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- 11 November 2015 00:00
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The sixth annual Trophy Women? report, published by Women in Sport, shows that while overall female representation in sport’s boardrooms has reached an average threshold of 30%, progress made at the highest level masks continued barriers to women’s involvement at the highest echelons of sporting governance.
Funded by Comic Relief for three years and supported by Sport England and UK Sport in 2015, the report identifies issues - including challenging cultures, rigid and narrow governance structures and practical barriers - that must be rectified in order to create a long-term solution to boardroom gender inequality.
Women in Sport’s 2015 leadership audit found:
- The boards of almost half of the 63 sport organisations surveyed don’t meet the 25% gender balance guideline
- Although all publicly-funded sport NGBs have at least one woman on their board, 16% have no woman at executive leadership level (excluding CEO)
- Clear barriers to a sustainable pipeline of women in leadership still remain, ranging from cultural factors to governance, process and practical considerations.
While acknowledging that positive progress made to date should be celebrated, Women in Sport believes that more must be done to address underlying barriers that prevent many women from taking active roles in sport’s leadership tier.
The charity confirmed its commitment to working with the sport sector, summarising practical ideas based upon its findings in a ‘Checklist for Change’: a tool for sport’s national governing bodies (NGBs) and others to discuss and develop as a shortcut to improving sustainable gender diversity at board level. It is designed to address practices which inadequately support women who wish to advance through sport’s executive pipeline, as identified within the latest Trophy Women? insight.
Women in Sport is set to lead discussions based on its findings, building upon the established momentum in order to create sustainable progress. The research points towards developing the following areas:
•Addressing cultural pre-conceptions
•Better management of the pipeline of talent
•Fair and transparent recruitment
•Reviewing governance structures to ensure they promote diversity
•Addressing practical challenges for women
•Ensuring ongoing career success and satisfaction
This year’s research marks the first year of a three-year programme funded by Comic Relief, focussed on addressing the unequal levels of female representation in sport’s leadership roles, with Women in Sport aiming to demonstrate clear improvements in boardroom gender equity over the course of the programme.
Commenting on the research, Ruth Holdaway, Chief Executive of Women in Sport said:
"Now is the time for clear and decisive action to ensure that, in the future, sport’s boardrooms representative for women. It is simply not good enough that, six years on from our first Trophy Women? report, female executives are still reporting the same barriers in attaining senior roles in the sector.
"While we are encouraged at progress made, not least that overall boardroom gender diversity has risen from 21% to 30% since our first audit. However, it cannot be right that almost half of the organisations we surveyed still fail to meet guidelines of 25% gender diversity. Moreover, if women throughout sport’s workforce pipeline continue to face barriers the time has surely come for all of us to pick up the pace of change.
"Women in Sport will be calling on the whole sport sector to work with to develop and implement guidance which will tackle the under-representation of women at source and lead to a stronger, more equitable and more successful sport sector in the future.”
Jennie Price, Sport England’s Chief Executive, said:
"Getting more people playing sport and being active takes more than building facilities and putting on sessions. You need to have a really good understanding of what consumers do and don’t want.
"I’m encouraged by the progress that has been made so far, but there is clearly much more to be done before many governing body boardrooms are genuinely representative of their customers.”
Liz Nicholl, CEO of UK Sport, said
"As the nation’s high performance sports agency, UK Sport firmly believes that better balanced boards will lead to better-led sporting organisations and ultimately even greater success on the World, Olympic and Paralympic stage.
"As the latest Trophy Women? report clearly demonstrates, sports have made great progress towards the goal of 25% female representation on boards by 2017, as well as remarkable progress at executive level, and we know there is a real desire among our funded sports to realise this opportunity to effect change at all levels. We are also actively engaging in discussions about the specific and unique challenges of leadership and coaching in the performance environment.
"Long-term, meaningful, cultural change cannot happen overnight and Women in Sport’s ‘Checklist for Change’ is timely and welcome. UK Sport will continue to work closely with our sports to break down the barriers that remain and unlock the opportunity for a greater and more diverse pool of talented individuals leading sport in the UK.”