Gender Equality and Sport: Record of Discussions

Gilbert + Tobin Boardroom lunch
In Conversation with Professor Michael Kimmel
August 2017

“Privilege is invisible to those who have it.”

Sport’s default setting is male – an entitlement that in a modern context is neither commercially nor socially optimal. This affects both women and men.  Organisations who move proactively to create opportunities for women in sport will gain competitive advantage.

Such opportunities exist across all dimensions of sport, including:

Governance and decision-making

It is widely acknowledged that diversity delivers better decision-making, yet many stakeholders in the sporting context are slow to act.  Courageous leadership is critical.

The presence of women in decision-making will be most effective when normalised and not tokenistic - there must always be a commitment to have more than one woman. Women’s contributions are less effective when narrowed to specialties (such as acting as the moral arbiter on “women’s” issues).

Culture & participation

Sport is a defining feature of our culture.  Historically, it has been a theatre for masculinity and a largely male domain, with sometimes toxic consequences for both men and women. 

Through the conscious, persistent efforts of female athletes and champions of women, sport is being redefined. Enormous progress has been made, yet even as we applaud it, we see how far there is to go.

Gender equality is not just about diversity; it is insufficient to merely tolerate women’s presence within a hostile culture.

It also requires inclusiveness, where cultural or ethnic disadvantage does not compound gender bias, and women of all backgrounds are safe and respected.


Governments provide vital infrastructure and funding to sport, and should consider doing so on conditions of gender-equitable access & resourcing.  This requires monitoring, reporting, and tangible consequences. 


Women’s sport is a rapidly emerging market. Critical to its commercial success is the creation of athletes as heroes primarily for their sporting prowess, not their appearance. That will differentiate the future from the past, and enable the development of a market for women’s sport which is liberated from outdated stereotypes.

Women’s sport is relatively young as an entertainment product, yet the emergence of boys and men, together with women and girls, as fans of women’s sport confirms its appeal.

Large “gender gaps” in pay, conditions, support and infrastructure continue to exist between men’s and women’s sport.  Investment by all stakeholders in sport to narrow those gaps should be considered as a matter of urgency.

E-sports should be developed with a careful emphasis on avoiding, rather than replicating, the gender-exclusion of the past.

Women athletes

Relative to their male peers, women athletes are under-recognised and under-remunerated, and are vulnerable to significant risks in transitioning to post-playing careers. Better co-ordination between sports and business stakeholders can improve this experience; and sports employers should question whether career paths within sport (such as coaching) are clear of gender bias.

Social impact

Sport, as a defining feature of Australian culture, can have a pivotal impact for gender equality in society at large.  It’s time to grasp that opportunity.

Gilbert + Tobin is grateful for the attendance and contributions of the attendees*, including:

Professor Michael Kimmel SUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at New York’s Stony Brook University
Kate Jenkins Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
Tanya Hosch GM Inclusion and Social Policy, AFL
Sam Mostyn Former AFL Commissioner
Rebecca Doyle Head of People & Culture, NRL
Tal Karp Lawyer, former Matilda and Olympian
Lucinda Whitty Co-ordinator, Women’s Markets, Westpac, Olympic silver medallist (sailing)
Fiona de Jong Former CEO, Australian Olympic Committee
Deanne Weir Managing Director, Content Aggregation & Wholesale, FOXTEL
Rachel Scanlon Financial Services Lawyer
Lani Frew Executive Director Commercial, NSW Treasury
Vicki Forbes Communication Specialist
Danny Gilbert Managing Partner, Gilbert + Tobin
Moya Dodd Partner, Gilbert + Tobin, former Matilda, former FIFA Council member
Louise McCoach Consultant, Gilbert + Tobin, former Commonwealth Games Triathlete
Sharon Parker Head of Business Development and Marketing, Gilbert + Tobin

*The points above were covered in discussion and do not necessarily represent the views of any particular individual or organisation listed.




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