We are currently riding a wave of growth in women’s elite sport, driven by the fantastic success of the WBBL, AFLW and Super Netball.
The halo effect of this success on the longer-term goal of gender equality in sports administration cannot be under estimated and will be crucial in normalising sport as a career of choice for both women and men.
The initial aim of the Rebel Women’s Big Bash League has been to provide a visible pathway for girls and young women and demonstrate the real opportunity to play cricket as a profession.
The recent ground breaking, gender equitable pay deal announced between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association has provided further incentive. Female player payments will increase from $7.5M to $55.2M with International players capable of earning over $200,000 per year and domestic players over $50,000.
A career in cricket is now very real and achievable, whilst the flexibility of pursuing study and other work still possible. This will only help further accelerate the participation in girl’s cricket, with the Sixers and Thunder Girl’s Cricket Leagues increasing from 72 teams in 2015-16 to 162 last season and expecting to almost double again in 2017/18.
The second season of the WBBL had an average viewership on Network Ten of over 250,000 per game, closely beating the very positive results from the AFLW and Super Netball. The greatest outcome of this free to air coverage has been the building of visible role models, the most important piece of the engagement puzzle for future players.
Young female cricketers have often in the past identified male role models in their pursuit of cricket. This is rapidly changing with the new generation of young talent identifying the likes of Ellyse Perry, Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healy and Alex Blackwell as inspiring role models for them to pursue their dream.
The opportunity for the WBBL is to grow this base of aspirational players, building their profiles and fostering connections with the girls at grass roots level.
In the related area of sports administration, high profile, visible women are the key to promoting sport as a viable career. Many organisations involved in the Male Champions of Change Sport have already adopted policies such as flexible work practices and gender neutral parental leave policies to remove barriers and encourage greater female representation. This is a fantastic start, but similarly to role modelling from players, highlighting the fantastic talent already involved in sports administration is paramount.
From the inspiring women on the board of the ARU, Liz Broderick, Ann Sherry and Pip Marlow, the dynamic CEO of the Western Australian Cricket Association, Christina Matthews and the ground breaking Tracey Gaudry, who was recently appointed CEO of Hawthorn, there are great stories to be told.
The adage of, “You can’t be what you can’t see”, has never been more relevant than in sport today.
This ground swell of interest in women’s sport must be the catalyst for building role models on and off the field and inspiring women of all ages to embark on a professional career as a player or administrator and taking all sports to a new level.