherhood, Eilidh H. R. Macrae, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, Volume 12(1), pp.147-161, (2020).  This qualitative study employed a social-ecological framework to investigate the experiences of new mothers based in the UK and the practicalities of engaging in regular exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Three themes were generated as recommendations to the sector. The first theme was the importance of providing ‘trusted advice’ from reputable sources. The second theme was the need for provision of ‘safe, affordable sport and exercise options’. The final theme was the need for more ‘considered postpartum support’ for exercise, through further childcare options and a range of supportive environments for women to exercise within postpartum.
  • Spotlight on the fetus: how physical activity during pregnancy influences fetal health: a narrative review, Ilena Bauer, Julia Hartkopf, Stephanie Kullmann, et.al., BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine, Volume 6(1), (2020). In the current review, we aimed to comprehensively assess the evidence of beneficial and harmful effects of maternal PA, including high-performance sports, on fetal development. The different mental and body-based relaxation techniques presented here are frequently performed during pregnancy. We found a considerable number of studies addressing these issues. In general, neither low key, moderate maternal PA nor relaxation techniques were observed to have a harmful effect on the developing child. However, we identified some forms of PA which could have at least a transient unfavourable effect. Notably, the literature currently available does not provide enough evidence to enable us to make a general conclusive statement on this subject. This is due to the lack of longitudinal studies on the metabolic and cognitive effects of regular PA during pregnancy and the wide diversity of methods used. In particular, the kind of PA investigated in each study differed from study to study.

resources iconResources 

Gender equity in leadership, governance and the workplace

In sport, as in many other industries, women are generally under-represented in leadership and governance positions. This includes board appointments, executive leadership, and high performance and/or head coaching roles. There are a variety of reasons suggested for why this happens but in general it seems that there remains a series of social, cultural, and sometimes procedural barriers. 

In an op-ed for International Women's Day in 2019, Sport Australia CEO Kate Palmer highlighted that in 2019 only 24 per cent of CEOs, across 63 Sport Australia funded National Sporting Organisations (NSOs), were women.  

Internationally the 2016 Gender Balance in Global Sport report provides one of the best overviews of the percentage of women on governing boards of International and National Olympic Committees and Paralympic Committees as well as International Federations. Overall the percentage of women on boards was less than 30% and less than 20% for National Olympic Committees and International Federations. Of the National Olympic Committees, Australia had the highest percentage (46%) while the Czech Republic and the People's Republic of China had no female board members.

The 2017 Sport and Recreation Paid Workforce survey from New Zealand indicates that women are underrepresented in decision-making roles in sport and active recreation, including management, coaching, and governance. Roughly one third of leadership and coaching roles are held by women across sector organisations, some specific figures include: high performance coaches (30% women; 70% male); sector organisation governance roles (27% women; 73% men); coach development roles (33% women; 67% men); leadership and management (40% women; 60% male); but, admin and support services are much more likely to be held by women (76% women; 22% men). 

The 2019 Canadian Women in Sport Leadership snapshot also reviewed the gender diversity in Canada's National Sport Organisations and Multisport Service Organisations for both board and senior leadership representation. For boards 36% of board members were female (up 2% from 2018) and 29% of board chairs were women (up 6% from 2018). 45% of CEOs were women (up 6% from 2018) and 42% of direct reports to the CEO were female. However, the report also commented that 20% of organisations had no female direct reports to the CEO and 12 had no women in the most senior staff roles at all. Additionally, there is no analysis of the types of roles held by senior staff men and women currently. 

The use of quotas, either recommended or mandatory, is a common method used to try and increase gender balance, especially on sporting organisation boards. Currently Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Germany, Sweden, France, and the United Kingdom are examples of countries targeting 40/60 gender balance on sport organisation boards. In most cases targets are introduced as recommendations, which is currently leading to slow change. However, some jurisdictions have started to implement mandatory quotas with the potential for funding to be at risk if organisations do not comply. 

  • Victorian State Government, Australia. From 1 July 2019, after a three year phase-in period, it became mandatory for all Victorian sports organisations who receive state government funding to have a minimum of 40% female representation on governing bodies, otherwise funding is at risk. 
  • New Zealand in October 2018 Sport New Zealand announced a target of 40/60 gender balance on all boards - national, regional and local - by December 2021, or risk losing access to government funding. 

While quotas for leadership and governance positions are one method of addressing gender imbalance in organisations it is equally important to recognise the need for other cultural and practical changes to support long term change. Examples of changes that can be implemented in organisations at all levels include: 

  • Commit to gender equality and diversity as a goal for your organisation
  • Review policies and procedures to ensure they reflect your organisational commitment to anti-discrimination and diversity.  
  • Provide a strategic pathway for women to develop the skills and experience required to be effective in leadership positions. 
  • Actively look for women with the skills and experience required to fill positions. This is not just about filling a quota but getting the right person for the job. 
  • Consider mentoring and training programs using successful women in your community to help develop the next generation of leaders. 
  • Provide practical support. E.g. childcare, changes to meeting schedules to make your organisation more family-friendly.

Coaching and officiating have traditionally been viewed as male-dominated activities. This has occurred across many sports, and even within sports where male and female athlete ratios are relatively equal.

Where they have been involved, women coaches and officials have more traditionally worked with younger athletes, often with the perception that they are more 'nurturing' and potentially not 'tough enough' for elite sport. Research and evidence have also highlighted that because women typically have greater domestic responsibilities (i.e. looking after families and children) that their ability to commit to coaching and officiating positions which may include travel, weekend and evening work can be more constrained and is more often questioned compared to male equivalents. 

For women to be treated equally in sport they need to have access to, and involvement in, all aspects of sport – including coaching and officiating.

Coaching 

Female coaches at the elite level (Olympic and Paralympic Games) have been particularly underrepresented. The International Olympic Committee Gender Equality Review Project highlighted that although there has been a steady increase in the number of female athletes competing at the Olympic Games (expected to represent 48.8% of all athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Games) there has been virtually no change in the number of accredited female coaches since 2010. The majority of coaches at Olympic level are male (89% at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games). Sport Australia CEO, Kate Palmer, also highlighted that the number of women coaches across the Australian high performance system is around 15 per cent, and at the Rio Olympic Games only nine per cent of accredited Australian coaches were women. 

A 2018-19 report by Level 1 compiled data on 578 head coaches from women's national teams and domestic leagues in football, basketball, netball, volleyball and softball from a variety of countries. While it is not exhaustive, they found that overall in these leagues and competitions 40% of head coaches were women (35% if you take out the netball coaches which was a significant outlier). Percentage of head coaches who were women for the different sports: volleyball 25%; football 26%; basketball 42%; softball 54%; netball 88%. 

In Australia the AusPlay survey reports that in 2019 around 39% of adults who reported participating in sport as a coach (including instructors, trainers and teachers) were women. This percentage is similar to previous Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures from 2010 that indicated that 42% of coaches/instructors/teachers were women. However, these women do not appear to be transitioning to a similar proportion of elite coaching positions. Only 9% of Australian coaches at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games were women.

Officiating 

Although there are even fewer sources of statistics, evidence or research available, in most sports there appear to be less women in officiating ranks, at both elite and community levels, than in coaching. In the American National Basketball Association (NBA) there have been only three full-time female referees in sixty-nine years (the first was in 1997). In other major professional codes in America, the National Hockey League (NHL), National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), each league has had one female full-time referee (ever). While total refereeing figures for the women's professional leagues are more difficult to find, in the 2018 WNBA Playoffs 37.5% (6 out of 16) of the referees assigned to officiate were women. 

In Australia there are very limited sources indicating how many women are currently officiating, particularly in professional leagues. The Australian Football League (AFL), National Rugby League (NRL) and Rugby Union (ARU) have all had a small number of female referees recently officiating top level matches, but generally only one or two. More broadly the AusPlay survey reports just under 40% of adults who participated as a sports official (including referee/umpire, line judge, scorer, timekeeper, starter etc) in 2018-19 were women. This percentage is also similar to the 2010 ABS figures that indicated 36% of referees/umpires were women. 

Future development 

The current figures in Australia and internationally indicate that, particularly at the elite level, there is significant room for women to participate more fully as both officials and coaches. At a community level increasing women's participation in this space could help to alleviate some of the shortages that many grassroots organisations report. At an elite level, there appears to be little conversion of women officiating and coaching at lower levels (which Australian statistics suggest is around 40%) to elite levels. 

As in many other sporting areas there are a variety of factors—individual, social, cultural—impacting women's participation in coaching, officiating and administration. Some suggested actions to help increase their numbers include: 

  • Promote/market coaching, officiating and sports administration opportunities to women, both as viable professional careers and as opportunities to be involved in grassroots organisations. 
  • Listen to the needs of women on strategies that will recruit and retain them as coaches, officials and administrators. 
  • Think about your marketing and learning materials. Who is in them? Increase the visibility of women and normalise diversity. 
  • Talk to women in your club/organisation about new opportunities and encourage them to develop/document any skills required to be the best applicant. 
  • Highlight practical experiences/case studies of successful professional sports women.
  • Develop networking, communication, and mentoring opportunities to connect aspiring career women with successful women (and men) in the field.
  • Encourage organisations to review their hiring practices, procedures and commitment to gender equality, particularly where unconscious bias may be impacting. 
  • Make women coaches/officials the 'norm'. Increase opportunities for both male and female players to work with female coaches/officials.

Gender pay gap 

Determining how much athletes or teams earn or are paid in order to compare men's and women's sport is often difficult. Payments for teams and competitions can include: sponsorship and broadcast deals, match fees, etc. For athletes payments can include: match fees, performance bonuses, allowances, wages, retainers, commercial sponsorship, and grants/scholarships. Not all income or earnings are required to be publicly declared and detailed information is often difficult to find on websites. 

The 2016 Gender Balance in Global Sport report provides one of the best recent overviews of the gender pay gap in sport. Through analysis of the (limited) data sources available and case studies of some of the more transparent sports the report demonstrated that in most countries, and most sports, the gender pay gap is significant and is only in the early stages of being addressed. 

Despite the often argued chicken/egg relationship between the popularity of women's sport and broadcast and sponsorship engagement, research and evidence from various countries indicates that the public appetite for women's sport is strong. In the UK based Women's Sport: say 'yes' to success report 61% of people surveyed believe that top sportswomen are just as skilful as the top men (although perhaps not as physically powerful), over half also believe that women's sport is just as exciting to watch as men's and that they wanted to see more coverage of women's sport on live TV. Sportswomen are also seen as inspirational role models.

All of these factors suggest that there is significant interest in women's sport that could drive increased sponsorship and broadcasting opportunities for organisations that successfully engage with women in sport, female athletes, and female fans.

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

Radio IconAudio

Infographic iconInfographics

  • The case for change (PDF  - 70 KB), Sport New Zealand, (2018). Provides an overview of research illustrating the 'case for change' for women and girls in sport. Focus areas are: Leadership, Participation, and Value and Visibility.
  • Women in Sport Leadership: 2019 Snapshot (PDF  - 239 KB), Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, (2019). This report illuminates the gains made this past year and identifies opportunities for improvement. New this year, we looked at the presence of women in different types of decision-making roles - including at the board, CEO, and senior staff levels. 

Blog iconMedia Releases

  • ACT on track to reach 40 percent female representation on sporting boards, Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry MLA, ACT Government, (November 2019). The ACT is making progress to bring more women onto sports boards and sports are showing they understand and support the need for change. Of the 28 peak sporting bodies triennially funded through the ACT Government’s Sport and Recreation Grants Program, more than half have now reached the target or higher.
  • Talent Programs launched to challenge gender diversity, Sport Australia, (7 March 2019). Sport Australia CEO Kate Palmer and AIS CEO Peter Conde have challenged 33 women embarking on ground-breaking leadership programs to use the experience to help drive greater diversity in Australian sport. 
  • The dial is shifting for gender equality in sport – just not fast enough, Kate Palmer, CEO Sport Australia, (8 March 2019). Op-ed written for International Women's Day 2019. Highlights that the quest for gender equality in sport has come a long way, but the starting point was a long way behind. Women comprise 24 per cent of CEOs across the 63 national sporting organisations funded by Sport Australia and the AIS. The number across the high performance coaching system is 15 per cent, while a mere nine per cent of accredited Australian Olympic coaches in Rio were female. The ASX shares this historic under-representation, which does not make it right. Yesterday, Sport Australia announced 33 successful candidates to join AIS Talent Programs designed to identify and develop female sport executives and high performance coaches. 
  • Let's stop calling it women's sport, Kate Palmer, CEO Sport Australia, (7 February 2019). It’s time to rewrite the language of Australian sport. We need to drop the unnecessary, divisive labels, and erase the gender bias that has become accepted and ingrained. We have made one of the biggest shifts in the participation of women in sport in this country in the past five years, while the tipping point at the elite level came with the recent growth of domestic professional leagues and the rising profiles of national teams. But let’s not be complacent because we still need still need to keep growing the role of women in sport. We need to create more opportunity for participation, for developing leaders and coaches, increasing the number and importance of female roles across all levels of sport. We must continue to build on the significant progress that has already been made.
  • No Boundaries for Women and Girls in Sport, Australian Women in Sport Advisory Group/Victoria University, (18 December 2019). Australian business, government and sport leaders are being urged to back a new strategy to achieve gender equality in sport by 2025.
  • VicHealth’s Position on Women in Leadership Roles in Sport, VicHealth, (17 December 2018). VicHealth aims to increase the representation of women on the governing bodies of sporting organisations with which it partners. It first announced its position in January 2017. VicHealth’s position is that: By 1 July 2019, selected sport and recreation organisations in receipt of VicHealth funding will be required to have a minimum 40% self identified females on the governing body.

Article iconPolicies

  • Golf Australia's Vision 2025: The future of women and girls in golfGolf Australia, (February 2019). On 13 February 2019 Golf Australia launched a new strategy aiming at addressing a fundamental imbalance in Australian golf where women currently make up just 20% of all members. One of the four main pillars of Vision 2025 is: High performance and coaching: More heroes to inspire the next generation; more female coaches to nurture and develop them; more chances for the elite to compete and hone their skills.  

