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My research into the conditions for women working in the Australian sporting sector began in 2017 out of a curiosity to go beyond my experiences and observations and to understand the reality for women working in the sporting sector.

With my background as a corporate executive and sporting director and experience as a gender diversity expert, I thought I would not be surprised by the data. On the contrary, I was staggered—the statistics relating to gender inequality in the Australian sporting sector were much worse than I had anticipated.

I was astounded by the gaps in sheer numbers and lack of parity, especially in pay. And so, I decided to go beyond the existing data, and conduct my own research which shed light on the endemic issues, barriers and systematic discrimination faced by women in the sporting sector.

For example, 70% of women in sport who responded to our surveys, believed their gender had caused them to miss out on a salary increase, promotion, or chance to get ahead.

Yet, while women working in the sporting sector tell me they feel disadvantaged by their gender when it comes to advancing their careers in the sporting sector, they persist! Why?

  1. Because they are committed to doing challenging and inspiring work
  2. Because they want to make a difference in the world, and they understand that sport can achieve this
  3. Because they are committed to helping their sporting organisation excel and grow

Leaders in the sporting sector generally have good intent and a desire to make a change for the better with regard to women, inclusion and diversity. However, the maturity of the sporting sector is low relative to other sectors, when it comes to initiating and driving enduring strategies and positive change for women in leadership.

That is why my research and this podcast exists. So that sporting leaders have a blueprint for action that is grounded in evidence and will the means to address the significant underrepresentation of women in leadership — on and off the field — in the Australian sporting sector.

I hope you both enjoy listening to the episodes and use them as a tool in your gender equality toolkit for your workplace - whether it's in sport or not!

You can read my first two research reports by clicking the links below:

Moving Gender Diversity from Conversation to Action

Tapping into Progressive Attitudes

Apr 12, 2022

About Allison Dodd 

Allison Dodd is a seasoned cricket admininistrator and is currently President of the Strathmore Cricket Club. She has played her part in various roles over her time with the club, including Secretary, Committee Member, and Head of Membership. Allison also has over 15 years of senior management experience in various industry sectors, including health and aged care, vocational education, training and the not-for-profit sector.  

Being The First Woman in Cricket

In her interview with Michelle, Allison talks about her experience as the first female president of the Strathmore Cricket Club and what this has meant for her and the club. At first, Allison dismissed the significance of her being the first female president, though has since come around to realise its importance and how it has influenced the experience of young women and their entry into the club.  

As a committee member and now president, Allison has been able to influence key decision-making to be more inclusive of women and girls, and as such, has seen massive transformation in the girls’ game at her club. For example, before Allison joined the committee, there were no girls playing cricket. Now, four years on, young girls are playing and have won their first premiership.  

A Voice For Women in Cricket

“I’ve started to acknowledge my role as a role model, not just for the girls, but also the older women around the club.” 

As president, Allison serves as a voice for women, providing insight at a senior level into what women need to feel welcomed and comfortable at the club. For example, Allison was able to advise on uniforms when the girls’ team was established at the Strathmore Cricket Club. At first, male committee members had suggested the girls wear pink T-shirts, and while Allison admits they were coming from the right place, she had to explain that the girls “don’t want to stand out […] they just want to be part of the club”.  

On the contrary, Allison points out that differential treatment is at times necessary. For example, Allison advised that the girls’ team should wear black pants, rather than the traditional white, for the reason that women menstruate. Allison says, they may wear white pants when they are 18, but while they are just starting out, get them in the door by making them feel comfortable.  

Allison also serves as a role model for women at the club, from girls playing the game, to women with participating sons and daughters. To the girls playing, she says, “I was you, you can be me”, and to the mothers she demonstrates the benefits of volunteering as president. She says, “I’ve started to acknowledge my role as a role model, not just for the girls, but also the older women around the club.” 

More On Gendered Assumptions 

However, she also admits being a woman in a male-dominated space comes with its challenges. In particular, Allison has confronted attitudes around gender stereotypes and assumptions around a woman’s capacity to lead. While she has been able to stomp out many of these assumptions, she says it has taken a lot of time and resilience.  

Allison says she has had the opportunity to tackle gendered assumptions because she is up there, leading by example and proving otherwise— but for so many women, they may never have the chance to do so. She says, while she is the type of woman who will “cannon-on through a brick wall”, others may find discriminatory attitudes off-putting. 

Why Sport is a Great for Women in Business

Allison admits a lot of women do not see the appeal in volunteering their time to be president of a sports clubs, though says it certainly comes with its perks. She says, through her participation at the club, she has honed indispensable skills that she has been able to bring into her paid work.   

 Allison believes her resilience stems from her upbringing, whereby she was heavily involved in sport. She says many of the leadership skills she now uses in her professional life were acquired through her participation in sport. She therefore encourages parents to involve their daughters in sport, just as much as their sons.  

Allison also believes the women’s game suffers so long as parents continue to conform to gender norms whereby daughters get dolls and boys get footballs. She says, young boys have an advantage when they learn sports skills at an earlier age than girls. She says it starts in the home, and so families play a huge role in turning the current narrative on its head.  

3 Things Women In Sport Need

Whether or not you have had an upbringing in sport, there are things you can do as a woman to succeed in this space. Allison suggests three things:

  1. Women need allies, men and women, to support them and have their back;
  2. Women need a “PBOM” – a Personal Board of Management – which acts as their mentor and personal sounding board;
  3. Stick to your strengths and work with others who can do the things you cannot.  

Allison also says, “No one’s going to knock on your door, you need to put your hand up”. She says, women need to be heard, they need to talk about their dreams, aspirations and experiences.

What Men In Sport Must Do

Allison says men need to open their ears and be prepared to listen to women. 

Allison says male leaders must not only listen, but actively go out and ask questions, particularly if there are mostly men across their administration. She says, ask women what they want, whether they are athletes, fans, or mothers attending their children’s events.  

Call to Action 

Allison calls for club leaders, particularly of male-dominated clubs, to go out and ask women what they need to feel included and participate. She says, “If you’ve got a male dominated club, they’ve all got sisters, mums, girlfriend, daughters – go and ask them why they’re not here”.  

“I challenge people, the next time you know a family member or friend who has a baby, and it’s a little girl, go and give her a cricket bat. Go and give her a football.”  

Allison also touches on the role of parents in raising their daughters, and challenges parents to go against gender norms. Allison says, “I challenge people, the next time you know a family member or friend who has a baby, and it’s a little girl, go and give her a cricket bat. Go and give her a football.”  

About the Podcast

The need to tell the stories of women in sport and to create a clarion call to action to close the gender gaps in sport has never been stronger. The Advancing Women in Sport podcast goes beyond the statistics about women in sport so that all of us can become more aware of women’s lived experiences in sport. We’re uncovering the stories beneath the stats….

In this first season, you will be able to hear the stories of women at different career and life stages, from different sporting disciplines and sectors within the very large sports industry about their lived experience in the sporting sector.

The women interviewed are athletes, coaches, administrators, broadcasters, directors and more. They identify in many ways and represent the many intersectional communities that sport serves. You can tune in via all the usual podcast services or at the podcast website.