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Wonderful weekend for women in sport

The Aussie Diamonds celebrate their Netball World Cup victory. Picture: David Callow

17 Aug 2015

By Australian Sports Commission (ASC) CEO Simon Hollingsworth

The appeal of women’s sport in Australia was there for all to see over a triumphant weekend.

On Saturday, we watched the Australian Opals basketball team take a big step towards the 2016 Rio Olympics with a win in their qualifying series over New Zealand.

On Sunday, we witnessed a milestone women’s AFL match, between the Melbourne Demons and Western Bulldogs.

The weekend culminated on Sunday evening, with the Australian Diamonds hanging on for a thrilling victory in the final of the netball World Cup in Sydney.

There is still so much to be done for the promotion of women in sport, but this weekend was at least a chance to celebrate progress.

The evidence was in the stands of Sydney’s Allphones Arena, where a world record netball crowd of 16,752 created a jubilant atmosphere as the Diamonds won a third consecutive World Cup.

The audience, however, was significantly bigger. Indeed, all three sporting events mentioned above were broadcast nationally on free-to-air television.

This was a weekend for female sport to be on show and to shine. It was a chance for all to see how wonderful our female athletes are.

Recent results have already told this story.

The Australian swim team performed brilliantly at this month’s world championships in Kazan, Russia, winning 16 medals, including seven gold. Five of the gold medals were won by females, led by Emily Seebohm and Bronte Campbell.

Australia’s female cricket team, the Southern Stars, have taken a strong lead in the women’s Ashes series, England needing to win all three remaining T20 games to just draw the series and reclaim the prize.

The Hockeyroos have rebuilt themselves over the past few years and have re-established the team as a world force heading into Rio next year.

The Matildas captured the imagination of the nation when they shocked footballing powerhouse Brazil at the women’s World Cup, eventually finishing in the top eight for the tournament.

The performance of the Matildas, in particular, sparked debate of inequality in male and female sport, especially pay differences.

But the performance of the Matildas also sparked immediate interest. The domestic women’s football competition, the W-League, had lost the ABC as its broadcast partner at the end of last season. Now they will have an alliance with Fox Sports, and maybe a free-to-air partner as well. 

Media coverage, particularly television coverage, is pivotal to the commercialisation of any sport, male, female or mixed gender.

Gender indifferences exist in many areas and sport is not immune. But sport must continue breaking down barriers.

The ASC has identified the promotion of women in leadership roles in sport as a key priority too. We have set a goal for sports to achieve a 40 per cent representation of females on boards.

Since this goal was established in March 2013, female representation at board level has risen from a 27 per cent average to 38 per cent across the top 21 sporting organisations the ASC funds.

It’s pleasing that sports have broadly accepted this goal, with 17 of those 21 sports increasing the number of females on their boards.

There is still work to be done, undoubtedly. But sport must continue striving for progress.

If you compare these sporting results to business, as of July 31 this year the boards of the top ASX200 companies in Australia comprised an average female representation of 20.1 per cent.

The ASC continues to work with sporting organisations to make their constitutions more contemporary and their boards more diverse.

Identifying women as potential leaders is pivotal too. The ASC has established the Women in Sport Leadership Register, which enables women to nominate themselves as potential candidates for sporting boards.

There is currently a list of more than 120 women who have registered and been found suitable for leadership roles in sport. Many of these women will become future agents for change.

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