ReadingReading

  • 6 women in sport on sexism, progress and what’s needed next, Jessica Halloran, Vogue, (16 December 2019). For long, the notion of women in sport was met with scorn, condescension and blatant sexism, but times have changed. Here, award-winning sports journalist Jessica Halloran, who has witnessed the victories for female athletes on and off the field in recent years, champions the trailblazing women behind the movement and explores what’s still needed to achieve gender equality.
  • Balance the BoardVictorian Government Change our Game media, (accessed 3 July 2019). By 1 July 2019 all sport and active recreation organisations funded by Sport and Recreation Victoria and the Victorian Government will be expected to comply with the mandatory 40% women on boards quota. Organisations that are not at the mandatory quota by 1 July 2019 risk losing funding through the Supporting Victorian Sport and Recreation program.
  • Building a pipeline of female sports leaders, Matthew Campelli, Sustainability Report, (12 March 2019). Despite progress being made by some sports organisations, representation of women at leadership level is still low. How can the sector overcome its ‘pipeline problem’? 
  • California Just Made It Illegal to Pay Women Less Than Men In Sporting Events on State Lands, Dylan Heyden, The Inertia, (12 September 2019). California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a landmark bill that will now make it illegal for sports organizations to pay male and female competitors differently at any sporting event held on state lands. AB 467, also called the “Equal Pay for Equal Play” measure, initially drew inspiration from the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing and their fight for equal pay for women big wave surfers at Maverick’s.
  • Changing the gender imbalance in Australian sports coaching, Steve Pallas, Sports Community, (accessed 18 July 2019). In this time where volunteers are harder and harder to find, how many coaches and for that matter team managers are being lost to sport simply because they are not being given an opportunity?..the issue of imbalance highlights a cultural weakness in Australian sport. In the absence of reason to the contrary, the behaviours of individuals, especially new individuals into a club environment, will default to the existing culture and behaviour exhibited by club members. For generations, generally, this default position is men filling the leadership roles within clubs and sport.  
  • Developing female coaches (PDF  - 496 KB), Sports Coach UK and the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (2010). This factsheet focuses on the reasons for the under-representation of women in coaching and suggests steps that governing bodies of sport, national agencies and women themselves can take to address this.  
  • Developing gender equality indicators in sports (PDF  - 613 KB), European Institute for Gender Equality, Council of Europe, (January 2016). Powerpoint presentation highlighting some of the strategic goals for gender equality, current state, and examples of policies to promote gender-balanced participation in decision-making in sport. 
  • The dial is shifting for gender equality in sport – just not fast enough, Kate Palmer, Chief Executive Officer Sport Australia, Sport Australia, (8 March 2019). The quest for gender equality in sport has come a long way, but the starting point was a long way behind. Women comprise 24 per cent of CEOs across the 63 national sporting organisations funded by Sport Australia and the AIS. The number across the high performance coaching system is 15 per cent, while a mere nine per cent of accredited Australian Olympic coaches in Rio were female.
  • Exclusive: Major sports bodies guilty of 'shocking' lack of women's representation at board level, Tim Wigmore, The Telegraph, (18 November 2019). A major investigation by Telegraph Sport into gender diversity in international sports federations has revealed that women continue to be gravely under-represented at executive level. 
  • FAME: Try on the stripes, you might like them, Medicine Hat News, (15 March 2017). Despite shockingly low numbers of female referees in most sports, officiating is an excellent arena for women to get involved with sport, and there are numerous reasons for associations to actively recruit female officials specifically.
  • Far-reaching Gender Equality Strategy a First for Sport, Sheila Robertson, Canadian Journal for Women in Coaching/Commonwealth Games Federation, (2016?). Provides a detailed overview of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) Gender Equality Strategy (GES). GES goals focus on organizing committees (OCs); women coaches; broadcasters and media; athlete participation; officiating; Commonwealth development; governance; leadership development; mission staff; and outreach.
  • Female referees: What is it like to officiate games? Alistair Magowan, BBC Sport, (11 November 2018). Life as a female referee can sometimes be daunting.  
  • Getting results on women in leadership: Employers must ditch what they think works and do what actually worksDiversity Council Australia, (online news posted 3 March 2014). DCA has reviewed a range of the latest research on leadership and concluded that many programs aimed at increasing the representation of women are failing to deliver results. Current evidence suggests that some initiatives are more effective than others; in particular, actively sponsoring women into leadership positions, addressing bias at every level, adopting broader definitions of what leadership looks like, and public accountability via reporting on measurable outcomes may actually deliver results. This article provides an overview of what strategies appear to work and which do not. 
  • Girls need more confidence to coach, research shows, Youth Sports Trust, (5 April 2019). Data released today by children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust shows more than one in three girls have a desire to coach/lead in school but only a small number are currently taking up the opportunity. Girls who were coaches, leaders or admin support had higher levels of body confidence, overall confidence and happiness.
  • How female cricket coaches are blocked by the league of gentlemen, Raf Nicholson, The Guardian, (17 May 2019). Change is afoot but statistics make bleak reading as women struggle to break down barriers to coach top-level cricket. Since 2014, when the England and Wales Cricket Board made history by announcing the first professional contracts in the world, it has been possible, as a woman, to play the game for a living. Yet coaching is lagging far behind. None of the men’s counties are coached by a woman; in 2018 only one Kia Super League side had a female coach – the former Australia batter Alex Blackwell. There are no women working as coaches in the England men’s or women’s setups. 
  • How much do Australian sportswomen get paid? Danielle Warby (blog), (14 November 2019). Author highlights that although it is difficult (or impossible) to provide exact information on how much female athletes are paid this is an attempt to show some of the current minimum wage arrangements and conditions for women's professional sports including: cricket, football, netball, rugby league and rugby union. Also highlights the amounts some high profile female sports stars (Sam Kerr, Ellyse Perry, Sam Stosur, Ash Barty, Stephanie Gilmore) earn. 
  • IMPACT10: Most influential women in Australian sportESPN, (21 December 2017). Here's our list of 10 women who have truly made the biggest impact on Australian sport in 2017. 
  • Kate Jacewicz says time will tell if she's a trailblazer despite A-League refereeing debut, Simon Smale, ABC News, (22 January 2020). Jacewicz became the first woman to referee an A-League match in the competition's 15-year history when she took charge of Melbourne City's 2-0 victory over Newcastle Jets on Saturday evening.
  • Lacking Number of Female Refs in Professional Sports, Female Referees in Professional Sports, (accessed 25 July 2019). Throughout the years of the NBA there has only been three official, full-time female refs in the last 69 years. However, compared to the NFL it's drastic difference. The NFL has been around for 95 years, and only hiring one full-time female ref this season. So, why has there been, and still, is a lacking number of female refs in these professional sports?
  • 'Little bit surprised': NRL appoints first female referee, Adam Pengilly, The Sydney Morning Herald, (15 July 2019). Belinda Sharpe will on Tuesday be confirmed as the first woman to take control of an NRL match, assigned as the assistant referee for Thursday night's Broncos and Bulldogs clash at Suncorp Stadium. 
  • Male-dominated sports organisations getting desperate for women, as time runs out, Olivia Caldwell, stuff.co.nz, (3 July 2019). For five years, Sport New Zealand has been pushing sports organisations to get more women on their boards; its patience gave out last month, with it announcing a "do-it-or-else" funding ultimatum to the laggards. The gender target for boards must be reached by December 2021, or funding will be on the line.
  • Mandatory Board QuotasVicSport, (2019). Dr. Bridie O'Donnell, Head; Office for Women and Sport and Recreation along with a few SSAs share their insights as to how they are taking action in order to meet the mandatory board quota by July 1 2019.
  • 'Nothing will change': More is needed to boost Australian women's referee numbers, AAP/SBS, (20 September 2019). The share of female referees in three of Australia's biggest sporting codes is static or declining, despite an explosion in the number of women playing sport.
  • Preparing for the future: Building leadership skills in young women, Caron M, Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC), Canada, blog posted 20 January 2016. Young girls today have more options when deciding which sport(s) to pursue, some traditionally male sports are now open to them. While the number of girls in sport is growing and the gender gap is getting smaller, there is still a noticeable absence of women in sport leadership positions. Numerous studies show that girls can learn many skills through sport that directly affect their ability to lead. This article discusses some of the ways that sport can contribute to leadership, particularly for young girls.
  • Primetime professionals… still a man’s game? Chelsea Litchfield, Jacquelyn Osborne, Broad Agenda, (15 October 2019). Today on BroadAgenda, Dr Chelsea Litchfield and Dr Jaquelyn Osborne examine pay increases and media exposure in these sports, and argue that there is much more that could be done in the space of women’s elite, professional sport.
  • Referee Stéphanie Frappart: 'Girls see me on TV and know it's possible', Paul Doyle, The Guardian, (11 August 2019). The official is regarded as one of France’s very best and will take charge of Liverpool v Chelsea in Istanbul on Wednesday. 
  • SportAccord Biannual Women in Leadership Positions (PDF  - 465 KB), survey factsheet (2013). On the 1st of May SportAccord released its biannual Women in Leadership positions factsheet. The results of the factsheet are rather controversial. Only 13% of SportAccord members have females in Executive Committee positions. Even though this indicates a 2% increase since July 2011 when the first Factsheet was released, only 24 women hold Executive Committee positions (or the equivalent) amongst the 105 international sports federations and organisations who are members of SportAccord. 
  • Sports struggling to appoint more female directors as diversity deadline looms, Suzanne McFadden, News Room, (26 April 2019). The push to get more women in sports governance roles before a 2021 deadline is proving difficult, with some sports putting their hand up for help. Failure to reach the 40 percent ratio could affect a sport’s future funding from the government – a matter that will come up for discussion in Sport NZ’s investment decision rounds next year. 
  • Striking a Blow for Gender EqualityAround the Rings (8 March 2012). The inclusion of women’s boxing on the program for London ensures that women will compete at every event for the first time in the 116-year history of the modern Olympic Games.  Far too many women and girls continue to be denied opportunities to experience the joys and benefits of sports.  Like many other organisations throughout the world, the International Olympic Committee was slow to recognise the importance of gender equality. Women began competing at the second modern Olympic Games in 1900, well before they gained the right to vote in any industrialised nation.  
  • Unleashing the Value of Women’s Sport Fact sheet (PDF  - 469 KB), NSW Office of Sport, [2017]. Growing sport for girls makes good business sense. It also helps address the gender imbalance in sport participation and contributes to improving health, social and equality issues. 
  • The war on women coaches, Laura Burton, Professor of Sport Management, University of Connecticut and Nicole LaVoi, Senior Lecturer Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Minnesota, The Conversation, (4 June 2019). During the past women’s college basketball season, two prominent head coaches, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s Sylvia Hatchell and Georgia Tech’s MaChelle Joseph, were fired.
  • Women in Sport: New report calls for culture change at all levels, BBC Sport, (20 June 2018). Provides an overview of some of the findings from the Women in Sport Beyond 30% - Workplace Culture in Sport report that was based on surveys of more than 1,000 people working in sport. Of those surveyed, 38% of women working in sport said they had experienced active discrimination because they were female, compared to 21% of men. 30% of women working in sport and 11% of men had experienced what they called "inappropriate behaviour" from the opposite sex. 72% of men working in sport said they believed there is "fair and equal treatment of men and women in their organisation", compared to 46% of women. 58% of women said they felt they had to prove themselves more than men, whereas 42% of men said the same.  
  • WNBA Announces The Officials For The 2018 PlayoffsWNBA media release, (20 August 2018). The WNBA today announced the 16 referees who have earned spots to officiate in the 2018 WNBA Playoffs. 
  • Women Are Largely Untapped Resource In Alleviating Youth Sports Referee Shortage, Bob Cook, Forbes, (16 June 2017). Ever since the Journal News in Westchester County, N.Y., in May ran an excellent piece on the referee shortage in school sports, I've seen a lot of other pieces designed to localize the ongoing crisis in finding enough officials to staff youth games.   
  • Women Athletes Global Leadership Network, perspectives on sport and teamsErnst & Young, (2013). Ernst & Young conducted a global survey of 821 senior managers and business executives, of whom 40% (328) were female. They represent companies from a wide range of sectors with annual revenues in excess of US$250m.  They found that over 90% of all women senior managers and executives played sports at some level at primary and secondary school or during university or other tertiary education.  There was strong agreement among female respondents that engagement in sports has a positive impact on the workplace. Female business executives agree that individuals who engage in sports at some level, or have done so, participate more effectively within teams than those who have not had this experience. 
  • Women on BoardsPlay by the Rules, (2015). Play by the Rules has devised a short list of ideas to help your club or sport organisation encourage more women to get involved in leadership. 
  • #WorldAtHerFeet: Women’s Football Shatters Records but Obstacles Still Stand in Way of Progress, says BCW reportEurope Decides, (29 May 2019). 2019 is shaping up to be a year of transformation for women’s football with record-breaking crowds, major sponsorship deals and increasing levels of coverage. The women’s World Cup (7 June-7 July) could reach a billion viewers and eclipse the Cricket and Rugby World Cups. But obstacles still stand in the way of progress and equality in the female game, according to the #WorldAtHerFeet report unveiled today by BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe).   

