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Exclusive: Changing The Dynamic Of Women In Sport


To celebrate International Women’s Day, Ministry of Sport spoke with the Victorian Government’s Office for Women in Sport and Recreation director, Sarah Styles, to hear about the organisation’s Change Our Game Program and how it’s levelling the playing field for women in sport.

The Office for Women in Sport and Recreation’ was founded in 2017 proceeding an inquiry highlighting women’s heavy underrepresentation in leadership roles within the sport and active recreation sector.

Styles, who began her role in May last year, said the Victorian Government aims to be at the forefront of creating equality within sport.

Styles said the ‘Change our Game’ program is the public reflection of the Office’s goal, with the program offering initiatives to improve women’s interaction with sport and leadership roles within Victoria.

“It’s not about fixing women, women don’t need to be fixed,” Styles told Ministry of Sport.

“It’s about making sure women are feeling ready and confident to pursue opportunities when they come up,” she said.

To create the most impact, the program is working within women’s elite sport, sport leadership and community sporting areas, hoping to drive gender equality in sport, build women’s skills and capabilities through professional development and focus on generating cultural change.

Styles said the program just closed a deal securing its community activation grant funding, to drive gender equality in sport and leadership at a community level.

“The program offers grants of up to $10,000 to provide opportunities for community and sporting clubs to increase the participation of women and girls,” Styles said.

The initiative is also offering women its first ever financial for non-financial managers pilot program to highlight and prepare women for the skills needed in leadership roles.

“The reality is the pathways to leadership are varied and not all of the pathways give finance or accounting experience despite a CEO needing to be comfortable working within that space,” Styles said.

“If you’re a woman who has mostly spent time in high performance sport and now, you’re looking to move into general management, there could be a skill gap holding you back from putting your hand up for the role,” she said.

The program is also connecting local sporting clubs with powerful female role models through its ambassador program to provide guidance and inspiration to women stepping into leadership positions.

Styles said she believes the steps ‘Change our Game’ and other similar initiatives are taking to create cultural change will be echoed throughout society due to sport’s deep embedment in Australian culture.

“It [changing perceptions of women in sport] is changing the world our kids are growing up in,” Styles said.

“They’re no longer seeing just men as sporting heroes; they’re seeing men and women and they’re seeing that boys and girls can aspire to play at an elite level.

“Yes, it’s about changing sport, but it’s also about what changing sport does for all parts of life,” she said.

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