Women’s Participation in Sport

Guest blogger Ryan Evans is Program Coordinator, GippSport, Gippsland Regional Sports Assembly.

I ‘m sure you have heard many times by now, there are numerous benefits from participating in sport and physical activity. Essentially, it has been shown, time and time again, to lead to an improvement in the physical, mental and social well-being of an individual, as well as having a significant positive impact on the community.

Gender Equality means professional female sports people are paid the same as make counterparts
Day 5 #16DaysofActivism

Unfortunately, at all levels of sport, participation and leadership is still dominated by men and boys, and, it is becoming increasingly important to address this gap between men and women in the sporting realm. From a sporting club perspective, there really are huge benefits in having more females involved, at a club, including increased membership, more volunteers and access to new skills both on and off the field.

Part of my role, at GippSport, is to address the gender imbalance that currently exists within sporting clubs, and the three objectives which we are attempting to meet within our women’s sport initiative are:

  • To increase the representation of women involved in governance & leadership roles within the Gippsland sporting sector
  • To support Gippsland sporting clubs to provide more options and better pathways for women & girls to participate in sport and active recreation; and
  • To promote & champion the success stories of Gippsland women in sport

So how do we do it?

To start with, we need to talk about it, to start the conversation with clubs and help educate them on how to make every day changes at a ‘grass roots’ club level.  We  need to be developing gender equitable club policies – when drafting a policy, or a program, we need to ask ourselves:

  • Does it impact men and women differently?
  • Could it reinforce gender stereotypes?
  • Does it perpetuate an unlevelled playing field?

We also need to challenge outdated behaviours including what language is being used around the club; for example – sexist jokes and demeaning comments, like he’s playing ‘like a girl’  –  we need to be better than that.

Everyone would have heard Eddie McGuire comments earlier in the year, where the boys’ club fed off each other.  What was largely missed was Damien Barrett’s response which was a good example of bystander behaviour – “I’m on Caro’s side here guys, I’m out”.

• Everyone would have heard Eddie McGuire comments earlier in the year, where the boys’ club fed off each other. What was largely missed was Damien Barrett’s response which was a good example of bystander behaviour. “I’m on Caro’s side here guys, I’m out”

Ensure that there is equitable representation around the club (awards, imagery, media etc).

Changing and creating a supportive club culture takes time and requires multiple and mutually reinforcing strategies. Three critical strategies that underpin sporting culture change are:

  • Involving members, players & supporters
  • Engaging leaders – the committee
  • Involving women & men, girls & boys

As well as changes to policy and our behaviours, we also need to look at our facilities and, in many cases, we still don’t have the facilities in place to accommodate our female participants (for instance, the change rooms for the increasing number of female umpires). The majority of sporting clubs that I deal with are looking, in some way, to improve their existing facilities and are sourcing funding to enable them to do so.

The 2015 Victorian Government Inquiry into women and girls participation in Sport resulted in nine recommendations with $1 million in funding allocated. A new grant scheme – female friendly facilities – was developed and provided to local government and there are a number of local clubs currently seeking this funding to build new or upgrade existing change rooms to prioritise female participation.

Two events which you can become involved with in Gippsland are:

Orange Round –  which clubs can get involved in to raise awareness about and take action against violence against women, Based on United Nations Orange DayOrange Round has run in Gippsalnd for the last the gippsland Sports Forumlast two years, read more here. 

The upcoming Gippsland Sports Forum which is happening Wednesday the 30th of November, (part of Days of Activism at the Traralgon Golf Club. Find out more here.


Our thanks to Ryan for permission to adapt and publish his presentation to the Champions of Change breakfast hosted by Wellington Shire Council on International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November 2016.

More information:

To discuss what you can do in your club, contact Ryan via www.gippsport.com.au

Read Riley’s yr 12 English oral presentation blog ‘Sexism in Sport