Why do we still need an International Women’s Day? People will genuinely ask that.
In Australian sport, we’ve seen the rise and rise of women playing the same games as men, the introduction of sporting competitions that run alongside the men’s comps, and collective bargaining that has seen salaries trend upwards. But there’s still a long way to go.
Prize money distributed among the 32 nations participating at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup is expected to be around $100 million, more than double that paid at the 2019 tournament in France. The 32 teams who competed at the Qatar 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup shared in a prize pot equal to around $650 million.
That means that even if the Matildas win in front of their home crowd in August, their cheque will be millions of dollars less than the Socceroos received for finishing equal ninth in Qatar 2022.
Australia’s representative teams at Commonwealth and Olympic Games have done well to approach gender parity in terms of athletes selected, but when it comes to coaching our high-performance sports, women hover at around 15 per cent.
There’s an interesting lesson that could be learnt from the USA. Sport historian Greg Blood at Australian Sport Reflections has noted that when the US government introduced Title IX, it became law that any federally funded university programs had to be offered equally to men and women. That included sports programs.
But as college coaching positions for women’s teams became more lucrative, women coaches dropped from 90 per cent prior to Title IX, to around 42 per cent afterwards.
As women break through to key positions in sport, they can see where change is needed, because they have fought their own battles to get there. While more women are on sporting boards than ever before, Australian sport still has a long way to go to reach gender parity across all positions and roles.
Of Australia’s 46 national and peak sporting organisations, only nine have a woman as chief executive.
This International Women’s Day, The Ticket has compiled a Top 10 list of women who are not just in influential positions, but are using those positions to advocate for change. They have not been selected based on popularity, but actual influence.
Sport, at many levels, remains a man’s world, but these women have broken through that barrier and are recognised as professionals of substance above any gender divide. Their fearlessness in using their influence also makes them powerful, and as history has shown – indeed continues to show – using power for good is notoriously difficult.
Here’s The Ticket’s Top 10 Women of Influence. Who’s in yours?
Anika Wells, federal sports minister
Wells’s responsibilities include the sport portfolio and Sport Integrity Australia.
She is a board member on the organising committee for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games and has a seat on the World Anti-Doping Agency executive committee.
Josephine Sukkar, Australian Sports Commission chair
She is responsible for supporting and investing in sport at all levels, including oversight of Sport Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport. She was a former chair of the Australian government’s Sports Advisory Diplomacy Council.
Recently stepped down as general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, where she was instrumental in driving significant cultural and legislative change in Qatar, particularly workers’ rights, ahead of the FIFA 2022 Men’s World Cup.
Currently vice-chair at The B Team, looking at creating new norms of corporate leadership focused on sustainability, equality and accountability.
Catherine Clark, Paralympics Australia chief executive
Was appointed to the position to rewrite the agenda for Australia’s para-athletes and para-sports including creating opportunities from grassroots participation through to establishing talent identification pathways building towards the Brisbane 2032 Paralympic Games.
Christina Matthews, Cricket WA chief executive
One of only three women who have run a first-class cricket association, a position she has held since 2011.
The former vice-captain of the Australian women’s cricket team is recognised for driving cultural change, strengthening community ties and re-shaping business and government relationships.
Kate Gill, PFA co-chief executive
The head of Australia’s professional football players’ association and former captain of the Matildas is a strategic thinker and an integral part of the team at PFA who designed the ‘”From Grassroots to Greatness” roadmap that has revolutionised women’s football in Australia, including the vision to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Sam Kerr, Matildas captain
The first ever female marquee player in Australia is the straight-talking leader of the team consistently ranked as one of the top teams the Australian public most resonates with.
She has captained the side through public challenges, united a team once divided, and has Australians across the gender divide wearing team shirts emblazoned with her name.
Donnell Wallam, Diamonds shooter
Selected in the national netball squad and, without yet playing a game, the Noongar woman refused to wear a uniform bearing a sponsor’s logo that included the name of a man who once advocated for First Nations people to be sterilised and bred out.
At a time when the governing body was facing financial pressure, Wallam led in putting morals before money.
Cate Campbell, Australian Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission chair
Aiming for a fifth Olympics in Paris 2024 reveals incredible mental strength, but in addressing the world governing body, FINA, ahead of a controversial vote on transgender inclusion, Cate has shown she has political savvy and a voice she is not afraid to use.
Caroline Wilson, AFL journalist
There are very few sports journalists whose voices matter at head office. Wilson is arguably one of the most influential sports journalists in Australia. What she writes, and what she broadcasts, matters. Where important decisions are made, her views are considered worthy of discussion.
Keeping the list to only a top 10 has meant a significant number of other women who are working in sport and driving real change have not been mentioned. It in no way diminishes their value and the contribution they are making to Australian sport.