Women in Sport has long campaigned for sport bodies to achieve at least 30% representation of women on their boards. The Charity is therefore welcoming today the new governance code set to be published by the Government, in which increasing gender diversity at board level to 30% is central. All sports bodies seeking significant funding from Sport England and UK Sport will be required to adhere to the new code and the charity believes this mandatory factor is the most significant step taken towards the achievement of gender diversity.
Women in Sport’s Checklist for Change, a toolkit to help the sport sector address practices that may be holding women back in the executive pipeline, is acknowledged as best practice in the Government’s national strategy for sport – Sporting Future – published in December 2015, which is also where it was first announced that a new governance code would be developed.
By annually auditing the gender make-up of boards and researching the key triggers and barriers to women achieving senior leadership roles in sport, Women in Sport continues to work tirelessly to share its insights with the sport sector and beyond. The charity highlights the benefits of a gender-balanced board, which are well rehearsed in the private sector but not well understood by sport, as well as providing best practice advice on how to support women into Executive and Non-Executive roles.
The Charity also runs The Women’s Sport Network which aims to support women working in sport and help them move into leadership roles if this is what they want.
Commenting on the code, Ruth Holdaway, Chief Executive of Women in Sport, said:
“We welcome the commitment from Government to make increasing gender balance at leadership level non-negotiable when it comes to funding sport for the future.
“The message is loud and clear: if sport wants to be publicly funded, it must reflect the public that it serves.
“Increasing diversity in decision making is vital for a successful, sustainable and high performing sport sector. It is also one of the ways in which the sector can get to grips with addressing the 1.6million gender gap that exists between women and men playing sport in England each week, and which sees many women missing out on the physical, health and social benefits sport brings.”
Sally Hancock, Chair of Women in Sport, added:
“At Women in Sport, we are pleased to see the Government formally adopting our recommendation of at least 30% gender diversity on sport boards and we remain committed to supporting organisations who want to make these positive changes.
“Women in Sport believes that this new governance code represents a significant step towards improving and sustaining standards for gender balance in the sector. Applying it in a proportionate way will empower as many funded organisations as possible to embrace the new code with confidence.
“Our charity wants to see all sports organisations benefiting from greater gender balance in their leadership, regardless of their size or income, and fairly representing the public that funds them.”
The charity’s eighth annual audit of leadership on sports boards is currently underway, with last year’s showing that significant barriers still remain to women’s involvement in sport’s most senior roles. Although some progress has been made, senior executives still point to cultural barriers standing in the way of many women.