Report iconReports

  • 2017 Sport and Recreation Paid Workforce surveyAngus & Associates for Sport New Zealand, (June 2017). This report presents the findings of the 2017 Sport and Recreation Paid Workforce Survey. The results outlined in this report are based on a total sample of n=1,145 paid employees of 114 organisations in the sport and recreation sector. These organisations include a broad cross-section of National Sports Organisations (NSOs), Regional Sports Organisations (RSOs), Regional Sports Trusts (RSTs), National Recreation Organisations (NROs), Territorial Authorities (TAs), and relevant government agencies/ crown entities. The workforce profile has a slight skew towards female employees when compared to the population profile by gender. The workforce of RSTs and NROs is significantly female skewed, while the reverse is true of RSOs and NSOs.
  • A snapshot of coaches in women's sports in 2018/19, Level One, (2019). For their inaugural snapshot Level One collected data for 2018 - 2019 from various women’s professional, semiprofessional and amateur leagues, as well as global women’s national team competitions, that had publicly available information regarding the gender of the participating head coaches. They focused on the team sports of soccer, basketball, netball, volleyball and softball. Five (5) global national team competitions and twenty-four (24) domestic leagues were analyzed. Overall, in these leagues and competitions: 40% of head coaches were women. One national team competition (Netball) featured a female head coach for the majority of participating teams. Seven leagues featured a female head coach for the majority of participating teams: Basketball: NCAA Championship (USA); Softball: NCAA Championship (USA); Netball: Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa and UK. 
  • About Time! Women in sport and recreation in AustraliaAustralian Government; The Senate, Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee (September 2006). The Committee’s terms of reference were to inquire into women in sport and recreation in Australia, with particular reference to: (a) the health benefits of women participating in sport and recreation activities; (b) the accessibility for women of all ages to participate in organised sport, fitness and recreation activities; (c) the portrayal of women’s sport in the media; (d) women in leadership roles in sport.
  • Advancement in Sport Coaching and Officiating Accreditation (PDF  - 517 KB), University of New England for Australian Sports Commission and Active Australia, (2001). Identifies many gender inequities, but states that substantive reasons for the over representation of male coaches and officials are not clear.  For women to be treated equally in sport they need to have access to, and involvement in, all aspects of sport – including coaching, officiating, and administration. Female coaches at the elite level (Olympic and Paralympic Games) have been particularly underrepresented, and although small increases have occurred in recent years, the majority of coaches at Olympic level are male. 
  • The AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale national population tracking survey funded and led by Sport Australia that tracks Australian sport and physical activity participation behaviours to help inform investment, policy and sport delivery. Updated data is provided in April and October annually. 
  • Barriers report 2015: ethnic minority females. NCAA perceived barriers for ethnic minority females in collegiate athletics careers (PDF  - 519 KB), National Collegiate Athletic Association, (2016). Ethnic minority females comprise less than seven percent of the population of athletics professionals at NCAA member institutions in all three divisions. The goal of this report was to collect empirical evidence outlining the factors that influence ethnic minority women’s careers, including: (1) obstacles (perceived or real) potential applicants may face when contemplating a career in athletics; and (2) obstacles institutions may face in recruiting and retaining ethnic minority women in coaching and administrative positions. Key barriers identified included hiring perceptions (not applying because of perceived barriers) and discrimination in hiring practices due to race, gender and sexuality. Some steps for increasing diversity were recommended. 
  • Beyond 30% – Workplace Culture in Sport Report, Women in Sport, (June 2018). Currently women are under-represented in senior leadership roles and on Boards in the sector. There is also evidence of discrimination and negative workplace culture. This needs to change in order to create an environment in which both women and men thrive and to nurture the pipeline of talented female leaders for the future.
  • Chasing Equity: The Triumphs, Challenges, and Opportunities in Sports for Girls and Women (PDF  - 5.2 MB), Women's Sports Foundation, (January 2020). In this report, we examine the state of girls’ and women’s sport in the United States through a broad lens, looking at the triumphs, the challenges, and the tremendous opportunities that are yet to be realized. One area of focus is workplace bias and wage gaps in sport. The report highlights that despite the assumption that increased female participation in sport would lead to more women working in, and leading, sports organisations this has not occurred. Women are impacted at various levels of their career, often leading them to select a different career path/field altogether rather than persist within sport. Much work remains before fair access at all levels of sport is achieved. Some key statistics in the report include: 
    • Women held, on average, less than a quarter of head coach or athletic director positions in all levels of the NCAA. 
    • In the US Olympic and Paralympic Committees women comprise approximately 37.5% of members, and approximately 33% of positions on US National Governing Body boards. 
    • Of the 66 'main coaches' for the US Olympic team at the 2018 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, eight (12.1%) were female - and seven of the eight coached figure skating or ice dancing (i.e. more traditional feminine roles). 
    • At the professional athlete level, women's competitions often have not only less teams, but also a more limited number of allowed players. The 30 NBA teams can each have up to 15 players, while the 12 WNBA teams are limited to 12 roster spots. The six National Pro Fastpitch Softball teams are limited to 26 players for a total of 156 players, while the 30 Major League Baseball regular-season rosters are limited to 25 for a total of 750 players. 
  • Facts and figures on gender (in)equalities and differences (PDF  - 637 KB), Fact Sheet #1 of the Toolkit: How to make an impact on gender equality in sport All you need to knowEuropean Union and the Council of Europe, (September 2019). This factsheet is composed of five sections presenting facts and figures relating to gender inequalities and differences in participation (from grass-roots to elite sport), coaching, leadership and the media and to the prevalence of gender-based violence in sports. 
  • Gender & Coaching Report Card: London 2012 Olympics (PDF  - 680 KB), 6th IWG World Conference on Women and Sport, Helsinki, Finland (June 2014). This report provides figures from London 2012 on women’s participation in the summer Olympic and Paralympic Games and on the gender of coaches. It also offers a few case studies that illustrate the discrepancies that exist in the number of male and female coaches by country and by continent. The number of female participants in the Olympic Games (44.2%) and Paralympic Games (35.4%) increased slightly in 2012. However, the overall percentage of female coaches was only 11%. This report also contains a breakdown by country of the number of male and female accredited coaches at the Games.  
  • Gender Balance in Global Sport Report (PDF  - 2.7 MB), 2nd report, Tranter R, Medd R and Braund C, Women on Boards (2016). This report was written in the lead up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games to update the inaugural report published in June 2014. This report provides an updated publicly available dataset on the number of women serving on boards of sports governing bodies; the gender pay gaps in certain sports; and case studies on sports that are successfully addressing the gender gap. The core data set includes information from 129 of the 206 National Olympic Committees; 27 Paralympic Committees; 28 International Sports Federations; 14 Paralympic International Sports Federations; 59 National Governing Bodies (NGBs) in the United Kingdom and 57 National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) in Australia. Overall findings include: (1) the number of women in elite governing bodies of the Olympic movement remains below 30%; (2) female representation on National Olympic Committees has fallen a further one per cent over the past two years and now stands at 16.6%; (3) female representation on International Sports Federations has remained static at close to 18%. Statistics vary from sport-to-sport and across countries. For example, at international level, only Tennis recorded a significant increase in the percentage of female board members, but it was coming off a base of zero percent in 2014; Taekwondo, Aquatics, Boxing and Wrestling all recorded a slight increase in the percentage of female board members. In Paralympic sports, only the boards of Table Tennis, Basketball, Curling and Bocca recorded an increase in the number of women on their boards. 20 National Olympic Committees recorded a 5% or greater reduction in the number of women on their boards, while 28 improved by more than 5%. Again, many of the top performers came off a zero base. Only Malawi, Australia, Bermuda, Norway, New Zealand, Kiribati, Samoa and Tuvalu have at least 40% or more women on their national Olympic boards and committees; the USA has 31.3% females and the UK has 26.7%. Tables identifying the changes (from 2014 to 2016) in the representation of women on national sports boards in the two focus countries (i.e. UK and Australia) are presented in this report. In addition, this report addresses the gender gap in earnings between male and female athletes in the same sport, sponsorships and other earnings were not included;  two case studies — football (soccer) and cricket, are provided.  
  • Gender balance in global sport report (PDF  - 2.7 MB), 1st report, Braund C, Women on Boards (2014). This report reveals that many of the top international sports governing bodies have not done enough to ensure that a representative number of board positions are held by women. Among International Sports Federations surveyed, the average female representation was only about 15% and National Olympic Committees 16.5%. These figures exist despite a pre-Sydney 2000 Olympic Games target set by the International Olympic Committee to achieve a minimum of 20% women on all boards of Olympic sports by 2005.  
  • Gender equality in sport: Getting closer every day (PDF  - 2.2 MB), Ivana Katsarova; graphics: Samy Chahr, European Parliamentary Research Service Briefing, (March 2019). Briefing paper covers background and research relating to gender equality and sport. Specific focus areas include: Women's (long) road to the Olympics; Women in sports-related decision-making; Women as coaches; Gender pay inequalities; Gender-related stereotypes in media representation; Popularity and coverage of women's sports events in the EU; European parliament views on gender equality in sport. 
  • Gender Equity: What it will take to be the best (PDF  - 1.7 MB), Richmond Football Club in partnership with Bluestone Edge, Australian Football League and the Australian Sports Commission (2014). Sport, as a reflection of our wider society, is not an industry shared equally between men and women and gender inequity remains firmly entrenched, particularly at the leadership and governance level of most sports. The leadership of the Richmond Football Club decided it needed to more effectively engage with female stakeholders, internally and externally, to improve business performance. This report presents an abridged version of the overall research findings, so that gender equity may become a sustainable reality in sport. Nine themes were identified: (1) an equity mindset; (2) the right kind of support for women; (3) recognising the stress of the status quo; (4) women’s brand in football; (5) the role of men as learners, partners and leaders; (6) the visibility and voice of women; (7) workplace access and flexibility; (8) recruitment and attraction; and, (9) affirmative action, measurement and reporting. The issues, focus areas and themes arising from the research have been distilled to form an overarching framework, which highlights key areas and suggested interventions that Richmond Football Club and other sporting organisations can make to embed gender equity and diversity in the management and governance of their organisation. Four strategic areas for change are identified; structural, cultural, leadership, and business; with strategies suggested for each.
  • Gender equity in college coaching and administration: Perceived barriers report (PDF  - 1.08 MB), Bracken N, National Collegiate Athletic Association (2009). This is the second study conducted by the NCAA to measure career aspirations and perceptions of careers in intercollegiate athletics among women. A total of 8900 athletes, 1475 coaches, 1107 sports administrators, and 1127 officials were surveyed. This report presents 25 findings and makes 6 suggestions for improvement. While the majority of women coaches expressed satisfaction with their current overall employment; some indicated dissatisfaction with the equality of the sexes within athletics departments, unequal salary (women generally receive less for comparable jobs), and level of stress involved with the job. Family commitments were the most cited reasons for female coaches leaving a career in intercollegiate coaching. Suggested strategies for increasing women’s involvement in intercollegiate coaching, officiating and administration included: (1) market coaching, officiating, and sports administration as viable career option for women; (2) make practical experiences known to aspiring career oriented women; (3) increase in-service training opportunities for women; (4) create networking and communication opportunities to connect with successful women in the field; (5) develop mentoring programs, and; (6) encourage institutions to look at their hiring practices and procedures.
  • Head coaches of women’s collegiate teams 2018-19.  A report on seven select NCAA division-1 institutions, Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, (2019). his longitudinal research series, now in its seventh year (2012-19), is a partnership between the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota—the first research center of its kind in the world—and WeCOACH (formerly the Alliance of Women Coaches), the premiere organization dedicated to increasing and retaining the number of women in the coaching profession. In this longitudinal research series, we assign a grade to each institution, sport, and conference based on the percentage of women head coaches of women’s teams. A total of 971 head coaches of women’s teams from 86 institutions, with an average age of 46.3 years (range 24-79 years old), comprised this sample. The percentage of women head coaches increased for the sixth year in a row, to 41.8% which was a slight (0.2%) improvement from 2017-18. 
  • Interim Report of the Government’s Women and Sport Advisory Board (PDF  - 1.2 MB), United Kingdom, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Women and Sport Advisory Board (October 2014). Just over a year after its inception, the Women and Sport Advisory Board released this interim report to provide an overview of the key issues surrounding women and sport and provide a snapshot of action by the Government, its primary delivery bodies for sport (i.e. Sport England and UK Sport), and key stakeholders. Sport England’s research has identified three areas that present barriers to participation: (1) emotional barriers, many women do not have a positive relationship with sport; (2) capability barriers, many women have the perception that they are not good enough, and; (3) opportunity barriers, such as lack of time due to family priorities. Women’s sport media coverage increased during the 2012 London Olympics, but has fallen back to just 7% of total coverage. The value of sponsorship going to women’s sport in the UK was just 0.4% of the total. The number of women on sports boards is gradually increasing and currently sits at 27%, although about half of all National Governing Bodies (NGBs) report that less than a quarter of their board are women. The percentage of women coaches has increased to 28%, and increasing women’s participation in sport is a key part of the Government’s Youth and Community Sport Strategy aimed at addressing these inequities.  
  • 6285.0 - Involvement in Organised Sport and Physical Activity, Australia, April 2010, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (November 2010). In the 12 months prior to interview, an estimated 4.5 million people aged 15 years and over (26%) reported that they were involved in organised sport and physical activity. This included 3.8 million people involved in playing roles (22% of persons aged 15 years and over), and 1.6 million people involved in non-playing roles (9%). Of the 1.6 million people with a non-playing role, 56% also had a playing role (Table 1). Includes statistics relating to non-playing roles including coaching and officiating. 
  • IOC Gender Equality Review Project (PDF  - 2.15 MB), International Olympic Committee, (2018). The project findings emphasise that if gender equality initiatives are to be successfully implemented and sustained, all recommendations should be fulfilled. Achieving across-the-board gender equality in sport also requires clear timelines for action, with identified responsibilities, and follow-up monitoring and evaluation. Five themes are identified in the report including Sport (participation, rules, competition formats, venues, safeguarding, career transitions, coaches, officials, etc.); Portrayal (balanced media portrayals, communication partnerships); Funding; Governance (Leadership development, electoral processes, roles and responsibilities); and, HR monitoring and communications (inclusive leadership, monitoring progress, communications plan). 
  • The Leading Edge: Good practices for creating gender-equitable boards in sport (PDF  - 7.6 MB), Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, (2018). This resource provides sport leaders with information and tips to enhance good practices or dial up efforts to support gender-equitable boards. It includes information on making the case for gender-equitable boards; intentional leadership; setting clear objectives and evaluating progress; reviewing by-laws, processes and procedures; creating an inviting culture; proactively recruiting women; and, providing mentoring and training opportunities. 
  • NCAA Demographics Database [data visualisation dashboard], National Collegiate Athletic Association, (2018). Provides access and visualisation of self-reported data sourced from active NCAA member schools on the gender, race and ethnicity for all coaching and administrative positions within each school from 2008-2018. 
  • Pathway to Pay Equality: Elite women athletes (PDF  - 3.8 MB), Male Champions of Change Sport, (February 2019). The pathway to pay equality involves many dimensions, and sports may find that achieving pay equality takes several years. However, success within any single part of the ecosystem makes success in the other parts more likely. the report identifies three distinct stages (pre-professional, a fair & resonable wage, standalone pay) and a strategic focus, practical goals and actions for each.
  • Press for Progress Report 2018/19: to be the leading sport for women and girlsCricket Australia, (2019). Second annual report relating to the aspiration 'to be the leading sport for women and girls', set out in the Australian Cricket Strategy 2017-2022. Reports on Representation of women in Director (26%), Executive Management (34%), Other management (29%) and Total Employee roles (34%). The 2020 target for all categories is minimum 40% representation of men and women across every level of the Australian Cricket workforce. 
  • Prime Time: the case for commercial investment in women's sport (PDF  - 264 KB), The Commission on the Future of Women's Sport [UK], (2015). According to UK sports fans, women’s sport is exciting, skilful, internationally successful and growing faster than men’s. Some of the best of women’s sport is already attracting sizeable audiences and wide media interest, and there is clear demand from sports fans for more. Yet it attracts just a tiny percentage of sponsorship and broadcast expenditure: hundreds, if not thousands of times less than men’s sport. New, independent research and analysis provides strong evidence to suggest that women’s sport is being overlooked and under-valued. There is a compelling case for increased investment in a market that’s different to men’s sport; and yet one that offers unique commercial and social potential. By taking a new approach to a different market and working creatively in partnership, rights holders, sponsors, broadcasters and government stand to realise a significant return.
  • Profiling the Australian High Performance & Sports Science Workforce (PDF  - 3.4 MB), Dr Andrew Dawson, Dr Kylie Wehner, Dr Paul Gastin, Dr Dan Dwyer, Dr Peter Kremer, Mr Matthew Allan, Exercise and Sport Science Australia (ESSA), (December 2013). This research project was a cross-sectional, predominantly quantitative study to collect population data of the Australian High Performance and Sports Science workforce, and the Sport Administrators that employ them. Two independent online survey instruments were employed to collect data from these two participant groups. Participants in this research project were Australian High Performance and Sports Science employees (n = 210) and Sports Administrators (n = 32). The majority of respondents were male (72%). When examining the current position titles of respondents, several were male dominated, in particular in Strength and Conditioning (n=36) where almost 92 per cent of respondents in this group were male. High Performance Managers (n=31) and Sports Physiologists (n=24) were also predominantly male, accounting for 81 and 79 per cent of this cohort, respectively. In comparison, females were more likely to work as Sports Scientists (n=35) and Sports Biomechanists (n=16), comprising 37 per cent of each group.
  • Raising our Game: lifting up women's professional football, FIFPRO, (2020). FIFPRO launched Raising Our Game in 2020, a forward-thinking report about women’s professional football which puts players at the heart of the planned development and rebuilding of the sport after the coronavirus pandemic. The report, compiled with KPMG Football Benchmark, charts the economic evolution of the game, covering match-day attendance, TV audiences and sponsorship, and details player conditions at club and national team level.
  • Reflecting gender diversity: An analysis of gender diversity in the leadership of the community sector (PDF  - 1.4 MB), YWCA Australia, Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), and Women on Boards, (2012). This report presents the results of a landmark survey of gender diversity in the leadership of community sector organisations.  In a sector where women comprise up to 85% of the workforce, women take up only 51.4% of the director positions and a lower percentage of formal office bearer positions; only 44% of boards surveyed had a woman as a President; 37% as a Vice President; 31% as Treasurer; and 35% as Secretary.  This survey aimed to explore three aspects of gender diversity within the community sector: (1) the gender diversity of boards compared to the gender composition of the workforce; (2) the gender diversity of boards compared to financial turnover and government grants received, and; (3) the gender diversity of office bearer roles.  Overall, this research demonstrates that while the community sector has, comparative to other industry sectors, achieved a greater degree of gender equality on boards, there are concerning anomalies.
  • Trophy Women? 2015: No more board games (PDF  - 2.80 MB), Women in Sport, UK (2015). Following six years of research by Women in Sport into the gender diversity of sports boards, female representation on the boards of National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and other sports organisations that are funded and supported by Sport England and UK Sport is finally averaging 30%, compared to the first survey (21%) conducted in 2009. However, further analysis suggests that barriers that existing six years ago persist. There are still variation in the progress made by individual NGBs and publicly funded sports organisations. This report showcases best practice and identifies areas where there has been less change. 
  • Why are there not more female referees in rugby? Leana Kell, Centurion Rugby, (accessed 25 July 2019). In 2015, Sarah Cox made history when she became the first female rugby referee to join the RFU match official team, and there are other successful women referees out there such as Clare Hodnett and Australian referee Amy Perrett, who are currently carving the way for other female referees, and making it hopeful that before long things will change. But if we consider the here and now, Rugby continues to lack female referees. Below, Centurion takes a look at why this might be the case.
  • Women at the Olympic Games: statistics, International Olympic Committee, (accessed 24 July 2019). Highlights a number of key statistics from athlete participation to number of accredited coaches and women in leadership positions within the IOC, International Federations and National Olympic Committees. The number of women athletes at the Olympic Games is approaching 50 per cent. Since 2012, women have participated in every Olympic sport at the Games. The number of women in leadership positions is also rising in many Olympic organisations. However, women continue to be underrepresented as coaching staff at the Olympic Games. The Gender Equality Review Project has highlighted the need to address the imbalance in coaching.
  • Women in Leadership: understanding the gender gapCommittee for Economic Development of Australia (June 2013).This report examines why women continue to be under represented in leadership positions in Australia. 
  • Women in the Olympic and Paralympic Games: An Analysis of Participation and Leadership Opportunities, Smith M and Wrynn A, SHARP Center for Women and Girls, USA (2013). This report analyses the representation and participation of women in the international and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic organizations. Specifically, it examines the types and extent of opportunities that are provided for women in administrative and leadership roles within these structures as well as the chances women have to compete in the Games themselves. This report also assesses the extent that the IOC, IPC and United States Olympic Committee (USOC) are fulfilling their stated missions with respect to fairness to fairness and gender equity and whether or not legal statutes are being upheld. 
  • Women’s Sport: say yes to success (PDF  - 989 KB), Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (2014). This is the third major report from the WSFF examining the levels of commercial investment afforded to women’s sport in the UK. As well as updating these figures, we also include for the first time, the results of a media audit providing a detailed breakdown of the coverage different media types give to women’s sport. Commercial investment in sport and the media coverage it receives are inextricably linked; brands are looking for profile and media outlets need exciting competitions and events in packed sporting arenas to make for spectacular viewing and reporting. To improve one the other must also be addressed, hence this new combined analysis. This report reveals that despite some positive developments in a handful of sports, women’s sport in the UK still accounts for only 0.4% of the commercial investment going into all sports and for only 7% of total sports coverage in the media. 
  • World at her feetBurson, Cohn & Wolfe (BCW), (2019). BCW, one of the world’s largest full-service global communications agencies, invited players, former players, officials, administrators, commercial experts and fans to give their views on the current state of play and future of women’s football for this report. Through their own personal sporting stories and different experiences of the game, they offer insights into how the sport can seize opportunities to develop and overcome the obstacles that still stand in the way of progress and equality. 10 Key Findings from the Report:

    • The professional game is becoming more competitive and more talent is coming through. More women than ever before are playing football – 26 million in 180 countries according to FIFA
    • Women are making their way into football boardrooms and management, but it’s hardly a stampede. Less than 1% of presidents of national associations are female
    • With the exception of the very top clubs, player salaries are often low – 90% of female professional players say they might quit the sport for financial, family or career reasons
    • Female referees earn less than men in top tournaments
    • The game’s fan base is rapidly expanding with record attendances in several countries including Spain, Italy and Mexico, as well as rocketing ticket sales for the Champions League and World Cup, but gate receipts in national leagues still remain too low for most clubs to be self-sustainable
    • Investment in infrastructure, pitch quality, academies and the grassroots game is still relatively weak
    • Big-brand sponsorship is on the increase – sponsors believe that investing in a world that produces healthy, confident and empowered women is good for business
    • Media coverage is increasing, but women’s sport continues to receive less than 10% of sports coverage overall
    • Change is being driven by the top clubs. Olympique Lyonnais is seen as the role model, with its “exceptional focus” on professionalism and player development
    • While attitudes are changing for the better, examples of sexism, conservatism and bias still persist.
  • Worldwide Index of Women as Public Sector Leaders – Opening doors for women working in government (PDF  - 1.6 MB), Ernst & Young, (2013). This report highlights gender equity issues at senior management levels in the public sector across the world.  Public sector leaders; including politicians, civil servants and board members; make decisions that affect millions of people every day.  Unfortunately, women’s access to leadership positions remains alarmingly limited, even in developed markets.  When it comes to the numbers of female public sector leaders, Canada (45%), Australia (37%), and UK (35%) do well.  South Africa (33%), Brazil (32%) and the US (31%) perform favourably; and Italy (27%) and France (21%) follow.  However, large economies such as China (11.5%), India (7.7%), and Japan (2.5%) do not have a good record. 

