CEO Message - March 2024

  • Integrity Blog

In her keynote address to the Women in Sport Congress last year, the Minister for Sport Anika Wells pointed out that in 2023, only 22% of CEOs across 65 National Sporting Organisations were women. 

Minister Wells also highlighted that only 25% of board chairs across 65 National Sporting Organisations were women. 

These figures are even lower this year given the departures at the CEO level over the past 12 months, with eight women leaving their roles (we have also seen 11 male CEOs leave their roles during this time). All of this with the Paris Olympics and Paralympics closing in.

These statistics provide a stark reminder that much more needs to be done to promote and support women in senior leadership roles in Australian sport.

These figures highlight a sad reality in Australia and show that we are lagging behind the rest of the world.

This lag is even more evident when you consider the influence and recognition Australian women have on the global sporting stage, especially when it comes to anti-doping and governance.

We have a number of representatives on World Anti-Doping Agency groups/committees including:

  • Minister Wells (Executive Committee)
  • Venetia Bennett (Executive Committee as an independent member)
  • Diane Smith-Gander (Nominations Committee)
  • Dr Susan White (chair of the Therapeutic Use Exemption Expert Advisory Group)
  • Our Chief Finance Officer Rebecca Tyler (Finance and Administration Committee)
  • Paralympian Ella Sabljak (Athlete Council)
  • Our Director of Education Alexis Cooper (Education Committee)
  • Dr Catherine Ordway (chair of the Social Science Research Expert Advisory Group)
  • Our Deputy CEO Dr Sarah Benson is on the board of the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations representing Oceania.

And that is just a small sample when it comes to women representing Australia in the leadership of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

While there is an obvious imbalance within Australian sport, internationally there is a far greater desire to empower and promote Australian women into leadership positions in sport.

The chair of Sport Integrity Australia’s Advisory Council, Sarah Kenny, is also the vice president of World Sailing, Jessica Fox is on the IOC Athletes’ Commission, sports lawyer and our Human Rights Advisor, Nikki Dryden, is a board member of the Centre for Sport and Human Rights…the list goes on.

Moya Dodd, who was on the FIFA Committee, was seen as a trailblazer in promoting equality in football and the results show in Australia’s recent performance in the Women’s World Cup.

It would appear the world has recognised the ability of Australia’s female sporting leaders, yet at the same time Australia is struggling to promote and support women in leadership positions within our sporting ecosystem.

The standing of woman’s sport in Australia has been elevated rapidly when it comes to most professional sports, with some ensuring pay equity and negotiating significant broadcasting rights.

Australian sport’s leaders are playing a key role in promoting a number of important messages to the wider community beyond the playing field. On issues such as the promotion of a healthy lifestyle, ethical decision making and inclusion and diversity, sport is leading the way.

Having a gender balance provides a greater diversity of skills, opinions and improved governance through this diversity of ideas.

So, why is it that Australian sport does not place the same importance on promoting and supporting women in senior leadership positions at CEO level and on boards in Australian sport?

It’s time for a reality check. It’s a significant problem in sport in Australia and one we all must take immediate responsibility for correcting.

Together we can do better. Together we must do better.

David Sharpe APM OAM
Chief Executive Officer

Sport Integrity Australia CEO David Sharpe APM OAM

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