The unique challenges faced by women in the sports sector will be raised at the government’s jobs and skills summit in Canberra.
- A roundtable on women in sport suggested government funding could look to be tied to quotas
- The roundtable of more than 50 women included the likes of Lauren Jackson and Catherine Clark
- Issues around women in sport will be raised at a summit in Canberra
Federal Sports Minister Anika Wells hosted a roundtable for women in the industry earlier this week to help frame their issues ahead of the summit.
Sports may face a future where government funding is tied to quotas, while major events that governments help pay for could have their legacy programs scrutinised to ensure positive change.
“I think there’s a huge opportunity there,” Ms Wells told ABC’s The Ticket.
“Something that came up a lot [at the roundtable] was that often we’ve reached that point along the journey in government where often there are grants or one-off funding programs for women’s participation in sport or women’s leadership in sport.
“But the system itself is still geared towards men and male sport. Those programs are one-offs or adjuncts.
“What we actually want … is for the system to treat women’s sport with equality.
“And to acknowledge some of the different elements to being a woman athlete in both work and performance, makes them very different to just being a male athlete with boobs.”
When it comes to running sport women are still an anomaly, recently trending downwards.
Around 50 women were at the roundtable, including basketballer Lauren Jackson, the CEO of Paralympics Australia Catherine Clark and former Matilda now head of women’s performance at Football Australia Sarah Walsh.
There was debate as to whether cultural change in sports is top down or bottom up. A purpose-designed model may be required if headway is to be made during the green and gold decade starting with this month’s FIBA World Cup and leading through to the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games.
“That’s what I think is possible,” Wells said.
“With the suggestions, I am now going to look into how I make that happen as the new minister for sport.
“We have so much to fund in the coming decade … there is opportunity to do this and make these kinds of legacy funding models conditional upon making sure all women have access to parental leave and pathways to leadership both as athletes but also as coaches and administrators as well.”
Sport faces a challenge within a challenge when it comes to gender equality.
Replacing an entire coaching staff, or a room full of management, with white women where only white men once were, ignores the diversity of Australia’s cultural landscape.
“That also speaks to … not trying to retrofit people into a system built for someone else. We need to build a system that acknowledges everybody involved in the sporting ecosystem,” Wells said.
In the past week there has been a lot of discussion about the AFL’s new broadcast deal with the government reminding the sport’s governing body that Australia’s anti-siphoning legislation requires fair free-to-air access for the general public.
Aside from mixed major events such as the Olympic and Commonwealth Games and the Australian Open tennis tournament, the only women’s event named in the legislation is the Netball World Cup.
All other sports mentioned in the legislation, including football, rugby league, rugby union and cricket, reference competition involving ‘the senior Australian representative team’, ignoring the fact there are usually a men’s and women’s senior representative team.
The legislation is likely to be revisited.
“We have to check ourselves at every sentence to make sure that the lens we are looking at these things through isn’t just that traditional lens,” Wells said.
“While we don’t make policy on the run and this specific patch of legislation falls within Michelle Rowland the communication minister’s area … she and the broader Albanese government have committed to reviewing that anti-siphoning scheme.
“I think the discussion paper will be released in the coming weeks.”
Outcomes from the sport roundtable will contribute to the Employment White Paper following the jobs and skills summit ending on Friday.