01 November 2023
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) has released an ambitious action plan to tackle the shocking underrepresentation of women in coaching roles across the Australian high performance sport system.
With less than 10% of the top 36 funded high performance sports led by women, the Women in High Performance Coaching Action Plan aims to advance gender equity in coaching and drive cultural and systemic change.
Insights from the Women in High Performance Coaching Project captured over the past 24 months show female coaches exit the high performance sport system at different career stages, resulting in a leaky talent pipeline.
With hidden talent pools draining Australia of knowledgeable coaches, a deep gender gap in head coaching roles has developed.
“We must be more inclusive and take action to remove the complexity and challenges facing women coaches,” Matti Clements, Executive General Manager, AIS Performance said.
“The Women in High Performance Coaching Project highlights how individual behaviours and cultural norms are the major driver of poor participation of women in coaching.
“These attitudes are no longer acceptable, nor are they compatible with Australia’s High Performance 2032+ Sport Strategy and our collective commitment to win well.”
“We need a systemic approach to embed sustainable change so that by 2032 we won’t be talking about women coaches- just coaches.”
The Action Plan lists 10 recommendations for driving systemic and sustainable change.
This includes measures that will be led by the AIS as well as avenues for sports, organisations and individuals to play their role.
It also includes toolkits and resources to address key challenges and ways to identify and re-engage the hidden talent pools which represent a valuable and untapped resource.
Bringing awareness and solutions to the table will give all coaches the chance to work hard at the top, and not be limited by gender.Belinda Stowell, Olympic sailor and coach
The Action Plan addresses the core drivers of poor participation, why change must happen now to avoid broader system risk and how to build momentum.
Over 70 sporting organisations were represented in the project’s engagement process with more than 250 participants including coaches, high performance directors, CEOs and managers taking part in interviews and workshops. Two in-depth nationwide surveys of over 260 respondents also informed the Action Plan.
“The Women in High Performance Coaching Project is so important as we have all known about the issue, but this is about taking action,” Belinda Stowell, Olympic sailor and High Performance Coach Development Lead, Western Australian Institute of Sport said.
"Bringing awareness and solutions to the table will give all coaches the chance to work hard at the top, and not be limited by gender.”
The Women in High Performance Coaching Project complements Australia’s High Performance 2032+ Sport Strategy (and soon to be released National Sport Participation Strategy) which unites the sector around building an inclusive and sustainable sporting system.
It also adds to the work being done in the AIS High Performance Coach Development Strategy, the National Generation 2032 Coach Program (Gen32), the AIS Gender Diversity Project and the Women Leaders in Sport (WLIS) program.
“The Women in High Performance Coaching Project is yet another reflection of the Australian Sports Commission’s commitment to gender equality across the entire Sport System,” Ms Clements said.