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The Economic Contribution of Sport and Women

Lets talk about money, sport and women. These three concepts are intricately linked and right now, its time for sporting administrators to understand those links in more granular detail. Why? Because the sustainable future of sport depends on continuously expanding traditional notions about the role women play when it comes to money and sport.

Women in sport, whether on field or off, undermine traditional notions of what it means to be female by demonstrating that women can be strong and capable athletes and leaders, titles that were once reserved for men. As women increasingly participate in sport and occupy more leadership roles within the sporting sector, they influence the meaning of sport and the place of women in it. However, at this point in time, it turns out choosing sport, both on and off the field, is not a smart financial decision for women.

Money, Money, Money……and women.

When it comes to earnings, and compared with all other industries, the gender pay-gap in sport is alarmingly wider in the sporting sector, with a total remuneration gender pay gap of 31.5% for full time employees. Women’s average full-time total remuneration across all industries and occupations is 21.3% less than men’s. What is even more alarming is that the inequity in pay is wide at entry-level and doesn’t markedly reduce even if women ascend to leadership level.

Sport Gender Pay Gap Advancing Women in Sport

More Money and Sport Facts and Figures

Overall, in sport, men are paid 31.5% more than women as compared to 21.3% for all other industry in Australia. These figures are not difficult to find. They are sourced from the WGEA Data Explorer, which is publicly available information. Here’s what else WGEA tells us about women, sport and money:

  • 51.2% of sports organisations do not have a policy to close the gender pay gap;
  • 69.4% of sports organisations have not conducted a remuneration gap analysis;
  • 92.6% of sports organisations did not take action after conducting a pay gap analysis;
  • 85% of sports organisations identifying pay gaps did not report the gap to Executives;
  • 95% of sports organisations identifying pay gaps did not report the gap to their board.

This information is no doubt difficult to process without feeling justifiably disappointed. However, when diving deeper into the data, and our own research, it becomes apparent that the drivers for gender pay gap inaction are multiple and include insufficient capacity and capability across the organisation to address cultural, behavioural and procedural barriers to achieving pay equity.

There are many drivers for sports organisations not taking action on pay inequity, some of them understandable, however there are millions (actually billions) of reasons for sports leaders to move from conversation to action when it comes to money and women,

The Economic Contribution of Sport and Women

Sport makes a valuable contribution to the economy, employing over 220,000 people, and hiring 1.8 million committed volunteers who together donate $3 billion worth of their hours. Sport influences local, regional and rural development, and urban renewal; contributes to tourism; and stimulates improved infrastructure. It also delivers significant benefits in the form of health and productivity, as a fitter population results in more productivity, higher employee engagement and fewer sick days.

Increased participation in sport reduces obesity, inactivity, depression and other mental health problems, reducing healthcare costs and early mortality. Sports participation also positively influences educational achievement, often resulting in higher earnings for regular participants.

When it comes to money, the combined economic, health and education benefits of sport in Australia is estimated to total $83 billion annually.  There is lots to love about sport beyond the game right?

I have three money questions (and answers) for sports leaders:

  1. What is the fastest growing economy in the world?
  2. What is worth $28 Trillion globally?
  3. What is worth $818 Billion in Australia?

The answer is women. The female economy is worth $28 Trillion globally and is the fastest growing economy in the world – bar none! In Australia alone, women make decisions about $818 Billion worth of purchases, including those that relate to sport. Imagine if the sporting sector were to tap more comprehensively and systematically into the female economy.

Women Know What Women Want

When sport employs women into key decision-making roles, they are ensuring that women are attending to or developing the strategies to attend to the specific needs of girls and women – not only for those who are employed in the sporting sector, but also for those who participate as sponsors, sporting fans or members of sporting clubs. We know that female leaders in the sporting sector help to attract female sponsorship and participation, making the most of the female economy.


Why is having women on your board, executive and corporate development team important?

  1. Because women make up to 85% of buying decisions and increasingly wield more corporate buying power;
  2. Women are increasingly influencing sourcing and procurement policy which includes ensuring suppliers visibly demonstrate commitment to gender equity;
  3. 91% of women surveyed by Bec Brideson in her book Blind Spots state that marketing attempts fail to engage them;
  4. When you start looking through a female-lens in business, you can solve all kinds of product and businesses issues such as growth, transformation and innovation.

Women know what women want and there is no better time than now for sport to deliver what they want, how they want it and where they want it.

More Action Less Talk

Two more questions and two suggestions for sports leaders to stop talking and start taking action:

  1. How much of the $818B female economy in Australia came your organisations way this year?
    • ACTION: Assess your membership numbers, corporate sponsorship profile and revenue performance against target, stop and consider if you have effectively tapped into the female economy.
  2. What is the gender composition of your board, executive and leadership teams? Is it 40/40/20?
    • ACTION: To achieve an enduring, sustainable winning strategy for women, leaders must  work purposefully, deliberately and continuously at keeping the gender equity opportunity front of mind.  The first step is to table this article, my research and discuss the 40/40/20 gender composition target.  The next steps are to create buy-in, advocacy and sponsorship amongst male leaders, provide leaders with the tools and the techniques to continue to challenge their own thinking and behaviours when it came to including women and of course, implement tangible success measures and put milestone checkpoints in place. What gets measured get managed!

There is undeniable evidence that advancing more women in sports leadership means they will earn more and will spend more in sport. This is a win, win, win situation for sport, the economy and of course for women.

Please register to receive the first of the Advancing Women in Sport publications which will give you more insights into why more women in sport matter. 

This article was originally published by Advancing Women, and authored by Michelle Redfern

About the Founder

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.