Research iconResearch

  • A Holistic Perspective on Women’s Career Pathways in Athletics Administration, Allyson C. Hartzell and Marlene A. Dixon, Journal of Sport Management, Volume 33(2), pp.79-92, (2019). Though progress has been made in recent years, women continue to be underrepresented in sport leadership positions around the globe, particularly at the highest levels. This problem persists despite the known advantages to gender diversity in leadership positions. Multiple approaches from various levels of analysis (macro, meso, and micro) have been used to study this phenomenon; however, there is a strong need for a more comprehensive model that would consider not only multiple levels of analysis, but also time and nonwork considerations. To that end, the authors review the existing literature in the area, and then examine career and life course theories that would extend current conceptualizations of women’s experiences in sport leadership positions, and the choices they make in the shaping of their career paths. This model enhances effective career development strategies that help women achieve the positions for which they strive within sport, thereby enriching their own personal development and helping sport organizations achieve the multiple and positive benefits of a more diverse workforce.
  • Analysing gender dynamics in sport governance: A new regimes-based approach, Adriaansea J and Schofieldb T, Sport Management Review, Volume 16, Issue 4 (2013). This paper explores gender dynamics in sport governance with reference to boards of National Sport Organisations (NSOs) in Australia. This research investigates how gender works on sport boards, based upon the theory that a gender regime is characterised by four interwoven dimensions: production, power, emotional relations, and symbolic relations. An audit of 56 NSOs and in-depth interviews with board directors and chief executive officers was conducted. The data suggest that directors’ participation in sport governance was not uniform in terms of gender dynamics. Comparison of the proportion of women board members with the proportion of women who participate in each of the sports investigated suggests that women's representation remains low and men still hold the majority of senior and influential positions on boards. Although gender ratios on boards are important since they impact on power and control, there is a need to go beyond numbers to examine and understand the gender dynamics involved in the production of these ratios. Analysis of the data suggests that the following are significant in advancing gender equality in sport governance: (1) the adoption of quotas is an effective organisational strategy in achieving gender parity; (2) the occupation of women in power positions is fundamental to exercising power and authority in the decision-making of boards; (3) recognition and understanding of the organisational and governance dynamics in producing the board's gendered composition – rather than women themselves – is critical to the advancement of gender equality; (4) cooperative and collaborative behaviours that exist between men and women on a board are critical – hostility by men on boards towards women's presence and participation will undermine gender equal governance. It is critical to emphasise that none of these structural dimensions on its own is sufficient to advance the practice of gender equal governance. Rather, it is the combination of each of these dimensions that appears to be effective in achieving such a goal.
  • Building an effective coach–athlete relationship: perspectives from great female coaches and athletes (PDF  - 254 KB), Werthner P, Canadian Journal for Women in Coaching online (October 2009). Following the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games a study was undertaken to analyse Canadian performances. Interviews with both women coaches and athletes asked them to talk about their coach–athlete relationship and how it had become strong and productive. The coaches all spoke about their technical skills, not surprisingly, because sport is all about technique, tactics, and training. They also spoke at length about the importance of communication and trust. The athletes spoke of the open-mindedness of their coaches and their willingness to listen to what they each needed and thought. They pointed out that their coaches were also open-minded in the sense of being willing to bring other experts into the team, and that they cared for them not just as athletes but as individuals. 
  • Does performance justify the under-representation of women coaches? Evidence from professional women’s soccer, Carlos Gomez-Gonzalez, Helmut Dietl,  Cornel Nesseler, Sport Management Review, Volume 22(5), pp.640-651, (November 2019). In this paper, the authors empirically analyze the influence of the gender of the coach on team performance in women’s soccer leagues. Moreover, the authors examine the role of initial experience of coaches (as professional players) as an attribute that converges with gender diversity and influence performance. The sample includes the top divisions in France, Germany, and Norway from 2004 to 2017. The results from the regression model show that the gender of the coach is not a significant determinant of team performance (points per game). In addition, the initial experience of coaches does not alter the results. Therefore, managerial decisions of clubs with regard to the employment of coaches should not rely on gender.
  • Elite Women Coaches in Global Football: Executive Summary, De Haan, D., Normal, L. & Knoppers, A. presented at the Equality Summit on 5 July in Lyon, an initiative of Equal Playing Field, Athletes for Hope and Football Women International, (2019). Women football coaches exist in a system where they lack power, often do not feel supported or valued, and leads them to experience many negative occupational, social and psychological outcomes. The women who have navigated this system to the highest level of coaching are resilient, highly competent exemplars from which much can be learned. This research summary reveals the experiences of female football coaches through interviews and provides recommendations to improve the structures and experiences for women coaches globally.
  • Examination of Gender Equity and Female Participation in Sport, Joshua A. Senne, The Sport Journal, (26 February 2016). This paper presents an overview of five topics related to gender equity and sports. These topics include (a) history of gender equity in sports and Title IX, (b) gender equity in sport governance, (c) gender equity issues in athletics, (d) gender equity, sports participation, and Title IX, (e) and gender equity in coed sports. For each topic, the author presents an overview as well as a reason for selecting the topic. Further, the author presents information about the importance of each topic to gender equity in sports, plus any relevant social, ethical, or legal concerns.
  • The Experience of Former Women Officials and the Impact on the Sporting Community (PDF  - 194 KB), Jacob Tingle, Stacy Warner, Melanie Sartore-Baldwin, Sex Roles, Volume 71(1-2), pp.7-20, (2014). In an effort to explore the shortage of female sport officials, the authors examined the experience of eight former female basketball officials from five geographically diverse states in the U.S. who voluntarily left the role. Specifically, the authors asked former female basketball officials to describe their workplace experiences. Utilizing a phenomenological approach and workplace incivility framework, the results indicated that the felt social inequity for female officials detracted from the participants experiencing a sense of community in the workplace, which ultimately led to their discontinuation in the role. Results indicate four key factors that created this uncivil work environment. An examination of the data revealed four major themes. Specifically the female basketball officials reported experiencing a Lack of Mutual Respect from male counterparts; Perceived Inequity of Policies; a Lack of Role Modeling and Mentoring for and from female officials; and experiencing more Gendered Abuse than did their male counterparts. The combination of these four factors exacerbated the female officials’ inability to connect to the officiating community and led to their withdrawal from the role. The results further indicate that women officials likely threatened the hegemonic characteristics of a sport setting. Although females have made great strides in terms of sport participation, the practical implications of this research suggest that understanding females in workplace roles, such as officiating, is vital if social equity is to be achieved in the sporting community. 
  • Gender and leadership positions in recreational hockey clubs, Litchfield C,Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics, published online 20 May 2014. Women are not traditionally associated with leadership roles in sport, and the culture of sport is often a space where males are in positions of power. This paper explores the experiences of women from two mixed-gendered and one female-only recreational level hockey clubs in Melbourne. The author examines the gendered leadership, principally male dominant, at these hockey clubs and uses Connell's theory of gender relations to identify the differences in the level of involvement of women in leadership roles between mixed-gendered and single-gendered hockey clubs. 
  • Gender diversity in sport leadership: an investigation of United States of America National Governing Bodies of Sport, Lindsey Gaston, Milly Blundell &Tom Fletcher, Managing Sport & Leisure, (13 February 2020). The results of this study indicate that females are largely under-represented in leadership roles within NGBs. Findings also indicate a positive correlation between female representation in the leadership structure of NGBs, and the ability of the NGB to achieve female membership benchmarks, thus supportive of Critical Mass Theory. The implications of the study supports both an ethical case for female representation, but highlights a clear business performance case for greater gender diversity in the senior roles of leadership within NGB's in the USPOC.
  • Gender dynamics on boards of National Sport Organisations in Australia [thesis] (PDF  - 2.3 MB), Johanna A. Adriaanse, University of Sydney, (2012). While sport participation rates for women have grown exponentially, data on the Sydney Scoreboard indicate that women remain markedly underrepresented on sport boards globally including in Australia. A significant body of research has emerged to explain women’s under-representation in sport governance. The majority of studies have investigated the gender distribution of the board’s composition and related issues such as factors that inhibit women’s participation in sport governance. Few studies have examined the underlying gender dynamics on sport boards once women have gained a seat at the boardroom table, yet this line of investigation may disclose important reasons for the lack of gender equality on sport boards. The aim of the present study was to examine how gender works on boards of National Sport Organisations (NSOs) in Australia.  
  • Gendered Leadership Expectations in Sport: Constructing Differences in Coaches, Vicki D. Schull and Lisa A. Kihl, Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, Volume 27(1), pp.1-11, (2019). The purpose of this study is to examine the gendered nature of sport leadership by analyzing female college athletes’ perceptions of leadership associated with sport coaching. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 23 female college athletes participating in NCAA Division I team sports to understand their perceptions of leadership associated with coaching and to examine the gendered nature of their leadership constructions. Findings indicated two gendered leadership attributes were associated with coaching (i.e., human capital and empathy) in the context of women’s college sport. While both men and women were cited as ideal leaders based on their human capital and ability to express empathy, these leadership attributes were evaluated and applied differently to male and female coaches. The gendered nature of human capital and empathy contributed to the further privileging of men and certain forms of dominant masculinities over women and forms of femininities within notions of sport leadership and coaching. This study contributes to the gender and sport literature and offers practical implications focused on individual and interpersonal strategies.
  • Going on a ‘witch hunt’: investigating the lived experiences of women working in male team sports in regional Australia, Gabriella Hotham, Chelsea Litchfield & Jaquelyn Osborne, Sport in Society: cultures, commerce, media, politics, (4 October 2019). Male dominated team sports potentially provide many opportunities for women, through both voluntary and paid employment. However, very few studies focus on the experiences of women at a regional (or rural) level in sport. By examining the experiences of women working with male team sports at this level, insight into why women choose to be involved within male dominated sporting spaces can be explored, including the benefits and the barriers faced within these spaces. Such information is pertinent to the wider discussions relating to women in sport in Australia. Therefore, the aim of this research was to study the lived experiences of female coaches, trainers, strappers, umpires, exercise scientists and administrators involved in regional male team sports in NSW. 
  • The impact of gender quotas on gender equality in sport governance, Adriaanse J, and Schofield T, Journal of Sport Management, Volume 28 (2014). A common intervention to address women’s underrepresentation in governance has been the introduction of gender quotas. This study examined the impact of gender quotas on gender equality in governance among boards of National Sport Organizations (NSOs) in Australia. The findings suggest that a quota of a minimum of three women was a first condition to advance gender equity. However, it needed to operate in conjunction with other gender dynamics to effectively move toward equal participation by men and women in board decision making. Supporting principles such as including women in influential board positions; common emotional relationships between men and women directors; and directors’ adoption of gender equity as an organisational value were critical to the success of gender quotas. 
  • Juggling Balls and Roles, Working Mother-Coaches in Youth Sport: Beyond the Dualistic Worker-Mother Identity, Sarah I. Leberman and Nicole M. LaVoi, Journal of Sport Management, Volume 25(5), pp.474-488, (2011). Despite the ubiquitous presence of mothers in sport contexts, mothers’ voices are often absent in the sport literature, particularly at the youth sport level. A phenomenological approach was used to explore the experiences of working mother volunteer youth sport coaches. Findings suggest that notions of being a good mother and reasons for coaching are very similar, including spending time together, developing life skills and role modeling. Participants negotiated multiple roles using cognitive tools, such as reframing and separation of roles. The reciprocal benefits of motherhood, working and coaching for themselves and others were highlighted.
  • Preparing female sport management students for leadership roles in sport (PDF  - 919 KB), Leberman S and Shaw S, Ako Aotearoa, National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, NZ (2012). Women are consistently under-represented at the higher management levels in New Zealand sports organisations as is the case internationally.  This research was aimed at gaining a better understanding of the educational experiences of recent female sport management and physical education graduates, and the career pathways of female CEOs in the New Zealand sport sector.  The findings suggested that the most important skills learnt while studying for a degree were planning and organising, independent learning, and time management skills.  However, the most important skills for women in CEO positions were relationship building, communication, and interpersonal skills.  This suggests a disconnect between preparation for the sector and requirements once in the sector.  The CEOs reported that relationship building, stakeholder management, self-awareness and sense of judgement were most important to being successful in the sports industry. Mentors were considered to be important by both groups and ‘Old Boys‘ networks were considered by most graduate and CEO respondents to still be a problem for women. 
  • Sexism in Professional Sports: How Women Managers Experience and Survive Sport Organizational Culture, Lauren C. Hindman and Nefertiti A. Walker, Journal of Sport Management, Volume 34(1), pp.64-76, (2020). Women remain the minority in sport organizations, particularly in leadership roles, and prior work has suggested that sexism may be to blame. This study examines women’s experiences of both overt and subtle sexism in the sport industry as well as the impact such experiences have on their careers. Based on interviews and journal entries from women managers working in a men’s professional sports league, the findings suggest that the culture of sport organizations perpetuates sexism, including the diminishment and objectification of women. Sexism occurs in women’s everyday interactions with their supervisors and coworkers, as well as others that they interact with as part of their jobs. Such experiences result in professional and emotional consequences, which women navigate by employing tactics that enable their survival in the sport industry.
  • Tall Poppies: Bullying behaviors faced by Australian high-performance school-age athletes (abstract), O’Neill M, Calder A and Allen B, Journal of School Violence, Volume 13, Issue 2 (2014). Tall poppies are successful individuals bullied by those who are less successful in order to 'normalise' them. Nineteen current or previous national or international high-performance school-age athletes were interviewed (12 females and seven males). Findings indicated all 12 females were bullied at school and this had a detrimental impact on their school life and wellbeing. In contrast, no male athletes reported being bullied. The authors recommend that parents and teachers should be aware of tall poppy syndrome behaviours, and schools should promote an anti-bullying culture that includes resilience training for talented individuals. 
  • Towards a process for advancing women in coaching through mentorship, Jenessa Banwell, Ashley Stirling, Gretchen Kerr, International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, (15 October 2019). This study used a multi-methods methodology to explore female coaches’ experiences in, and outcomes of, a female coach mentorship program. Survey data and individual in-depth semi-structured interviews with participating mentor (n = 7) and mentee coaches (n = 8) from the program were conducted. Survey data were analyzed descriptively and the interview data were analyzed using an inductive thematic analysis. Findings revealed two primary forms of mentoring support provided through the mentorship program that facilitated personal and professional outcomes for participating mentor and mentee coaches, as well as various quality attributes of the mentorship process. Based upon these findings, a mentorship model for advancing women in coaching is proposed.
  • Underrepresentation of women in sport leadership: A review of research, Burton L, Sport Management Review, Volume 18, Issue 2 (2015). Despite increased participation opportunities for girls and women in sport, they are underrepresented in leadership positions at all levels of sport. The objective of this review is to provide a multilevel examination of available scholarship that contributes to understanding why there are so few women in leadership positions within sport. This review looked at existing research covering the institutionalised practices of gender in sport; stereotyping of leaders; issues of discrimination and gendered organisational cultures, and; women's expectations in leadership positions and occupational turnover. Gender as an organising principle in sport needs to be considered along with other forms of identity; such as race, sexual orientation, class, and ability. 
  • ‘Why am I putting myself through this?’ Women football coaches’ experiences of the Football Association's coach education process, Lewis C, Roberts S and Andrews H, Sport, Education and Society, published online ahead of print (30 November 2015). Despite an increase in the provision of coach education, most of the research has avoided female coach populations. In this study, ten women football (soccer) coaches were interviewed. Analysis of the interviews revealed high levels of gender discrimination and inappropriate cultural practice. The women's experiences are discussed relative to notions of social acceptance, symbolic language and power. The women coaches provided a number of recommendations for the provision of future coach education.
  • Women and leadership: advancing gender equity policies in sport leadership through sport governance, Popi Sotiriadou & Donna de Haan, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, (18 March 2019). This paper uses a multilevel framework to deconstruct the role board members play in advancing gender equity policies in leadership positions in sport governance. Data were collected using in-depth interviews with Triathlon board members of the International Federation and two National Federations. The results show that within the multilevel framework, at the individual (micro) level, male equity champions pave the way for both challenging existing stereotypes at an organisational level (meso) within the boards, and at the sport level (macro) through the introduction and implementation of strategies and policies in the organisations studied, and constitutional changes that encourage women to engage in leadership roles. These strategies and policies display the power of equity champions of change and their willingness and ability to create a gender equitable governance culture. Equity champions of change enable women to feel valued in leadership roles, and further encourage and promote the acceptance of women in the governance of sport organisations.
  • Women on boards of directors in Australian national sporting organisations (NSOs): is gender a factor? Anne Emms, University of Wollongong thesis, (2014). This study concludes that, while new institutional ideas have been introduced to change board structure and practice, such as non-member elected board appointees who are recruited for their corporate governance expertise, the gender bias that has shaped historical practice remains. 

resources iconResources

  • ALL IN: Towards gender balance in sport. A European Union (EU) and Council of Europe (COE) joint project (1 March 2018-31 October 2019). Its aim is to provide support to public authorities and sport organisations when designing and implementing policies and programs addressing gender inequalities in sport, and when adopting a gender mainstreaming strategy.
  • Change Our Game Recruitment and Retention Guidelines for Women in Sport and RecreationState of Victoria, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, (April 2019). Provides simple and practical guidance and strategies to ensure women and girls have rewarding experiences in these roles, making them more likely to stay on at the club. These guidelines focus on the following key areas: Recruiting women to join your committee; Women and girls as leaders outside the committee; Making leadership at your club a rewarding experience for women and girls. 
  • Developing female coaches (PDF  - 496 KB), Sports Coach UK and the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (2010). This factsheet focuses on the reasons for the under-representation of women in coaching and suggests steps that governing bodies of sport, national agencies and women themselves can take to address this.
  • The Encyclopedia of Women & Leadership in Twentieth-Century AustraliaAustralian Research Council, Linkage Project (2014). Naming Australia's 20th-century leading women performers in sport is a difficult task because there are so many of note. Browse the list of names in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame (SAHOF) and one can see a roll call of household names, women who are not just legends of world sport but important to Australia's sense of itself as a sporting nation. This ‘encyclopaedia’ provides a profile on women who have been elite athletes, administrators, coaches, and role models to generations of Australian women. 
  • Female Coach Mentorship program, Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity and the Coaching Association of Canada (2017). The Female Coach Mentorship Model is the outcome of a two-year pilot project aimed at developing a sustainable model of mentorship for female coaches who are interested in enhancing their skill set and optimizing their potential. The project resulted in the development of three guides: a mentee guide, a mentor guide, and a sport administrator guide.
  • Toolkit: How to make an impact on gender equality in sport All you need to know, European Union and the Council of Europe, (September 2019). Provides information, concrete tips, good-practice examples and strategies to put into practice a gender mainstreaming approach to achieve equality between women and men in sport. This Toolkit helps sports organisations and administrators to: Understand the extent of gender inequalities and differences in the sports world, the prevalence of gender-based violence and the added-value of moving towards gender equality in this area; Design, implement, monitor and evaluate an action plan to achieve gender equality; Understand what a gender mainstreaming strategy is; Implement a gender mainstreaming approach in sport policies, programmes, actions and in sporting organisations (when devising a human-resources policy, organising sports events, developing a communication strategy, allocating funds, renovating a sport facility, etc.).

Article iconStrategies

  • No boundaries for women and girls in sport and physical activity (PDF  - 946 KB), Australian Women in Sport Advisory Group, (2019). Our vision is that there are no boundaries for women and girls in sport and physical activity. Our goal is to achieve this by 2025. But what does it look like and how will we know when we have made it? Here we set out what we are striving for, actions to take and measures of success. Key members of the sport sector, governments and industry are onboard.

