Shaping better opportunities for women and girls in sport  

Our researchers are working to boost participation and advance women and girls at all levels of sport and recreation. 

Researchers at Deakin’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN),including the Centre for Sport Research (CSR), are leading several projects funded by the Victorian Government’s Change Our Game initiative.  

Change Our Game supports local clubs and organisations to promote women and girls participating in community sport and recreation. The grants can also be used to build capability, equity and leadership at a grassroots level. 

Current projects led by IPAN-CSR members Associate Professor Kim Toffoletti, Dr Jordan Bakhsh, Dr Zoe Avner and Dr Rhiannon Snipe explore ways to improve anti-racism approaches, gender diversity, and male allyship, as well as examine how menstruation impacts participation: 


Tackling racism in women and girls’ community sport 

Led by A/Prof Kim Toffoletti, this project aims to identify and understand women and girls’ experiences of racism in community sport, and the implications for their social belonging and wellbeing.     

The project will focus on how to create positive and welcoming community sport environments for women and girls from culturally and racially marginalised backgrounds.  

The research team will engage with community sport participants to develop effective resources and racism reporting processes for Victorian community sport clubs.   

“If we can respond more effectively to women’s experiences of racism in community sport, we can reduce some barriers and increase participation for women and girls in sport,” A/Prof Toffoletti said.   


Improving gender diversity management at community sport clubs 

Dr Jordan Bakhsh is leading a project which examines the impact of the Victorian Government the representation of women on board policy to increase the representation of women on boards across the state’s sport and active recreation bodies.  

Under the policy, all state sport and active recreation bodies must have a minimum of 40 per cent women directors on their board to be eligible for state government community funding programs.   

Dr Bakhsh is exploring the strategies and approaches by State Sporting Associations and Community Sport Clubs to manage and improve gender diversity leadership and participation within Victorian community sport.  

“A better understanding of women’s leadership roles in community sport will provide the evidence base for stakeholder resources to continue to improve gender diversity leadership and participation in community sport in Victoria,” he said. 


Working with male coaches to bridge the gender divide 

Dr Zoe Avner aims to promote male allyship in sport coaching to allow more inclusive sports experiences for all genders.  

She is specifically exploring how male coaches can become ‘relational experts’ and navigate gender-responsive coaching practices with their athletes, improving the experience of sports participation for all genders. 

“By challenging existing norms and promoting new coaching practices that prioritise athlete wellbeing, skill development, and performance goals, we can foster strong and inclusive sports experiences and environments for athletes of all genders,” Dr Avner said. 

The project is a collaboration between Deakin University, the University of Bath (UK), VicSport, and Golf Australia. 


Menstruation matters for participation in sport and active recreation 

Menstruation is a sex-specific issue that remains a taboo topic in Australia. It’s also been linked to reduced participation in sport and active recreation in women and girls of reproductive age.  

Dr Rhiannon Snipe is leading a project to support women and girls in sport through strategies that target participation barriers associated with menstruation. 

A survey will be conducted to explore how menstruation influences girls and women’s involvement in sport. 

“We plan to organise a working group with community sport participants and administrators. Together with the working group, we will use survey results to co-design strategies to address declining or low rates of participation in sport and active recreation in adolescent girls and/or other minority groups such as culturally and linguistically diverse females,” she said. 

Find out more about the Change Our Game program here