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Sports boards failing on female representation

Hockey Australia is the lone shining example.

Hockey Australia is the lone shining example. Photo: Getty Images

Only one of the Australian Sports Commission’s most richly funded sports has met a soon-to-be-mandatory 40 per cent female board member ratio. 

While Hockey Australia is the lone shining example, the national governing bodies for athletics, swimming, cycling, rowing and sailing -  and the worst placed of the country’s most richly taxpayer-funded sports associations, Basketball Australia - are under pressure to reform within a year or risk having their funding docked. 

Of the seven sporting associations that receive more than $5 million annually in grants from the commission, only Hockey Australia has met the target for women on its board. The target was set by the  commission in 2012 when, among a host of governance-related requirements, it announced an aggressive push for female involvement in the upper echelons of sport as part of the "Winning Edge" manifesto. 

The gender breakdown of Hockey Australia’s board is now 55 per cent female and 45 per cent male, which is an improvement of 10 per cent since two women directors were added in the past 15 months.

Basketball Australia’s recently replenished six-member board, meanwhile, has one female member, Cheryl Hayman, who was voted in at the sport’s annual meeting last month. Former BA director Gillian McFee came off the board in the same vote.

Swimming Australia, under new leadership, is faring marginally better than basketball in terms of board diversity after adding a second female director to its hierarchy since the launch of Winning Edge.

Swimming had the poorest female board member ratio of the commission's top seven sports when Winning Edge was announced, but  its board has grown by one member - to a group of nine - since then. 

Cycling Australia, while in a parlous financial position and under pressure from the commission, has clearly responded to the call for more female representation on its board.

Cycling, like swimming and basketball, had just one woman on its board in December 2012, but has added two, giving it a 30 per cent female ratio.

Sailing Australia’s female director ratio is second-best - at 38 per cent - behind hockey, while Rowing Australia is third with 33 per cent, despite the fact its female director numbers remain unchanged and its board has grown by one member.

"The 40 per cent target by 2015 was consistent with the federal government policy of 40 per cent female representation on boards, and there’s still time for these boards to move in line with that,'' ASC chief John Wylie said on Thursday.

"This is part of an ongoing conversation with these sports, and we’re seeing no resistance at all with the sports that we fund to the idea of improving gender balance and improving diversity on their boards.''

Asked why some sports were lagging while others had progressed, even in the past 12 months, Wylie said: ''The boards have got natural cycles for director expiry ... so these things you work through over a period of time. But we will expect to see further progress.''

While only the top seven most funded sports by the ASC stand to incur financial sanctions if they do not reach the 40 per cent female director ratio by next year, the commission suggested it was only a matter of time before the same ratio would apply for every sport it funds under the Winning Edge strategy.

Highlighted in the first all-sport review document published by the ASC, are 12 Australian sporting federations that have less than 20 per cent female representation on their boards.  

Judo Federation Australia and the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport are the only ASC–funded organisations that have no women directors, while the female board representation at Cricket Australia, the Australian Paralympic Committee and the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia is 11 per cent.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (13 per cent), Diving Australia (14 per cent), and Archery Australia, Boxing Australia Limited, Motorcycle Australia, Surf Life Saving Australia and Basketball Australia (all 17 per cent) are also on the list.

"I guess we’ve named and shamed the ones who are the worst offenders because we wanted to really focus on, in particular, those sports that have the furthest to go,'' Australian Institute of Sport chief executive Simon Hollingsworth said.

1 comment

  • It will be an interesting court case if one of the sports doesn't make the target, is denied funding, and then sues for discrimination. Is there protection in the relevant legislation for this type of discrimination?

    Equally, it will be interesting if Cycling Australia dumps one of the male board members, replaces him with a woman and is then sued by the dumped man.

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    Phantom
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    April 04, 2014, 12:06PM
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