Video iconClearinghouse videos 

  • Women in Sport - breaking the mould, Giles Thompson, CEO, Racing Victoria, Mandy Spear, COO, Titanium Security Arena, Laura Johnston, General Manager Performance & Culture, Swimming Australia, Our Sporting Future Conference (16 November 2017) 
  • Sport and gender equality, Kate Jenkins, Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Our Sporting Future Conference (16 November 2017) 
  • Linking with local Government, Amanda Spalding, Sport and Recreation NSW, Sports Talks (20 May 2013)

Video iconOther videos

  • Are You On Board Campaign, VicSport (2015). While evidence shows that diversity is good for business, only 33 percent of all board positions available in Victorian State Sport Associations are currently held by women (as at December 2013). 
  • It Makes Sense – Gender Diversity (YouTube). The State Sporting Organisations in South Australia for Surf Life Saving, Hockey, Australian Football, Golf and Yachting share their sports journey in a series of videos. They highlight the challenges and the successes as they move towards truly reflecting the gender diversity of the South Australian community.
  • Play and Win. Women Win have put together a video that connects sport and empowerment as a means for women and girls to overcome gender-based violence.
  • Play Fair, Fast and Female, Canada (2015). This documentary film questions the assumption that women’s fight for full rights in the world of sports is over. The film explores five decades of activism and legal challenges that women fought to ensure they would have equal access and rights to compete in sports on elite and community levels. 
  • VicSport ‘Are You On Board’- Why have a diverse committee? (YouTube). The 2015 VicSport Are You On Board campaign kicks off with a video around the importance of having diversity among committee members in grassroots sport, with particular focus on including females on committees and boards. 
  • Why do women get paid less in prize money? BBC News (20 June 2017). Olympic cycling champion Joanna Rowsell Shand looks at why there is still a gap in the amount men and women receive in prize money.
  • Women Win: digital storytelling project. Women Win is committed to not just telling stories of girls' sport achievement and the impact those stories have, but helping build the skill and leadership of girls to tell their own story. A collection of videos is available to listen to and view. 

Australian government initiatives

Girls Make Your Move

Girls Make Your Move is an Australian Government initiative, through the Department of Health, to help inspire and empower young women to be more active, regardless of ethnicity, size or ability. It is inspired by Sport England's 'This Girl Can' initiative. The program targets young women because studies have shown that they are twice as likely as young men to be inactive, and that they experience more barriers to being physically active. 

  • 2016 Physical Activity and Sport Participation Campaign: Insights Report (PDF  - 264 KB), van Bueren D, Elliott S and Farnam C (TNS Consultants), prepared for the Department of Health (2016). The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend that 13 to 17 year-olds should maximise their physical activity in as many ways as possible, accumulating at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity every day, while limiting sedentary behaviour. Most young Australians fall well short of this recommendation; furthermore, young Australian females are twice as likely to be sedentary or less active than their male counterparts. In response to this public health issue, the Australian Government is developing a campaign, Girls Make Your Move, to communicate with young women and generate greater interest about participation in a wide range of physical activities and sport. While the campaign is inclusive of girls/women across a broader age-range (i.e. 12 to 19 years) the primary target audience is 15-18 year old girls. This report reviews existing models (e.g. Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign) and reviews the available evidence for effective public awareness campaigns. 
  • Campaign evaluations (2017-2019). Independent evaluation research undertaken assessed the impact of the Girls Make Your Move campaign against its objectives to: build and reinforce positive perceptions of physical activity and sport; and, increase intentions to participate in physical activity among young women aged 12-21 years. The findings from evaluations of three waves are available on the Department of Health website. 

Sports Diplomacy 2030

Developed by the Australian Department of Health, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Sport Australia, Tourism Australia, and Austrade, Sports Diplomacy 2030 is the second Australian sport diplomacy strategy. It builds on the success of the first strategy and works to bring the Government’s first national sports plan, Sport 2030, to an international stage.

A key focus of the Strategy is to help more women and girls participate in grassroots sport in the Pacific region. This includes dedicated funding to help address participation barriers and to build capacity of staff and coaches to embrace diversity and inclusion, focus on gender equality, women's leadership and issues such as gender-based violence. 


The Women Leaders in Sport (WLIS) program is an Australian Government initiative that is managed by Sport Australia (formerly the Australian Sports Commission) in partnership with the Office for Women. The objective of the WLIS program is to provide women with development opportunities to reach their leadership potential in the sports industry. Since its inception in 2002, WLIS has supported over 23,000 women in sport for leadership development. Many notable women leaders in sport are previous recipients of WLIS.

WLIS comprises of the following components:

  1. Leadership Workshops for individuals and organisations;
  2. Development Grants for individuals and organisations; and, 
  3. A targeted leadership development program for individuals.


Team Girls building strong women of the future through sport, Sport Australia, (30 June 2020). Sport Australia and Suncorp are teaming up to build a nation of more confident girls and women through a connection with sport - and the next three years will provide a great opportunity for participation growth.

  • Team Girls, Suncorp, (accessed 20 July 2020). For teen girls, sport can be a confidence-game changer. You can change the score by helping the special girls in your life to stay in the game and boost their own confidence – read on here for articles and tools to help you along the way.


Our Watch: Sport Engagement Program

The Sports Engagement Program is an initiative of Our Watch (the national plan to reduce violence against women and their children). Grants to successful National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) have helped to facilitate violence prevention activities by embedding gender equity and respectful relationships into their networks.

  • A team effort: preventing violence against women through sport (PDF  - 2.5 MB), Liston, R., Mortimer, S., Hamilton, G. and Cameron, R., Evidence Guide prepared for Our Watch by RMIT University, (2017). The Evidence Guide summarises and recognises the work sporting organisations undertake to prevent violence against women. It draws on stakeholder consultations and a review of international and national evidence about the important role that sports can play in preventing violence against women and outlines ten key elements of promising practice in sport settings.  
  • How sport can help Change the Story: preventing violence against women through sport, (PDF  - 1.0 MB), Our Watch, (2017). This four page document highlights the important opportunities and influence for sporting organisations and clubs to play an active and positive role in preventing violence against women. It provides practical examples of the kinds of actions that everyone involved in sport - whether you’re a Board member, CEO, manager, coach, player, umpire, staff, volunteer or fan – can do to play an important role in preventing violence against women.

Sport and Recreation offers financial assistance through the Sport & Recreation Grants Program (SRGP) to eligible organisations for outcome based projects, programs and initiatives to support participation in active lifestyles through the delivery of quality programs and services for the benefit of all the Canberra community.  Programs targeting the participation of women in the sport and recreation industry are generally considered through the SRGP. In 2019 an additional grant focusing on women's participation and leadership was also offered. 

  • Women Sport and Recreation Participation and Leadership Program (WSRPLP). The primary objective of the WSRPLP is to provide financial assistance to eligible individuals, clubs and organisations within the ACT to support participation, education and training activities that enhance the availability of participation opportunities for women and girls in the ACT and the abilities for females to take on leadership roles in the sector. 
  • Female Friendly Change Rooms (PDF  - 187 KB), ACT Government, (September 2017). Provides information and advice on how to deliver more inclusive and comfortable change room facilities for all to use.

The NSW Office of Sport offers a range of grants to help the sports industry to develop programs and facilities. Grants increase the opportunities for athletes, coaches, officials, sports leaders and volunteers in activities such as professional development or attendance at representative competitions in NSW. While not specifically identifying programs targeting women in the application criteria, such programs are not excluded. 

  • Her Sport Her Way: shaping the future of women's sport in NSW 2019-2023NSW Government, (December 2018). Her Sport Her Way has been developed following stakeholder consultation to drive powerful change for women and girls in sport in NSW, leaving a lasting legacy for the way women’s sport is played, led, promoted and consumed. The four year strategy features 29 initiatives that aim to increase women’s and girls’ participation as players, leaders and coaches, improve facilities, and attract more investment and recognition for women’s sport.
    • Leaders Honoured at Her Sport Her Way Awards, NSW Office of Sport media release, (March 2020). Acting Minister for Sport Geoff Lee said six winners were announced across four categories with NRL Women’s Elite Program general manager Tiffany Slater receiving the highest accolade, the Her Sport Her Way Champion award.

Grass Roots Grants allow organisations (including clubs, groups, service deliverers, peak sporting bodies) to apply for up to AU$5000 to implement a new sport or recreation program or increase the capacity of their organisation to deliver sport or recreation services.  While not specifically identifying programs targeting women in the application criteria, such programs are not excluded.

The Women in Sport Advisory Committee was established in 2017 to provide strategic and practical advice to improve the delivery, recognition, promotion and development of participation and leadership opportunities for women in sport in the NT. The Committee of 10 members were confirmed in December 2017 and were initially appointed for one year. 

#ShePlaysNT. One of the key pillars, identified by the Women in Sport Advisory Committee, is to profile women in sport. By focusing efforts on Territory wide campaign, it is envisaged that we can create the confidence to participate. The #ShePlaysNT aims to increase the profile of women in sport and encourage more women and girls to be active.

  • #ShePlaysNT – Profiling Women in Sport, Minister for Tourism Sport and Culture Lauren Moss, (5 June 2020). A new campaign to encourage Territory girls and women to be active, get involved in sport and increase the awareness of gender equality kicks off today.

The Queensland Government offers a range of grants to help the sports industry to develop programs and facilities. While not specifically identifying programs targeting women in the application criteria, such programs are not excluded

Other programs and reports

Women and Girls Advisory Committee 

The Ministerial Advisory Committee on Women and Girls in Sport and Recreation was established in March 2013 to provide advice to investigate ways to improve participation rates of women and girls in sport and active recreation. Stakeholder forums were held in Townsville and Brisbane to seek input, discuss ideas, and help the Committee formulate forthcoming recommendations. 

  • Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation Stakeholder Forum: Forum Report (PDF  - 425 KB), Queensland Government, (2013). The Committee asked stakeholder organisations and institutions to consider what cultural and societal factors need to change to make sport and recreation more inviting for women and girls and how they view the role of government on this issue and what actions they believe the government should take to encourage more women and girls into sport and recreation.  Nine key changes/approaches were identified: (1) enable flexible participation to allow women and girls to participate in sport and recreation whilst managing school, work and family priorities, (2) help women and girls to feel comfortable participating, (3) promote the social aspects of participation in sport and recreation, (4) provide a broader range of activities that women and girls are interested in, (5) promote role models and effectively market programs to women and girls, (6) support women as board and committee members, coaches and volunteers, (7) foster partnerships between organisations, clubs and schools to provide participation opportunities, (8) address the costs of participation, (9) address the issues with access to sporting and recreational facilities in regional, rural and remote areas.

The Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing, through the Community Participation branch works with State Sporting Organisations and various government and non-government agencies to support the development of women in sport. Programs include sport and women Wikipedia history project and developing a women's sport network. 

Other programs and reports

  • SA Women in Sport [videos]. The Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing is creating an environment that values, recognises, includes and promotes the contribution of women at all levels and in all aspects of sport.
  • Board diversity South Australian State Sporting Organisations: How does your sport rate? (PDF  - 430 KB), Government of South Australia, Office of Recreation and Sport (updated 3 May 2017). The gender diversity metrics of state sporting organisations in South Australia are made public and published on the Office for Recreation and Sport website annually. 
  • Words into Sporting Action: A Practical Guide to Achieve Gender Equity in Your Sport and Recreational Organisation and Improve Performance (PDF  - 625 KB), Government of South Australia, (201?). If your sport or recreational organisation wants to embed policies and strategies to promote women to leadership roles, refer to this guide when reviewing your existing practices and identify at least one action under each Principle as the start of your change process.
  • Sport and Women Wikipedia Project. In support of South Australia's women's sport, and the sportswomen who have lead by example, we've supported capturing the history of their rich and outstanding achievements through a digital footprint. This has involved: searching and linking existing Wikipedia profiles to Wikipedia page; researching and creating 21 individual biography Wikipedia pages representative of significant sports women across a range or eras in sport in South Australia. 
  • Premier's women's directory. While not sport specific this is an online database of women wanting to serve on boards and committees. It includes the details of women with a diverse range of backgrounds, experience and interests and is maintained and updated by the Office for Women.

Sport and Recreation Tasmania provides funding to increase opportunities for participation in sport and active recreation in Tasmania, and to assist the ongoing development of Tasmania’s sport and active recreation sector.  Clubs, not-for-profit organisations and local government entities that provide sport and recreation opportunities may apply to the ‘Minor Grants’ program that provides $500 to $10,000 for projects. While not specifically identifying programs targeting women in the application criteria, such programs are not excluded. Additionally, the Tasmanian Government has invested AU$10million over two years to upgrade sports facilities for girls and women. 

  • Levelling the Playing Field Grants Program. The Tasmanian Government is investing $10 million over two years to the Levelling the Playing Field Grants Program to upgrade sports facilities for girls and women, with funding being distributed across two rounds; one in 2018-19 and one in 2019-20.

Other programs and reports

  • Women on State Sporting Organisation Boards (PDF  - 871 KB), Department of Communities, Tasmanian Government, (March 2019). In 2009 Sport and Recreation Tasmania delivered the inaugural Women on State Sporting Organisation Boards Report which found that women were under-represented on the boards of Tasmanian State Sporting Organisations (SSOs). Subsequent reports by Communities, Sport and Recreation (CSR) on 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 boards confirmed that this trend was continuing. Although female representation on SSO boards has risen marginally, the 2018 data has again found a similar result. In 2018, the number of women on Tasmanian State Sporting Organisation boards was 39.43 per cent, an increase of 2.04 per cent since the 2017 study. 

Sport and Recreation Victoria is working to inspire women and girls to participate and become leaders in sport at all levels. There are a range of grants to help the sports industry to develop programs and facilities. Alongside more general grants there are currently several that specifically target increases in female sport and physical activity participation.

  • Change Our Game Community Activation Grants program. Funds one-off community level events that showcase and celebrate the role of women and girls in sport and active recreation. 
  • Change Our Game Scholarship Program. Provides funding to assist women to access professional learning and development opportunities to enhance skills in sport and recreation leadership and management.
  • Female Friendly Facilities Fund. A Victorian Government funding program that assists local clubs and organisations to develop grounds, pavilions, courts and lighting to enable more women and girls to participate in sport and active recreation.

In 2019 the Victorian Government became the first state in Australia to mandate that all sport and active recreation organisations funded by the Government must comply with a mandatory 40% women (or men) on Board quota. 

  • Balance the BoardVictorian Government Change our Game media, (accessed 3 July 2019). By 1 July 2019 all sport and active recreation organisations funded by Sport and Recreation Victoria and the Victorian Government will be expected to comply with the mandatory 40% women on Board quota. Organisations that are not at the mandatory quota by 1 July 2019 risk losing funding through the Supporting Victorian Sport and Recreation program.
  • Mandatory Board QuotasVicSport, (2019). Dr. Bridie O'Donnell, Head; Office for Women and Sport and Recreation along with a few SSAs share their insights as to how they are taking action in order to meet the mandatory board quota by July 1 2019. 

Office for Women in Sport and Recreation. 

In October 2017 the Victorian Government announced the appointment of the first Head of the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation, Dr. Bridie O'Donnell MBBS. The office has been created to implement the nine recommendations from the Inquiry into Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation and deliver further Change Our Game initiatives to boost participation and create more leadership opportunities in sport for women.

  • The Office for Women in Sport and Recreation is supported by the biggest investment by any state government into facilities, participation, leadership opportunities, and professional and grassroots sport and active recreation for girls and women. The aim is to support and encourage women in leadership roles, ensuring they are not subject to unfair or unfavourable treatment because of their gender, sexuality, appearance, age or any other personal characteristics protected by anti-discrimination law.
  • Inquiry into Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation: A five year game plan for Victoria (PDF  - 918 KB), Government of Victoria, Women in Sport and Recreation Taskforce (November 2015). The advisory panel reviewed current research and reports and sought public feedback on the current issues women are experiencing, which present barriers to participation and leadership, as well as possible solutions. The overwhelming message from the consultations was that there are many women and girls with the talent and desire to contribute to the sport and active recreation sector, but the opportunities to participate and lead were either elusive or not readily evident. Four key themes emerged concerning participation and leadership by girls and women: (1) leadership, clear goals and measurement are the first necessary ingredients to create and support change; (2) changes to traditional structures and ways of working are essential to developing new participation and leadership opportunities; (3) new ways of ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ need to be nurtured through education and training, and; (4) visibility is important - promotion of female sport and active recreation opportunities, leadership, pathways, and role models.
Other programs and reports
  • Female friendly sport infrastructure guidelines, Sport & Recreation Victoria, (2017). Information and advice about developing gender equitable sports and recreation facilities. The information assists community sport and recreation clubs, governing sport bodies, recreation facility management organisations, as well as local government bodies.
  • Guidelines for the recruitment and retention of women in leadership roles: a toolkit for Victorian sport, Victorian Government, (2016). This toolkit has been developed to assist organisations in the sports and active recreation sector to increase the number of women in leadership roles in their organisation, at board and senior management level. It provides an overview of the benefits of increasing women’s leadership in your organisation. It is a practical resource you can use to review and develop your recruitment practices, and to increase the attraction and retention of women in leadership roles in your organisation.
VicHealth programs and reports
  • This Girl Can - Victoria. An empowering campaign from VicHealth, based on Sport England’s highly successful This Girl Can campaign (which motivated a whopping 3.9 million women in England to take their fitness into their own hands). This Girl Can – Victoria is here to celebrate and support Victorian women (yep, you!) embracing physical activity in a way that suits you. Whether it’s a little or a lot, what matters is getting some movement into your day.
  • Changing the Game: Increasing Female Participation in Sport Initiative. In October 2014 VicHealth announced $1.2 million to get more Victorian women and girls involved in sport. ‘Changing the Game: Increasing Female Participation in Sport’ aimed to create new opportunities to increase female participation in sport and raise the profile of women’s sport in Victoria. The program concluded in June 2017 with a variety of examples and case studies from recipients available on the VicHealth website. 
  • Female Participation in Sport & Physical Activity (PDF  - 437 KB), VicHealth, (2014). A snapshot of the evidence (infographic).
  • Move My Way is funded through VicHealth’s Changing the Game: Increasing Female Participation in Sport program. Gymnastics Victoria and five other state sporting associations are encouraging women and girls to become more physically active, while championing the important role women play in sports’ leadership and management.

