Research Report: Beyond 30% - Workplace Culture in Sport Report - Women In Sport

Research Report: Beyond 30% – Workplace Culture in Sport Report

Published 2018

“When I look at the contribution from women – we are a better Board as a result. You get a different dynamic… the challenge is further down the sport – how do we get women coming through the system?” National Governing Body Board Member


Executive Summary

Currently women are under-represented in senior leadership roles and on Boards in the sector. There is also evidence of discrimination and negative workplace culture. This needs to change in order to create an environment in which both women and men thrive and to nurture the pipeline of talented female leaders for the future.

Report Contents:

Assessing workplace culture in sport

Research questions:

  • Is culture impeding women’s progression?
  • What can be done to ensure that sports organisations have cultures in which both women and men thrive?

Research method:

  • In-depth discussions with 42 career-minded women and men in the sports sector
  • Survey of 1152 men and women working in the sector (NGBs, Leisure organisations, CSPs, sports charities etc)

Key Findings

  • There is a clear gap in terms of how women and men feel in the workplace and evidence of discrimination.
  • An emphasis on sporting competence as a measure of professional value, limits opportunities for capable women with the relevant skills, within the sector.
  • Redressing the gender imbalance at the top, is not enough. In addition, it is vital to address the barriers within the culture of sports organisations.
  • Culture change must happen throughout the organisation, from grass roots participation through to the Board, in order to be sustainable.
  • This is not about men versus women, but progress, opportunity and a better working environment for all.
  • Men as well as women need to be part of the solution with positive engagement from the top and clear sight of the benefits to all.
  • The first step, however, is for organisations to identify the cultural issues that exist.

Women in Sport want the number of women leading and influencing in sport to grow, and to develop solutions to the cultural barriers which currently exist.


How to improve inclusivity and help women progress within organisations

Top 4 to support inclusivity & culture

  • More flexible working for all
  • More acceptance of either responsible for childcare
  • More inclusive recruitment practices
  • Training to recognise how behaviour discriminates

Top 4 to support women’s ambition to progress

  • Visibility of female role models
  • Mentors and coaches to advise women on career progression
  • Back to work support (post baby)
  • Contacts & connections

Influencing change – a concerted effort & commitment

Influencing change matrix

Next steps

During follow-up discussions with sports organisations – strong appetite for work to continue in this area with the following identified as important:

  1. Continued monitoring: Keep providing the sector with evidence of progress.
  2. Adopt & adapt best practice: Recognise what, both from within and outside the sector.
  3. Generate new ideas: Identify how to do things differently in the sports sector specifically.
  4. Suggest new models, ways of working and structures to improve women’s chances of progression
  5. Support for individuals and organisations: Provide links and support networks
  6. Hold the sector to account where we see bad practice: Communications.
  7. Don’t forget to celebrate progress: Shine a light on leaders in sport sector who are getting gender diversity right in their organisation

Women in Sport is now looking for funding to continue this important work and find innovative solutions to break the cultural barriers that are holding women back.

Key partners

Recommended links and resources

  1. Women in Sport: Beyond 30% Female Leadership in Sport Audit report
  2. Sport England: New code for Sports Governance. (2016).
  3. Women in Sport. (2015). Checklist for Change: Building a Sustainable Pipeline to Gender Diversity in Sport Leadership                        

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