sports gazette

International Women's Day: The disappointing figures on female representation

Published: 8 Mar 2017

Female interest and participation in sport have increased exponentially thanks to campaigns such as “This Girl Can” and Women’s Sport Week, but women are still disappointingly underrepresented in sports management and coaching.

When Sport England launched the “This Girl Can” campaign in January 2015, the reaction was outstanding. As of June 2015, nearly 7 million women aged 16 and older reported participating in some sort of physical activity at least once a week.

However, when it comes to women holding leadership positions in sport, there is still room for vast improvement.

Female representation on boards of National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and other sports organisations that are funded and supported by Sport England and UK Sport, is only averaging 30%.

There are just 11 female performance directors, 10 female chief executives and 10 female chairs.

As recently as 2015, 43% of Sport England’s executive positions are held by women, a figure which shows signs of improvement.

However, if you look at the wider picture, a mere 33% of overall leadership positions in the sports industry are occupied by females. 

Great strides are being made in the sporting world to make the workforce more inclusive not only for women, but for other minority groups as well.

British Canoeing, British Water Ski & Wakeboard, and Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby (GBWR), all have 100% female representation on their executive boards.

It’s not just in the boardroom that women are underrepresented - you only need to look as far as the local pitch to see the gender division.

On International Women’s Day, women’s rugby website published an article about “the seven percent problem”.

In international women’s rugby, there are over 100 teams playing regularly. Only 7 teams - Austria, Cook Islands, Jamaica, The Netherlands, Uganda, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka - have female head coaches.

Rugby isn’t alone. Women’s international football is a victim of “the seven percent problem” as well. Women’s cricket coaches are also almost exclusively male. Although a predominately female sport, most of elite hockey is coached by men.

Female coaches are often looked at with scepticism, if acknowledged by the opposition at all. They are often mistaken for team physicians or met with hostility.

Only 30% of the coaching workforce is female, and only 17% are qualified coaches. Women make up just 12% of highly qualified coaches. It is a highly disappointing figure.

Not all hope is lost, though. Sports Coach UK, along with "This Girl Can", is targeting the development of female coaching.

Women in Sport have made it their mission for 30% of all leadership positions in sport to be held by women by 2017. So why is there still such a major discrepancy between women who partake in sport and those who work in it, and more importantly, what else can we do to tackle the gender imbalance?

^ Back to top ^