Gender discrimination in the Sports Industry

Gender discrimination in the Sports Industry

by Shruthi Venkatesh March 12 2019, 3:54 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 48 secs

Research from Women in Sport has found 40% of women in the sports industry face discrimination because of their sex but 72% of their male colleagues say they see no inequality. Founded in 1974 by tennis legend, Billie Jean King, the Women’s Sports Foundation is dedicated to creating leaders by ensuring all girls have access to sports. Their mission statement is, “To advance the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity”.

The seven-month period survey analysed over 1,152 people across roles in sports administration at national governing bodies, leisure organisations, and county sport partnerships and sports charities. 30% of women say they had experienced inappropriate behaviour from men- reports Ruth Holdaway, the chief executive of Women in Sport. “What really concerned me was the overarching 40% of women having experienced discrimination – that is a problem we have to solve urgently,” Holdaway said.

The survey also highlighted problems of gender pay gap, feeling undervalued at work, a lack of opportunities for women to progress into more senior roles and a networking culture that supports jobs for the boys. “None of us want to work in a sector where that is the case,” Holdaway said. “How will we attract women into our sector if 40% feel they’re held back by being female? We’d never been able to quantify that before. We’ve shown there is an issue here. Women are experiencing something different from men and it’s preventing them from progressing. Now we can start to build consensus around making that change.”

40% of women in sport industry face gender discrimination

According to Holdaway, including a male perspective was essential to bringing about change. “It’s the first time we’ve chosen to talk to men and women in the industry, so we’ve got interesting data about men’s perceptions about gender and the gender gap and how that’s different to how women perceive it. That tells a lot about why the problems exist. If men are in the leadership roles and can’t perceive the problems then they can’t fix them.”

Women in Sport’s influential Trophy Women research helped to bring about targets for women on sports boards in 2012 – reports The Guardian. In April 2018, Manchester United announced Collette Roche, formerly the executive director of the Manchester Airports Group, as its first female chief operating officer, while the Football Association added two non-executive directors in the lawyer Rupinder Bains – the first Asian representative at the top table – and the Buildbase chief executive, Kate Tinsley.

The research was titled Beyond 30% - Workplace Culture in Sport. It provided a new focus. “We’ve now got mandated targets of 30% women on boards for all sports organisations,” Holdaway said. “To be compliant with sports governance code and be able to access public funding all organisations will have to have 30% women on boards. That’s step one. But we’ve always known that is never going to be the solution.

“We want women all the way through the organisations. What’s significant about this report is this the first time anyone has looked at the barriers impacting women from top to bottom.”

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