Sisters in Sport – championing leaders for life

Two weeks ago we were very excited to launch, at Ascham, the Sisters in Sport Leadership Network (SSLN). The network aims to champion women in sports leadership, to celebrate their remarkable achievements, amplify their voices and pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive future in the world of sport and beyond. Developing skills in our students and making connections enables women of all ages to flourish both within and beyond the sporting arena, whether that be as an athlete, journalist, commentator, referee, coach, sports scientist, Board member, CEO or as an avid supporter.

You may ask why we would need such an initiative? Witnessing the Matildas’ 12 consecutive sold-out home matches last year, one could be forgiven for thinking that the ecosystem of women’s sport has completely changed, and we are already there! There is no denying that there have been substantial improvements in systems, structures, professionalism and media coverage. But there are some aspects of the female space that have not changed: women remain under-represented in sports leadership roles.

  • Only 18% of the accredited Australian coaches at the Tokyo Olympics were women, and just 23% at the Paralympic Games.
  • Across the combined codes—the W-League, WBBL, WNBL and NRLW—only 24% of coaches are female.
  • In 2021, only 43% of State sporting organisations met the target of 40% of women on Boards.
  • Across the 65 Australian Sports Commission-funded National sporting organisations, only 22% have female CEOs.
  • Further afield, female leadership in sport is even more underrepresented—only three of the largest 31 international sports federations are chaired by women, and less than one third (26.9%) of their executive committees are female.

On 20 February as the SSLN’s first event, we hosted the inaugural Next Generation Leadership Day at Ascham. In the Packer Theatre, 120 students from 10 schools came together to talk, listen and build their leadership skills. They were privileged to hear from four transformational leaders:

  • Melissa Wu – Olympic Diver (four Olympic Games)
  • Belinda Clark AO – Former Australian Cricket Captain
  • Piper Duck – Captain of the Wallaroos and NSW Waratahs
  • and our own Head Coach of Netball, Kimberlee Green OAM – Former Australian Diamonds Vice-Captain.

Melissa Wu encouraged our future leaders to amplify their resilience, acknowledging that often our failures and/or biggest struggles often lead to our greatest successes. Belinda Clark AO encouraged students to adopt an adventurous mindset and ensure their leadership is adaptive and based on the interaction of character, team work and leadership. Piper Duck suggested that we celebrate the power of women in sport and forge a pathway to leadership 2.0 where everyone is a leader. While Kimberlee Green OAM encouraged our future leaders to have a voice and make space for other voices.

That evening, we invited adults to come and hear from two giants of the sporting arena—Liz Ellis AM and Belinda Clark AO. Over 100 community members from Ascham and beyond came to be part of this community networking event as we aim to change the leadership narrative.

Liz Ellis AM talked about the need to be proud, united and relentless, and implored us to act: ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’ Belinda Clark AO acknowledged the similarities and differences between the changeroom and the boardroom. She highlighted the need to be transformational and thus engaged and effective.

Founder of Ladies Who League, Mary Konstantopoulos, spoke too and challenged us to redefine stereotypes and champion the future. We need to focus on celebrating every achievement, as we can’t be what we can’t see.

For the Sisters in Sport Leadership Network this is just the beginning. We look forward to sharing and hosting additional activities, including workshops, podcasts and mentoring opportunities. We all have a role to play in working together to support the legacy of change. Let’s reflect on how we all can unite, ignite and empower the next generation of leaders in women’s sport, both within Ascham and further afield.

Alex Butt | Head of Sport

Keep up to date with Sisters in Sport on the their inspiring Instagram account.

Watch our video below, which highlights the messages our generous guest speakers provided, and the inspiration that students took away with them.

8 Mar 2024

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