Local Council

Yarra Ranges, Maroondah and Knox Councils are providing resources for sporting clubs to achieve gender equality by improving pathways for girls and women to participate in sport at all levels. 

  • Equality Is The Game! Our Codes, Our Clubs: Changing the story to promote gender equality [video]. Maroondah City Council, YouTube, (15 August 2017).
  • Creating a place for women in sport: A gender equity self-assessment for sport and recreation clubs (PDF  - 2.9 MB). Yarra Ranges, Maroondah City, and Knox City Councils, (2017). The Gender Equity Audit Tool is for clubs to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement to promote equality. This tool aims to assist clubs to look at different areas in the club environment, and recognise how they are going in relation to gender equality. It includes an action plan template for clubs to record their actions to improve gender equality within their club.
  • Equality is the Game Sporting Club Committee resource (PDF  - 5 MB). Yarra Ranges, Maroondah City, and Knox City Councils, (2017). Equality is the Game! is a resource for all sporting codes to highlight how they can contribute to the prevention of violence against women, by creating safe, equal and respectful environments for all members, particularly women and girls. It outlines the practical actions sporting club committees can undertake to promote gender equality, and highlights the benefits for clubs in creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment.

The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries offers a range of grants to help the sports industry to develop programs and facilities. While not specifically identifying programs targeting women in the application criteria, such programs are not excluded. 

In 2018 the WA Government announced that it would support the Women in Leadership target for Boards to consist of 50/50 male/female directors (for Boards with an uneven number of director positions the final position can be male or female). Organisations that do not achieve and maintain the target within three years will have their funding reduced. 

  • Women in Leadership: Targets for WA sport bodies (PDF  - 494 KB), WA Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries fact sheet, (June 2019). The WA Government last year announced that it would support WA’s sport and recreation industry in its efforts to increase gender diversity, particularly with regards to women in leadership positions. A recent survey of sporting organisations carried out by the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC) found that 42 per cent of organisations achieve the target.

Gender Diversity Case for Change

The Case for Change is a key enabler of the cultural change required to improve gender balance within the sport and recreation sector. Resources include templates, case studies and the Case for Change report. 

  • Gender Diversity Case for Change: The case for gender-balanced leadership in sport and recreation (PDF  - 376 KB), WA Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, (January 2019). The recently completed DLGSC Gender Diversity Project identified that a significant barrier to increased gender balance is the fact many people are unaware of, or don’t fully understand, the benefits and opportunities that increased gender balance can bring to their organisations. The purpose of the Gender Diversity Case for Change is to help sport and recreation organisations understand the business case for gender diversity, in order to motivate them to address gender inequality in their organisations.  
Other programs and reports

  • WA Grants for Women Program. Grants of up to $10,000 are available for local governments and community service organisations to implement projects that focus on addressing the unique issues faced by women. Projects should address one or more of the following project priority areas: Health and Wellbeing; Safety and Justice; Women's Economic Independence; Women in Leadership. 
  • OnBoardWA. The OnBoardWA Register allows you to submit personal and professional information to be considered for vacancies, and you can specify your 'portfolios' of interest. On those occasions that a specific vacancy is advertised publicly and applications invited, those on the OnBoardWA Register with the relevant portfolios of interest or relevant skills and experience may be contacted directly and encouraged to apply.

Non-government initiatives

Male Champions of Change - Sport group

The Male Champions of Change in Sport. (MCC Sport) is in a unique position to influence the discourse on the issue of gender equality in the industry and more broadly. The members of the MCC Sport group represent diverse experience, have a deep personal commitment to gender equality and have extensive reach in Australian sport in both their organisations and the community. They also represent the key sports (in terms of economic contribution) in the Australian landscape. The group is chaired by Elizabeth Broderick.

  • Pathway to Pay Equality: Elite women athletes (PDF  - 3.8 MB), Male Champions of Change Sport, (February 2019). The pathway to pay equality involves many dimensions, and sports may find that achieving pay equality takes several years. However, success within any single part of the ecosystem makes success in the other parts more likely. The report identifies three distinct stages (pre-professional, a fair and reasonable wage, standalone pay) and a strategic focus, practical goals and actions for each.

Minerva Network

Launched in March 2018 the Minerva Network has been established to develop a network of experienced businesswomen to mentor professional sportswomen as they navigate their challenges on and off the field. The initiative pairs athletes with experienced female business leaders to help them leverage their increasing profile and influence for sport and personal success. 


National Foundation for Australian Women 

For more than two decades the National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) has set the agenda for women’s issues nationally and given weight to the collective voice of Australian women.  The NFAW supports these projects:


Victoria University - Women in Sport

Victoria University (VU) plays a critical role in providing industry-based research nationally and internationally. One of the seven priority areas in the VU Sport Strategy 2019-2023 (PDF  - 3.0 MB) is 'Women in Sport'. The resource page includes links to, and information on, investing in women's sport; the Australian Women in Sport Advisory Group; VU Women in Sport ambassadors; recent research and reports, courses and careers for women in sport; and, VU news about women in sport. 

  • Research and industry insights on women in sport, Victoria University, (updated quarterly: September, December, March, June). Local to global industry-based research to influence sectors on policy and strategy that will increase opportunities for women and girls.  


Australian Women in Sport Advisory Group

Launched in May 2019 the Australian Women in Sport Advisory Group. comprises diverse members and organisations to promote cross-sector insights, includes some of Australia’s most successful sport and business leaders. It will discuss the current state of women in sport and identify where women in sport should be positioned by 2030, the associated priorities, and the opportunities for organisations regardless of sector to work together to create a greater impact. The outcomes from this Advisory Group are expected to create game changing strategies that will increase the pace to advance women in sport throughout Australia. These outcomes will guide funding bodies and related government and private sectors on the priorities required, and create a streamlined focus on strengthening the positioning of women in sport over the next decade.

  • A level playing field: the case for investing in women's sport (PDF  - 703 KB), Australian Women in Sport Advisory Group, (2019). The importance of women as leaders to grow the participation capacity of an organisation should not be underestimated. 
  • No boundaries for women and girls in sport and physical activity (PDF  - 946 KB), Australian Women in Sport Advisory Group, (2019). Our vision is that there are no boundaries for women and girls in sport and physical activity. Our goal is to achieve this by 2025. But what does it look like and how will we know when we have made it? Here we set out what we are striving for, actions to take and measures of success. Key members of the sport sector, governments and industry are onboard.
    • No Boundaries for Women and Girls in SportAustralian Women in Sport Advisory Group/Victoria University, (18 December 2019). Australian business, government and sport leaders are being urged to back a new strategy to achieve gender equality in sport by 2025.

Women Sport Australia (WSA) 

Women Sport Australia (WSA) is a not-for-profit organisation that supports the active participation of women and girls in sport, physical activity and recreation. WSA provides advocacy and leadership on issues affecting Australian women and girls in sport. WSA also offers programs and events to improve leadership and governance in sport, and mentoring programs for women.

  • Women Sport Australia manifesto: Harnessing the positive momentum for active Australian women (PDF  - 627 KB), (2019). This plan sets out the key actions Women Sport Australia continues to advocate for to effect lasting change. These actions include: pay equality and living wage for elite female athletes and staff; equal access to facilities and amenities on and off the field; equal media time and space for women's and men's sport; and, championing role models in women's sport. 

Womensport and Recreation Tasmania

Womensport and Recreation Tasmania (WSRT) is a group of concerned individuals and organisations with a broad range of interests in women's sport and recreation issues. Members include people interested in sports administration, coaching, officiating, participation, education, recreation and leisure. The organisation’s objectives are to: provide a platform for women’s sport and recreation groups to communicate and share their common problems and solutions; act as a united group to inform and lobby legislators; make public comment about issues facing women in sport and physical recreation; provide support to sporting organisations; promote media coverage of women in sport; and to encourage all women to participate in physical activity.


Other 

  • Diversity Council Australia (DCA). Diversity Council Australia is the independent, not-for-profit workplace diversity advisor to business in Australia. DCA addresses many issues facing women and minority groups within the workplace. DCA consults with industries and work sectors and produces a number of submissions to Government Departments and Agencies, such as the Productivity Commission.
  • The Encyclopaedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia, Australian Research Council, Linkage Project (2014). Naming Australia's 20th-century leading women performers in sport is a difficult task because there are so many of note. Browse the list of names in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame (SAHOF) and one can see a roll call of household names, women who are not just legends of world sport but important to Australia's sense of itself as a sporting nation. This ‘encyclopaedia’ provides a profile on women who have been elite athletes, administrators, coaches, and role models to generations of Australian women.
  • Increasing the number of women in senior executive positions: Improving recruitment, selection and retention practices, Hellicar M, Business Council of Australia (2013). This report has been prepared as a support tool for companies in reviewing their recruitment and promotion processes with a view to enhancing the numbers of women in senior leadership roles. It is based on a combination of research, interviews, and questionnaires completed by recruitment firms, companies, consultants and members of Chief Executive Women. Companies will need to select actions that suit their culture, aspirations, capability and stage of engagement with gender diversity and inclusion. The business case for gender diversity and, more recently, gender diversity and inclusion, has been frequently made in terms of improved business performance and access to talent. Given that talent is randomly distributed across both genders, there is a high probability that at least half of a talented workforce should be women. 
  • Vicsport. An independent, non-government, member-based organisation that advocates and supports a sport, active recreation and health agenda.  Vicsport has an active presence on issues involving women's participation in sport.
  • Women on Boards (WOB). There are thousands of Government statutory authorities, committees, councils and advisory boards that regularly seek appointees.  Women on Boards (WOB) started as an informal network in 2001 and was founded as a company in 2006 to improve the gender balance on Australian boards.  It is funded through subscriber fees and earnings from services to organisations seeking to improve gender diversity.  More than 16,000 women are registered with Women on Boards from all sectors and industries.

Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF)

  • Gender Equality Strategy, Commonwealth Games Federation, (2016?). Equality is one of the three core values of the Commonwealth Games Federation. Our dynamic sporting movement has an important part to play in an energised, engaged and empowered Commonwealth of Nations and Territories - and we are working hard to explore how Commonwealth sport and everyone in our diverse sporting family can better deliver for women and girls. Non-discrimination is now a clause in all of our host-city contracts. We strive to set the benchmark for gender equality standards seen anywhere in international sport. The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games saw several firsts: 
    • Gender parity in the number of medal events between women and men: 133 Women’s events; 133 Men’s events; 9 Mixed/Open events.
    • Basketball, Hockey and Swimming featured over 50% female Technical Officials: a first in international sport.
    • Launch of first Women’s Coaching Internship Programme to build women’s coaching capacity across Commonwealth.
  • Far-reaching Gender Equality Strategy a First for Sport, Sheila Robertson, Canadian Journal for Women in Coaching/Commonwealth Games Federation, (2016?). Provides a detailed overview of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) Gender Equality Strategy (GES). GES goals focus on organizing committees (OCs); women coaches; broadcasters and media; athlete participation; officiating; Commonwealth development; governance; leadership development; mission staff; and outreach. 


International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA)

The Women in Sport platform has been created by the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA) as part of the Alice Milliat Foundation’s Erasmus+ supported project ‘European Network for Promotion of Women’s Sports’. It provides 60 examples from more than 12 countries that demonstrate tried-and-tested ways of promoting women’s participation at all levels of sport, particularly at the community level. 


International Working Group on Women and Sport (IWG)

The International Working Group on Women and Sport (IWG) is an independent coordinating body consisting of representatives of key government and non-government organisations from different regions of the world.  The vision of the IWG is to realise a sustainable sporting culture that enables and values the full involvement of women in every aspect of sport.  The IWG acts as a catalyst for change and the advancement and empowerment of women and sport globally.


Sport Integrity Global Alliance

Sport Integrity Global Alliance is an independent and neutral coalition of more than 70 international multi-industry members. SIGA has created a draft set of universal integrity standards for sport.

  • Declaration of core principles on sport integrity, Sport Integrity Global Alliance (2016). SIGA acknowledges the governance and reputational challenges faced by the sport sector and recognises the sport specific nature and autonomy of its representative structures; but agrees: (1) there is urgent need for fundamental reforms in sport, rooted in the core concepts of democracy, transparency, accountability, integrity and stakeholder representation; (2) the growth, advancement and success of the sport sector is based upon immediate execution of core reforms that advance and ensure for the future the highest standards of good governance, financial integrity and sports betting integrity, and; (3) that reforms must reflect a strong and wholly credible commitment to preserve the integrity and essence of sport. In the case of good governance, SIGA supports the highest governance standards, including, but not limited to: democratic and transparent electoral processes; term limits; separation of powers between their regulatory and commercial functions; monitoring of potential conflicts of interest; risk management procedures; gender equality at board level; independent directors; meaningful stakeholder representation in the decision-making bodies; transparent and accountable financial management and proper oversight.

Women Sport International

Women Sport International (WSI) was formed to meet the challenge of ensuring that sport and physical activity receive the attention and priority they deserve in the lives of girls and women and to meet the need for an international umbrella organisation that can bring about positive change. WSI is both an issues and action based organisation.


Women Win 

Women Win (WW) is a global organisation connecting the global sport network with sport for international development and women's movements. As Women Win grows, it continues to develop new tools, open source guidelines, grassroots approaches, and ways to promote sport as a strategy to empower adolescent girls. The goal of Women Win is to learn, document, and share the impact of gender-sensitive sport programs, with a clear women's rights approach.

  • Building young women’s leadership through sport 2013−2015, (Programme Evaluation) Women Win (2016). The Building Young Women’s Leadership Through Sport (BYWLTS) Program worked cooperatively with local partner organisations in eight countries: India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Zambia, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya; building capacity to deliver quality and scalable programs. Over 3 years, a total of 65,469 young women participated in these programs. Through BYWLTS, Women Win successfully provided safe spaces for adolescent girls and young women to learn critical life skills through their participation in sport and then practise those leadership skills. In many countries girls and women have second-class status due to cultural norms and societal structures. Limitations placed upon adolescent girls restrain them from fulfilling their potential, leaving them generally less educated, less healthy, and less likely than their male counterparts to engage in sport. Participants in the BYWLTS program learned how to assert themselves, use their voice, and make decisions. By playing sports girls had the opportunity to become physically stronger, healthier, and develop a greater ownership and understanding of their bodies. By providing a safe place to grow, they developed critical life skills, connected with peers for social support, and gained access to positive female role models (e.g. coaches, and leaders within organisations). In addition, the program delivered outcomes to partner organisations, including increasing their capacity to deliver quality and scaled sports programs targeting girls and young women and assisting them to improve their organisational systems and extend their networks. Communities benefited from girls and women becoming healthier, better educated, and economically empowered. Attitudes towards the roles of girls and women in society also changed, as socio-cultural norms were challenged and gender stereotypes broken.

Canada FlagCanada

  • Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS). The Association is a national non-profit organisation dedicated to creating an equitable sport and physical activity system in which girls and women are actively engaged as participants and leaders.
  • Fast and Female. This Canadian not-for-profit organisation was founded in 2005, with the aim of supporting initiatives that keep girls active and involved in sports and physical activity into their teens. 

United Kingdom flagUnited Kingdom

  • Women in Sport (WIN). Formerly known as the 'Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation' (WSFF). Women in Sport has become a corporate entity as well as a registered charity in England and Wales. Their mission is to transform sport for the benefit of every woman and girl in the United Kingdom by improving and promoting opportunities for women and girls in sport at every level.
  • GB cyclists front #OneInAMillion campaign to boost women's cycling by 1 million by 2020, British Cycling, (2019). Our latest research shows that two thirds of frequent cyclist in Britain are men (69%), compared to countries like Denmark where male cyclists account for 47% and female cyclists 53%.

USA FlagUnited States

  • National Association for Girls and Women in Sport. This United States based Association advocates for equitable and quality sport opportunities for all girls and women.  The Association has merged into the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) to further promote its agenda through research, advocacy, leadership development, educational strategies, and programming.
  • SHARP Center: Institute for research on women and gender. The Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy (SHARP) Center for Women and Girls was established in 2010.  SHARP represents a partnership between the Women’s Sports Foundation, the University of Michigan’s School of Kinesiology, and the Institute for Research on Women & Gender.  SHARP's mission is to lead research that enhances the scope, experience, and sustainability of participation in sport, play, and movement for women and girls; and to leverage this research to better inform public opinion, advocacy, and policy implementation to enable more women and girls to be active, healthy, and successful.
  • The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES). TIDES is part of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program, College of Business Administration, at the University of Central Florida. The Institute serves as a comprehensive resource for issues related to gender and race in amateur, collegiate and professional sports. The Institute researches and publishes a variety of studies, including annual student-athlete graduation rates, racial attitudes in sports, and the internationally recognised series Racial and Gender Report Card.
  • Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF). Founded in 1974 by tennis professional Billie Jean King, the Women's Sports Foundation is dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity. The WSF works to educate, advocate, and organise programs across the USA; it also provides scholarships and supports research.
  • Champion Women. This United States based, non-profit, organisation was established in October 2014. The organisation’s mission is to provide advocacy for girls and women in sports through targeted efforts toward equality, accountability, and transparency among institutions providing (or not providing) sporting opportunities for girls and women. The Chief Executive Officer and founder of Champion Women is Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a civil rights attorney, legal scholar, and 1984 Olympic swimming champion.

flying discAustralian Flying Disc Association (AFDA) 

Girls Love Ultimate (GLU) Program. An initiative of AFDA and VicHealth, GLU is a fun Ultimate Frisbee program, provided to girls aged 12-17 years. GLU consists of a 90 minute indoor Ultimate Frisbee session held once per week for eight weeks. At GLU, girls will learn life skills such as leadership, conflict resolution, self-belief, mutual respect, nonviolence, integrity, fun and friendship that will benefit them both on and off the field for years to come.


