Friday, 20 December 2013

Dr Sally Shaw writes "Not enough sports women at the top yet"

Dr Sally Shaw, a University of Otago sport management lecturer, talks about how we can  get more women into sports governance.
According to the Sydney Scoreboard of women on sports boards, women represent 27% of sports board membership. This is better than the 20% that was required by the IOC by 2005 but shows little improvement on the 20% of 1993 [twenty years ago!]

People often ask: Why does it matter whether we have women on boards or not, as long as we have the ''right people''? Putting it simply, by having low numbers of women on boards, we limit the diversity of those boards. In turn this constrains the breadth of experiences in decision-making and planning. 

Businesses and corporations have long realised that having a strong representation of women on boards means more high-calibre individuals provide diverse skills and perspectives. Sport organisations have been slow to recognise this. 

What can we do to increase the numbers of women on boards and improve those organisations?There are at least two avenues to take. One is to make sure our young female graduates are ready to take on leadership roles when they enter the workforce. This means that as well as their degree content knowledge, they are also good at networking and relationship-building. 

It's the same for young men, but the ''old boys club'' often looks after younger men in a way women cannot access. So, in order to succeed, women have to learn the skills and develop strategies that will help them to gain the experiences and opportunities their male peers are exposed to. 

The second avenue is for decision-makers in organisations to take a good, long hard look at themselves and ask whether they are giving women a fair go. 

What are organisations looking for in leadership roles? Do decision-makers stick to the networks they know when looking at job applicants, or are they willing to take a calculated risk? The success of women such as Raelene Castle and Kereyn Smith shows how well women perform in leadership roles. The modernisation of Netball New Zealand and the New Zealand Olympic Committee shows how much the organisations have benefited from their experience. 

Despite the success of Castle and Smith, much is made of ''women not putting their hand up'' to take on leadership roles. 

But if an organisation is set up in a way that doesn't value women's experiences or skills, or has meetings at times that don't suit mothers (who are still the primary caregivers in most families), women will not put their hand up to help, and nor should they. 

If sports organisations continue to limit the numbers of women in leadership roles they will stagnate. 

It is not just a question of waiting for women to offer help. Organisational decision-makers need to think about what skills they need and how they can attract women.

This is so true. And, despite New Zealand being one of the most strongly participative sports nations in the world, our proportion of women's involvement in this area is abyssmal.
  • Reference: Shaw, Dr Sally (21 December 2013). Women in sport: Not enough women at the top yet. Retrieved 23 December 2013 from!


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