Inequality remains despite major investments in female sport

Sexist language common and less than half of women feel they are treated equally to men at their sport club despite major investments in female sport and gender equality.

Nadia Bevan, who leads female research on the the Sport Inclusion Project team, conducted a study to examine the impacts of major investments and a strong focus on female sport over the last five years in the Australian State of Victoria. The research was backed by the Victorian Office of Women in Sport and Recreation.

Despite the strong focus and support provided to help clubs in this region to engage with gender equality, just 10% of clubs reported that they had received any specific gender equality training or education and 75% of female participants said they did not perceive any change in the focus on diversity at their club in recent years.

The study found strong support for gender equality initiatives amongst both males and females. However, a disconnect in the perceptions of males and females around whether men and women are treated equally was also found at traditional male football sports clubs (e.g. Australian Rules, Soccer) which have been the focus of government initiatives and funding.

As shown below, 82% of men perceived that men and women are treated equally, compared to just under half (49%) of women at these clubs. There was no disconnect between males and females in their perception of equality at traditionally mixed-gender sports clubs (e.g. field hockey) and at individual sports clubs.

The study concluded: Ongoing resources to assist sports clubs, with institutional support is important in creating welcoming and inclusive sporting environments for girls and women (and every person). Although educational resources are now widely available, including online training modules, (e.g. Play by the Rules) the study found evidence that club leaders, who are often volunteers, are not accessing or using these materials.

Club leaders need specific, targeted and evidence-based programs they can use which are pragmatic and practical to implement, however, there are currently no evidence-based approaches/programs that clubs can adopt which have proven to be effective in stopping the use of sexist language in sport environments.

Similarly, there are no evidence-based approaches/programs which a volunteer club leader can integrate into the day-to-day operations to ensure resources are distributed equitably between males and females.

There is a clear need for research focused on developing effective methods to improve the experiences of women and girls in sport environments.

You can read a more about the findings here.