AFL iconAustralian Football

The 'AFL Female Football Prep to Play Program', developed by the AFL in conjunction with La Trobe University and experts in coaching and sports medicine, is aimed at leagues and clubs across the country. The two-part program is made up of a digital booklet, the AFL National Female Community Football Guidelines, and Prep-to-Play video resources. The information has been compiled to educate grassroots football coaches and players on how to enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury in female football.  

  • AFL National Female Community Football Guidelines (PDF  - 3.5 MB), Australian Football League, (2019). The Guidelines provide direction to community football leagues and clubs on establishing best-practice frameworks for female football, including the management and development of new female teams, female-friendly facilities, club sustainability, competition balance and umpiring. 
  • Prep-to-Play, Australian Football League, (2019). The Prep-to-Play video resources have been created to further support coaches of female footballers at all levels with tutorials on how to design a dynamic warm-up, and educate players to improve their skills in tackling, groundball gets and aerial contests. 

Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan 2019-2021, Richmond Football Club, (15 August 2019). Launched in August 2019 the Richmond Football Club cemented its commitment to fostering a culture of inclusion and celebrating diversity by launching its inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.

  • Kick Like a Girl: How Richmond Is Improving Accessibility and Diversity in Football [audio], Triple R radio, (17 February 2020). Host Kate O’Halloran and this week’s co-host Emily Fox are joined by Rana Hussain, Richmond’s Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, and Sabrina Frederick, Richmond’s newest recruit from Brisbane. Rana and Sabrina discuss accessibility in football, including the diversity and inclusion action plan that Richmond has recently launched and why the work that they’re doing is bigger than just football. They also reflect on what they’ve learnt from their recent losses, as well as how they deal with negative commentary. 


cricket-smallCricket

  • Press for Progress Report 2018/19: to be the leading sport for women and girlsCricket Australia, (2019). Second annual report relating to the aspiration 'to be the leading sport for women and girls', set out in the Australian Cricket Strategy 2017-2022. In the past 12 months, important gains continue to be made: most notably, the sustained growth of girls participation and all-girls teams, the ongoing transition to a standalone Women's Big Bash League, and improved gender diversity within the governance of Australian Cricket.  

football-smallFédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)

 In October 2018 FIFA launched their first Women's Football Strategy which outlined how FIFA will work with stakeholders across the sport to realise the full potential of the women's game. 


football-smallFootball Federation Australia (FFA)


golf-smallGolf Australia

Golf Australia's Vision 2025: The future of women and girls in golf, Golf Australia, (February 2018). On 13 February 2018 Golf Australia launched a new strategy aiming at addressing a fundamental imbalance in Australian golf where women currently make up just 20% of all members. The four main pillars of Vision 2025 are:

  • Culture and leadership: more women on boards and in senior positions; opening up clubhouses and courses and making them more welcoming – equal access, equal rights.
  • Grassroots: introductions to golf that are friendlier and more social; more emphasis on fun and family; better transition to courses and clubs; hubs and networks for women and girls.
  • High performance and coaching: More heroes to inspire the next generation; more female coaches to nurture and develop them; more chances for the elite to compete and hone their skills.
  • Marketing and positioning: Changing the way the sport is perceived; more women and girls proud to say ‘I play golf’; promoting the fun, healthy, social game – a second sport and a sport for life.

Vision 2025: The future of women and girls in golf (PDF  - 23.6 MB), Golf Australia, (February 2018). 

  • Vision 2025: One year on, Karen Harding, Golf Australia, (29 April 2019). Vision 2025 was launched in February 2018 with the goal of increasing the rate of participation of women and girls in golf and changing the culture of the game. Karen Harding takes a look at how it’s progressing. 
  • '2025 Visionaries', Golf Australia, (accessed 3 July 2020). 2025 Visionaries is a collection of stories celebrating the extraordinary work of 15 Australian golf clubs to promote gender equality through golf.

Guidelines: Equal opportunity for women and girls in golf, Australian Human Rights Commission, Golf Australia & R&A, (March 2019). These Guidelines have been developed to provide guidance to golf clubs on the promotion of equal opportunity for women and girls in golf. The Guidelines provide: information about the operation of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (the Act) in relation to unlawful and permissible discrimination on the basis of sex and practical guidance for promoting equal opportunity for women and girls in golf clubs. 


surf-life-saving-smallSurf Life Saving Australia

Surf Life Saving Australia launches national Women’s Mentoring Program, Surf Life Saving Australia, (2 July 2020). SLSA is proud to today announce the first ever Women’s Mentoring Program with 40 women from across the country to take part. From the 160 applications received, 20 mentors and 20 mentees were selected to participate in the program which was designed to strengthen leadership skills, and develop the next generation of female leaders to position Surf Life Saving for the future.


canoeing-smallInternational Canoe Federation (ICF)

  • Diversity and Inclusion Commission, (accessed 2 December 2019). The ICF, along with the IOC, is firmly convinced of the need for women to play a greater part in decision-making, as well as encouraging sports practice among women. However, despite some significant steps forward, there is still much work to be done. Changes to the ICF Statures address equality, all Standing Committees have at least one woman member and women are selected on all Competition Committees for World championships. Since 2010, Gender Equality Workshops have been conducted in conjunction with the ICF Congress. 


rugby-Union-smallWorld Rugby

Accelerating the global development of women in rugby 2017-25, World Rugby, (2017). OUR AMBITION: By 2025, rugby will be a global leader in sport, where women involved in rugby have equity on and off the field, are reflected in all strategy, plans and structures, making highly valued contributions to participation, performance, leadership and investment in the global game of rugby. 


tennisInternational Tennis Federation (ITF)

Advantage All: the ITF's Gender Equality Strategy (2020). As part of its Advantage All gender equality initiative, the ITF is profiling female leaders and role models from within the sport. It follows a 2020 ITF Female Leadership Survey that identified the lack of female role models as one of the greatest challenges women face in their careers. While 47% of all tennis participants globally are women, there is still a large gender gap in coaching, officiating and sport decision-making, all the way from club level to the top of the sport. By raising the profile and sharing the experiences of female leaders from around the world, the Advantage All Ambassadors series aims to encourage women to pursue opportunities in tennis and fulfill their potential within the sport.

  • Women in Tennis Book available on ITF ebooks app, (15 July 2020). The ITF's Women in Tennis ebook, featuring contributions from women working in different areas across the game, on subjects such as coaching, officiating and competitive play, is available to download from the ITF ebooks app on both the App Store and Google Play. The ebook, which was edited by the ITF development department, has been put together as part of the ITF's Advantage All gender equality strategy, which seeks to address the large gender participation gap in coaching, officiating and sport decision-making, all the way from club level to the top of the sport.
  • Advantage All Ambassadors: Wanjiru Mbugua-Karani, (15 July 2020). As part of the Advantage All gender equality initiative, the ITF has this week published the first in a series of films to promote and profile female leaders and role models from within the sport. The films feature inspirational women discussing their own personal journeys in tennis as well as their views on gender equality. It follows a 2020 ITF Female Leadership Survey that identified the lack of female role models as one of the greatest challenges women face in their careers.

Triathlon-smallWorld Triathlon 

World Triathlon resumes the Mentorship Programme, Olalla Cernuda, International Triathlon Union, (1 July 2020). World Triathlon Development, together with the Women’s Committee, is delighted to announce the launch of a re-envisaged World Triathlon Mentor Programme to be delivered virtually, with the goal to increase and sustain the number of women and people with disability in leadership roles in coaching, technical officiating and governance in the sport.

Awards and recognition

Awards and honours help define, encourage and reinforce excellence.  Australia has a system of honours and awards so its citizens can be recognised for excellence, achievement or meritorious service. Australia’s distinctive honours system began in 1975 with the creation of the Order of Australia, to recognise service to the nation.  Many sportswomen have been recognised over the years through the Australian honours system for their contribution to sport and society.  Although Australian Government awards are not gender specific, it is significant that sportswomen can be recognised in this way for their achievements.

It’s an Honour. This Australian Government website provides a search function for identifying who has received which honour, what year the honour was given, and a brief citation for the reason the honour was given. Any person or organisation may nominate an Australian citizen to be considered for an award.

Advancing Women: women and the Order of Australia (PDF  - 173 KB), Women’s Leadership Institute Australia (2011). While it’s true that women are already demonstrating leadership in many areas, often their contribution is less valued. Since the Australian honours system was introduced in 1975, a great number of deserving Australians have been recognised and rewarded for their contribution to society, yet women remain under-represented in the number of nominations and this flows through to the number of people receiving honours. The Australian honours system has been uniquely designed to ensure that any member of the community can nominate an Australian citizen for an award. This guide provides valuable information about the nomination process.


Australian of the Year Awards 

Several prominent Australian athletes have been recognised as Australian of the Year recipients for their sporting achievements and community contribution and are often portrayed as positive role models in the media. 

Female Australian of the Year Award recipients:Female Young Australian of the Year Award recipientss:

Sport Australia Hall of Fame 

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame (SAHOF) has a number of award categories. Although awards are not gender specific Australian sportswomen are under-represented compared to their male cohort. 

An Athlete Member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame has achieved the highest honours at the peak level of competition. As of November 2019 there were a total of 419 Athlete Members, 96 of whom are women.

A General Member of the SAHOF is a person who has shown excellence and had outstanding achievements in roles supportive to sports participants (i.e. administration, coaching, training, sports media, history, sports science, technology). In November 2019 there were a total of 153 General Members of whom fourteen are women. 

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame introduced the ‘Legend’ status to recognise those members who have distinguished themselves at the highest level and in doing so have offered inspiration and example to Australia. One Sport Australia Hall of Fame member, selected by his or her peers, is elevated to Legend status each year.  As of November 2019 there were 41 members who had been elevated to 'Legends' of Australian sport, thirteen are women:

  • Louise Sauvage OAM - Athletics
  • Raelene Boyle AM MBE - Athletics
  • Evonne Cawley (nee Goolagong) AO, MBE – Tennis
  • Margaret Court AO, MBE – Tennis
  • Betty Cuthbert AM, MBE – Athletics
  • Shirley de la Hunty (nee Strickland) AO, MBE – Athletics
  • Dawn Fraser AO, MBE – Swimming
  • Catherine Freeman OAM – Athletics
  • Shane Gould MBE – Swimming
  • Marjorie Nelson (nee Jackson) AC, CVO, MBE – Athletics
  • Heather McKay AM, MBE – Squash
  • Susan O'Neill OAM – Swimming
  • Anne Sargeant OAM - Netball

Australian Women's Health Women in Sport Awards

The Australian Women's Health Women in Sport Awards started in 2011. The Women's Health magazine established the awards to recognise outstanding Australian female athletes, performances, teams, leaders, and journalists in sport. The awards are also known as the "I Support Women in Sport Awards" and are the main Australian award for female in sport. [source: Australian Women's Health Sport Awards, Wikipedia]  


Women in Sport Photo Action Awards (#WISPAA)

In 2019 Women Sport Australia launched the Women in Sport Photo Action Awards to generate greater recognition and respect for the skill, strength and athleticism of Australian women actively participating in sport. The inaugural winning image was of AFLW player Tayla Harris shot by Michael Wilson. An exhibition of the 30 finalist images was held in Melbourne.  

  • Women In Sport Photo Action Awards Function, Women Sport Australia, (24 June 2019). The 8th annual Women’s Health Women in Sport Awards prove our elite female athletes aren’t just the best in Australia – they are among the best in the world.  

National Institute Network Awards

The network of State Institutes and Academies of Sport present annual awards to outstanding sportswomen within their jurisdictions.  The Australian Institute of Sport has presented an annual AIS Athlete of the Year Award, which has been non-gender specific since 1984.  During the 29 years (i.e. 1984 through 2012) the AIS granted scholarships to elite athletes, the Athlete of the Year Award was won or jointly won by female athletes on 18 occasions. 

The International Olympic Committee introduced the Women and Sport Awards in 2000 to recognise the outstanding achievements and contributions of those who promote gender equality in sport. Every year, the IOC invites each National Olympic Committee, International Federation and Continental Association to nominate a person or association active in promoting gender equality and the presence of women in their sport or country. The IOC first established a 'Women in Sport Working Group' in 1995 that soon evolved into the IOC Women in Sport Commission. The Commission advises the IOC on policy matters and is tasked with the responsibility of encouraging greater women’s participation in the Olympic Games and sport in general.

  • Women in the Olympic Movement: IOC Factsheet (PDF  - 426 KB), current to February 2018. The IOC Charter states that one of its roles is to encourage and support women in sport at all levels. This factsheet lists the year women were included in various Olympic Games sports and discusses the role of the IOC Women in Sport Commission. 

International practice

The 2016 report by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) raised great concern that; despite more than two decades of active campaigning for greater representation and recognition of Canadian women’s sport; the participation figures remained alarmingly low. The report cited research indicating that if a Canadian girl has not yet participated in a sport by the age of 10, there is only a 10% chance that she will be physically active (i.e. to the level recommended by the Canadian government to maintain health and wellbeing) as an adult. In Canada, only 59% of girls between the ages of 3 and 17 years participate in organised sport, and this figure drops alarmingly in late adolescence to 22%, secondary school sport participation also drops off.

  • Women in Sport: Fuelling a lifetime of participation (PDF  - 2.9 MB), Brunette M and O’Reilly N, Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (2016). In this report, researchers situate the status and challenges of Canadian girls and women’s participation and leadership in sport, and identify actions to fuel lifelong participation. Girls and women of all ages and backgrounds face prolific structural and behavioural hurdles to maintaining roles as sport participants and sport leaders. Across all demographics, there is a substantial volume of evidence that points to concerning declines in girls and women’s participation in sport in Canada. Structural and cultural forces that impede girls/women’s participation include: a culture and history of sport that is male dominated; negative perceptions and stereotyping of girls in sport; the quality and quantity of media coverage of women’s sport, and; exposure of women’s sport via all sources of media. Organisational hurdles include: declining rates of sports participation among girls/women; limited female-specific sports opportunities that meet the needs and interests of girls/women; limited access to quality coaching, training, equipment and facilities that embrace specific abilities and skill levels; lack of positive role models, and; low levels of media coverage. Individual hurdles that must be overcome include: competing demand for time; lack of interest in sport participation; lack of parental and peer support, and; lack of financial resources allocated to girls/women’s sport. The identified hurdles must be addressed through multi-level, national and individual efforts; led by government policy and championed by organisations like CAAWS who are committed to seeing more girls and women actively engaged in sport. Across the Canadian sports system there needs to be a positive cultural that aims to inspire girls/women to be more active; system-wide recommendations include:
    • Use champion female athletes as spokespersons and ambassadors in corporate Canada.
    • Highlight the value of female athletes’ achievements by increasing the percentage of media content devoted to women’s sport by establishing media rules and guidelines.
    • Create incentives for sport clubs and facilities to balance their allocation of time and resources to women’s sport and incentives for sponsorships and/or funding of women’s sport.
    • Re-assess government funding for sport participation and programming to better target underserved and high-need populations.
    • Establish incentives for corporate Canada to get behind women’s sport.
    • Encourage diversity in the Board of Directors of sport organisations and opportunities for leadership roles among women, with the target of gender parity.
    • Support women’s transition into coaching and officiating roles.
    • Encourage the ‘next generation’ of female participants by supporting a sport environment that is diverse, welcoming and fun.

  • CAAWS 2018-2019 Impact StatementCanadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, (2019). The last year has been one of the most significant periods of growth in the organization’s 39-year history and one of the most productive in recent memory for gender equity in sport, thanks to renewed commitments from both Sport Canada and sport organizations and leaders across the country. Read the report to see highlights from our year, including an historic $3M investment, our new sport leadership pilot program for girls, and an appearance on Hockey Night in Canada!
  • The Leading Edge: Good practices for creating gender-equitable boards in sport (PDF  - 7.6 MB), Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, (2018). This resource provides sport leaders with information and tips to enhance good practices or dial up efforts to support gender-equitable boards. It includes information on making the case for gender-equitable boards; intentional leadership; setting clear objectives and evaluating progress; reviewing by-laws, processes and procedures; creating an inviting culture; proactively recruiting women; and, providing mentoring and training opportunities. 


  • Actively Engaged: a Policy on Sport for Women and Girls, Government of Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage (2009). Canadian Heritage is committed to a sport system that provides quality sport experiences, where women and girls are actively engaged and equitably supported in a full range of roles. In doing so, women and girls should have meaningful opportunities to become involved in and develop in sport according to their interests, abilities, talents and choices, throughout a lifetime’s involvement. This policy recognises that the contributions of actively engaged women and girls are critical to realizing the objectives of the Canadian Sport Policy and for achieving results for Canadians. 
  • Fuelling Women Champions. Launched in 2015 by Canada’s Dairy Farmers, this women-in-sport initiative is intended to shine a spotlight on women in sports and to cultivate passionate fans among everyday Canadians for women’s sports. Several key sports partners have come on board with this program, including Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS), Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), Rugby Canada, and Swimming Canada. Their leadership and insight have built the foundation of the Fuelling Women Champions program. The program will also feature Canada’s top female athletes as ambassadors and facilitate mentorship opportunities for them with young girls and women across the country.

