Women make their mark as board directors in Victorian sport

The number of women representatives on Victorian sporting boards has climbed significantly, new research has found.

Minister for Community Sport Ros Spence has announced research by Deakin University into the effectiveness of the Victoria’s Balance the Board policy.

The study findings show the policy led to a significant increase in representation of women on Victorian sporting boards, as well as improved board performance, culture and decision making.

Balance the Board was introduced by the Victorian Government in 2019 to increase the number of women in sport leadership roles across the state.

To be eligible for Victorian Government sport funding programs, the Balance the Board policy has required a minimum of 40% representation of women on the boards of recognised state sport and recreation organisations.

Research lead Professor Pamm Phillips of the Centre for Sport Research within Deakin’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition said Balance the Board had been successful.

The Deakin Business School research team’s results indicated that from 2017 to 2023, the number of gender balanced boards rose from 45 to 96% across more than 100 Victorian sport and active recreation organisations.

A key challenge to balancing boards included finding the right strategies to not only attract, but also to retain women to board positions in sport.  Professor Phillips noted that male sport leaders were key to driving change and supporting the implementation of these strategies for change.

‘When more women were part of boards, our research found women directors brought a focus to crucial skills including governance, strategic planning, risk management and sport knowledge to their positions. Thus, board processes became more professionalised in response to increasing more women on boards,’ Professor Phillips said.

‘Women were also found to positively impact board culture and dynamics, and as the proportion of women on boards increased, women directors felt welcomed, valued and more comfortable asking questions and contributing to board discussions and decisions.’

The research was funded through the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation’s Change Our Game Research Grants Program.

Ms Spence said the research reaffirmed the importance of gender balance in the leadership of sport organisations.

‘We are focused on breaking down barriers for women and girls in sport, ensuring that everyone in Victoria has the opportunity to take part in the sports they love,’ Ms Spence said.

Director of the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation Sarah Styles said it was clear women had a valuable role to play in sport leadership.

‘Women bring a wealth of skills and experience to sporting boards, which in turn elevates the important role these organisations have in the governance and decision making of sport and active recreation in Victoria,’ Ms Styles said.

To read a summary of the Balance the Board research, click here.

The Centre for Sport Research (CSR), within the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) at Deakin University, is focused on influencing practice in sport to enhance the health and performance of people and organisations participating in sports. Find out more: ipan.deakin.edu.au/csr/


Deakin Media release, Thursday 20 June 2024