The EU holds regular conferences on gender equality in sport, the most recent EU Conference on Gender Equity in Sport was held in December 2013 in Vilnius, Lithuania. This conference involved 120 experts from sport organisations and governments and secured wide-ranging commitments and support for concrete actions on equality between women and men in sport.

  • The European Union and Gender Equality. Equality between women and men is one of the European Union’s founding values. The EU has published an overall strategy document for equality between women and men which represents the European Commission’s progressive work program on gender equality for the period 2010-2015, and the EU’s Gender Equity Index shows how member countries are progressing toward implementing this strategy. In addition the EU has published a White Paper on Sport

The EU Directorate for Education and Culture has also addressed gender issues in sport, specifically the scope of gender-based violence in sport within the EU.

Study on gender-based violence in sport: Final Report (PDF  - 2.3 MB), Mergaert L, Arnaut C, Vertommen T and Lang M, European Commission, Directorate for Education and Culture (2016). This study provides an overview of legal and policy frameworks; describes initiatives promoted by sport organisations and civil society; identifies best practice in combatting gender-based violence in sport; and makes recommendations for future action. To establish a common understanding and to delimit the scope of the study, this definition of gender-based violence used was: “violence directed against a person because of that person's gender (including gender identity or expression) or violence that affects persons of a particular gender disproportionately”. Several forms of gender-based violence in sport were considered: verbal, non-verbal, physical abuse and sexual harassment. These forms are not mutually exclusive, but overlap. This study explicitly included violence against LGBTQ persons, and considered both male and female victims as well as perpetrators. The main findings from this study include:

  1. The main focus of policies has been on prevention and protection actions. Other topics, such as assessment of any gender-based violence, measures to prosecute violence, and support programs for victims have received less attention.
  2. The legal provisions in place across EU Member States use different terminology and vary greatly; there remains a general lack of clarity in legal contexts in relation to what a ‘sexual act’ entails.
  3. Less than half of the EU Member States make explicit reference to forms of gender-based violence in sport in their policy frameworks. Policy implementation (in many cases) is neither mandatory, nor followed up.
  4. Initiatives taken by the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee are important because of their visibility and influence on national committees to comply and establish their own policies.
  5. Reliable data on gender-based violence is missing across the EU, and the problem may be underestimated; there is also a lack of research in this area.
  6. Most of the identified prevention approaches target sports organisations and coaches. Efforts and resources to ensure a continuous implementation of activities and/or dissemination of materials appear to be scarce. Initiatives are generally not given enough visibility and are not easily accessible. The effectiveness of the identified practices is rarely monitored or evaluated.
  7. The concept of gender-based violence in sport brings together several concerns that tend to be addressed separately (rather than under a unified policy), such as: ethics in sport; child protection; safe sport environments; and athletes’ welfare. 

  • Gender Equity in Sport: proposal for strategic action 2014-2020 (PDF  - 1.6 MB), European Commission (2014). Although we are witnessing more women in Europe participating in sport activities, a lot remains to be done in the sphere of gender equality. Many women are still unable to find the right environment in which to develop their full potential, and in some European countries women lag seriously behind men in access to sport. Although there are many external factors that impact upon women’s participation in sport, there are also many factors at play within the sport sector which can hamper the participation of women. For example, the lack of women coaches to create a gender friendly and safe sport environment, lack of interest from decision making boards that are dominated by men, and lack of sustainable gender equality policies leading to concrete changes. The 2010 Euro barometer on gender equality report indicated that Europeans are concerned about the sexist stereotypes found in the world of sport. This makes sport not as gender balanced as it should be and highlights the need to improve the gender climate and culture. Progress toward greater equality in sport can be realised through concrete measures, supported by sustainable policies and, where necessary, legal frameworks. This report proposes strategic action to ensure that sport is attractive to all, but pays particular attention to girls and women, whatever age or background, so that they can participate, work, govern and enjoy sport, in a safe and secure environment. At the same time sport should be promoted as a tool to improve gender equality in society, as it has the potential to educate people for leadership, contribute to the skills needed for a role or profession, and discourages gender based violence. Furthermore, the media attention on sport makes it an excellent tool to fight against negative gender stereotypes in sport and society as a whole.
  • Gender equality in sport: Getting closer every day (PDF  - 2.2 MB), Ivana Katsarova; graphics: Samy Chahr, European Parliamentary Research Service Briefing, (March 2019). Briefing paper covers background and research relating to gender equality and sport. Specific focus areas include: Women's (long) road to the Olympics; Women in sports-related decision-making; Women as coaches; Gender pay inequalities; Gender-related stereotypes in media representation; Popularity and coverage of women's sports events in the EU; European parliament views on gender equality in sport. 

Sport Ireland released their first Women in Sport policy in 2019. Through the Women in Sport Project, national policies, and recognised national research, Sport Ireland identifies four key areas which have emerged as current gaps and future opportunities for women in sport. These areas are: coaching and officiating; active participation; leadership and governance; and visibitiy. They will target each of these four areas to deliver on the commitments of this policy.

20x20: If she can't see it, she can't be itFederation of Irish Sport, (accessed 6 May 2020). 20×20 is about creating a cultural shift in our perception of girls and women in sport. By increasing visibility of women’s sport it will become a greater part of who we are and what we follow.

Realising the opportunity: addressing New Zealand’s leadership pipeline by attracting and retaining talented women (PDF  - 2.3 MB), New Zealand Government, Ministry of Women’s Affairs (September 2013). Leadership talent is in short supply in New Zealand and globally. Yet at every successive management level significant proportions of talented women drop out or their career stalls.  This report examines how three factors: (1) unconscious bias, (2) career breaks, and (3) inflexible working environments can create barriers to women’s career progression and contribute to the loss of leadership talent.  Unconscious bias based on stereotypical views about gender and leadership can negatively influence decisions about the recruitment and career progression of women leaders.  Women who take career breaks and become primary caregivers face challenges when re-entering the workforce and getting their leadership career back on track.  Inflexible working conditions can negatively affect both job and career as women trade down their skills to gain flexibility.  Work arrangements often preclude women from leadership jobs and progression into senior roles.  

Proactive talent management that identifies high potential and high performing women and supports them in their leadership career is critical to ensuring talented women enter and stay in the leadership pipeline. To be fully effective, gender balance in leadership needs to be seen as a business imperative on the strategic agenda.  Top level support is critical to driving the changes required to create an organisational culture that values leadership diversity.  The benefits of attracting and retaining talented women in leadership roles are clear.  This report identifies a number of actions that organisations can take to reduce these barriers and gain the benefit of attracting and retaining talented women into leadership roles:

  • raising awareness and developing actions to address the unconscious bias that otherwise will continue to create invisible barriers to women’s progress in the leadership pipeline;
  • supporting talented women to return to work or re-enter the workforce in jobs that fully utilise their leadership skills and value to the organisation;
  • aligning policies, workplace practices, and organisational culture to support effective flexible working arrangements for all employees;
  • proactively planning and managing women’s leadership careers in a way that supports their career and life choices;
  • taking an executive-led and strategic approach to implementing transformational change that will shift existing mindsets and behaviours to ones that support gender balance in leadership.


Women in High Performance Sport Coaching Initiative - Te Hāpaitanga, HP Sport NZ, (accessed 7 July 2020). Te Hāpaitanga is a holistic coach development initiative designed in response to the complex and interconnected challenges preventing female coaches from pursing and maintaining a career in high performance sport. The 18-month Initiative will provide a range of opportunities for up to 14 future or emerging female high performance coaches to test and develop their coaching capability, and to develop new skills to navigate a complex and challenging career in high performance sport. 

Final Report of the Government’s Women and Sport Advisory Board (PDF  - 4.72 MB), United Kingdom, Department for Culture, Media & Sport (March 2015). The Advisory Board’s interim report, published in October 2014, set out five areas of work the Board chose to focus on and provided an overview of progress. This report builds on the interim report and looks ahead by suggesting further actions in each of the five key areas: (1) increasing women’s participation in sport; (2) improving the media profile of women’s sport; (3) increasing commercial investment in women’s sport; (4) improving women’s representation in leadership and the workforce, and; (5) greater recognition of women’s sporting achievements.

Interim Report of the Government’s Women and Sport Advisory Board (PDF + 1.2 MB), United Kingdom, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Women and Sport Advisory Board (October 2014). Just over a year after its inception, the Women and Sport Advisory Board released this interim report to provide an overview of the key issues surrounding women and sport and provide a snapshot of action by the Government, its primary delivery bodies for sport (i.e. Sport England and UK Sport), and key stakeholders. Sport England’s research has identified three areas that present barriers to participation: (1) emotional barriers, many women do not have a positive relationship with sport; (2) capability barriers, many women have the perception that they are not good enough, and; (3) opportunity barriers, such as lack of time due to family priorities. Women’s sport media coverage increased during the 2012 London Olympics, but has fallen back to just 7% of total coverage. The value of sponsorship going to women’s sport in the UK was just 0.4% of the total. The number of women on sports boards is gradually increasing and currently sits at 27%, although about half of all National Governing Bodies (NGBs) report that less than a quarter of their board are women. The percentage of women coaches has increased to 28%, and increasing women’s participation in sport is a key part of the Government’s Youth and Community Sport Strategy aimed at addressing these inequities.


Sport England

  • Go where women are: insight on engaging women and girls in sport and exercise, Sport England, (2015). This review explores our current understanding of what women want from sport and exercise programs; their relevant motivations, barriers, and triggers that prompt them into being more active. This review also identifies what this means for sports and exercise activities and initiatives, so that program deliverers can adjust to the needs of women and girls. Seven key principles for program providers are discussed: (1) change the offer to suit the women being targeted, listen to marketing and customer experiences of women; (2) don’t just talk about sport, consider how to present and explain the intended experience; (3) differentiate sport from other interests by promoting (not preaching) the benefits; (4) make sport the ‘norm’ for women of all ages, sizes, and cultural backgrounds by celebrating it; (5) use positivity and encouragement to drive action (rather than fear of the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle); (6) make it easy for women to act, address both practical and emotional barriers to participation; and (7) remember that people make or break the experience, ensure participants are properly supported along the way.
  • Helping women and girls get active: a practical guideSport England, (2017). This practical guide contains advice, suggestions, hints and tips that make it easier to get more women and girls active in the local area. This toolkit gives advice on communication, making the sessions attractive, maintaining and growing attendance, and shares good examples. 
  • Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls: Building strong foundations for their futuresWomen in Sport, (Apirl 2019). Funded by Sport England this research provides evidence supporting the need to reframe sport and physical activity as something that girls’ value and perceive to enhance their lives. It includes 8 Principles of Success to support organisations to bridge the ‘relevance gap’ in sport for girls and ensure it has a more meaningful place and is something they value and perceive to enhance their lives. A Toolkit to help organisations implement the Principles is also available. 
  • This Girl Can. This is a national campaign developed and supported by Sport England and its partner organisations. It’s designed to provide a web-based and social media platform for information, community awareness, inspirational stories, best practice, and promotional activities that encourage women and girls to become more active. 

UK Sport

  • UK Sport Equality and Diversity Strategy (PDF  - 284 KB), UK Sport (2010). This strategy is intended to address equality and diversity, plus a race equality, to ensure the legal obligations of sport are met; as well as establishing equality principles and policies within UK Sport and for its partner organisations. 


Scotland

  • Levelling the playing field: 2019 report and recommendations (PDF  - 545 KB), Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Advisory Board, (2019). The 2018 First Report and Findings from the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG) stated that: “Women are significantly less likely than men to meet physical activity guidelines; just 59% of women do the recommended amount of activity per week, compared to 69% of men. Only 14% of CEO positions across Scotland’s national governing bodies are held by women. 99% of sponsorship investment and 95% of media coverage is dedicated to men’s sport.” This Board set out to recommend further improvements to drive participation in sport and physical activity amongst women and girls and discuss how more private and media investment could be attracted into the sector.


Women in Sport  

The organisation, Women in Sport, believes that NGBs must broaden their focus from simply improving the gender diversity of their board, to addressing diversity across their entire organisation. This will start to build a pathway for women who can move into leadership roles, making gender diversity in the NGBs more sustainable, which in turn will make them more effective and successful organisations.

  • Beyond 30% - Female Leadership in Sport (PDF  - 4.8 MB), Women in Sport (2017). This is the seventh annual report on the leadership roles filled by women in UK sporting organisations. Key finding in this report:
    • the percentage of women on the boards of National Governing Bodies (NGBs) has remained static for 3 years, with an average of 30% of board positions continuing to be held by women;
    • there has been a fall in the percentage of women in Senior Leadership roles which now stands at 36%, after a high of 42% in 2014;
    • 24% of Chief Executives of NGBs are women, an increase from 15% in 2009;
    • women continue to be under-represented in Performance Director roles;
    • 44% of NGB Development Directors are women, a slight fall since 2015;
    • women make up a third of Non-Executive Director roles and a similar percentage of positions as Chair of an NGB.


Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation

  • Changing the Game, for Girls: A toolkit to help teachers get more girls involved in PE and school sport (PDF  - 632 KB), Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, (2016). This resource is designed to help schools and physical education (PE) teachers get more girls involved in PE and school sport by understanding the reasons why so few girls participate. The research at Loughborough University can help us understand what would help girls become more active, so that schools can develop policies and strategies to encourage greater participation. Overall, this research found that families are the most powerful influence on a child’s activity levels, and schools are seen as the most important site for change. Because school attendance is compulsory, schools have a unique opportunity to deliver programs (e.g. PE and school sport) and create a culture in which physical activity is valued. A whole-school approach is recommended, involving students, parents and teachers.
  • Women and informal sport (PDF  - 1.3 MB), Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (2011). This report highlights the efforts and achievements of WSFF in promoting informal sport to women and girls and features several case studies.

Empowering Girls and Women through Physical Education and Sport (PDF - 396 KB), Kirk D, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2012). This report states that we should be concerned about gender equity in physical education because access and regular participation in physical activity is a fundamental human right.  The issues surrounding girls’ participation in physical education and sport are clearly identified in the research literature; however, the problem is multifaceted and complex.  The underlying issues range from policy and strategy, through professional and institutional issues, to personal and social issues. This range of interdependent and interacting factors contributes to the complexity of this issue and presents challenges for change.  This report contains examples from Asia and Africa of innovative projects that have sought to facilitate girls’ and women’s participation in physical education and sport.  Grassroots ownership of programmes may be important both to meeting the specific needs of particular communities of girls and women, and to sustainability.  In almost all of the examples, physical education was viewed as a means of achieving additional goals such as leadership training, health knowledge, and improving the prevalence of literacy.

Sport for Development Programmes for Girls and Women: a global assessment, Hancock M, Lyras A, Ha J, Journal of Sport for Development, Volume 1, Issue 1 (2013). International sport and humanitarian institutions have advocated the need to leverage the positive impact that sport can have on individuals, cultures, and societies. Girls and women are underrepresented in social, political, legal, and educational positions in countries around the world. The United Nations suggests that national and international agencies provide girls and women equal access to sport as a means of promoting physical and mental health, social integration, self-esteem, and skill development.  This study identified trends in sport for development programs for girls and women.  Of the 376 programmes analysed, 123 were found in Europe, 101 in Africa, 68 in North America, 55 in Asia, and 29 in Australia. Overall, the top three primary program objectives to promote gender equity were: (1) individual development, (2) social integration, and (3) the development of social capital.

Chasing Equity: The Triumphs, Challenges, and Opportunities in Sports for Girls and Women (PDF  - 5.2 MB), Women's Sports Foundation, (January 2020). In this report, we examine the state of girls’ and women’s sport in the United States through a broad lens, looking at the triumphs, the challenges, and the tremendous opportunities that are yet to be realized. The areas we focus on include sport participation opportunities for girls and women; the benefits of sport participation for girls and women; the barriers that limit and/or hinder participation; critical health and safety concerns of females in sport; Title IX and its ongoing role in supporting the infrastructure for equal access to sport participation for girls and women; the representation of women working in the sport industry and the climate they encounter while working in sport, including pay equity and equal treatment issues; the level and quality of sport media coverage of female athletes; and the representation of women working in sport media. 

Progress and Promise: Title IX at 40 (PDF  - 237 KB), Sabo D and Snyder M, SHARP Centre for Women and Girls, White Paper (2013). Forty years ago, the United States Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This legislation, which reflected the dramatic emergence of women’s rights and feminism, ostensibly ensured that all students from kindergarten through postgraduate school should receive equal educational opportunities regardless of their gender.  The implications for physical education and sport in schools and tertiary institutions were dramatic. The number of girls in high school athletics increased from fewer than 300,000 before Title IX to more than 3.2 million by 2012.  Women’s participation in college athletics increased from 30,000 to more than 190,000 in 2011-2012 (NCAA statistics).  However, despite the progress made, opportunities for women in interscholastic and collegiate sports are still weighted toward a male advantage.

2015 Women’s National Basketball Association racial and gender report card, Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), University of Central Florida (October 2015). The Report Card asks, “Are we playing fair when it comes to sports? Does everyone, regardless of race or gender, have a chance to score a basket and run the team?” The answer for the WNBA was a resounding “yes” with the best record in professional sports.

2015 National Basketball Association racial and gender report card, Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), University of Central Florida (July 2015). In the NBA League Office 41% of the professional employees were women, which was the same as in the previous year. Kathy Behrens was promoted to the position of President of Social Responsibility and Player Programs, thus becoming one of the highest ranking female executives in men’s professional sport and the first woman to be a president in a league office.

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Acknowledgement

We gratefully acknowledge the support and assistance provided by the Women Sport Australia in preparing and maintaining this information resource.

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