Challenging the Gender Gap in Sports

Wednesday 12 April 2017 @ 2.05 p.m. | Legal Research

There is a current controversy on whether the gender discrimination gap is narrowing within the sporting industry in 2017. Although the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) was enacted over thirty years ago, gender discrimination is still alive and well in Australia, as reported by The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia. The question remains, has the sporting industry become more accepting of females in the present era? 

Current Sex Discrimination Caselaw

In the recent case of Coady v Yachting Victoria Incorporated [2017] FCCA 645 (5 April 2017) ("Coady's Case"), the issue was whether Ms Coady was sexually discriminated against by Yachting Victoria Incorporated when she entered in a men's yacht race with her father. 

Ms Coady mentioned the exclusion from the yacht race made her feel "humiliated and intimidated", and she was "verbally abused by other competitors." However, Justice McNab ruled Yachting Victoria should not be held responsible for the conduct of other competitors. His Honour went further by dismissing Ms Coady's claim that the International Jury's findings against her father in the competition was also gender discrimination directed at her. However, this could also be considered indirect discrimination as reported by Coady v World Sailing: An Unfair Fight Against Discrimination and Victimisation, where abusers directly attack a friend or a family member of the victim.

Any future appeals will now have to address the legal issue of whether Ms Coady had agreed to be dismissed under the regulations or whether the regulations were discriminatory themselves.

Opportunities for Women in Sport

Although Coady's Case is an unusual one, the opportunities and equality for women in sporting activities is growing. As reported by the Herald Sun, in the Summer of 2016-2017, Network Ten broadcasted Women's Big Bash League, where the female players received media coverage across Australia. Not only that, jockey Michelle Payne came first with her horse in the 2015 Melbourne Cup. There was also a "landmark pay deal" in Netball Australia where the average female salary was boosted from $40,000 to $67,000 per annum with an added "parental care policy for players with young children." 

There have been many success stories for women in sport in the past few years, however there are still a few doors that need to be opened. As the Herald Sun reports, female players need to:

  • use better equipment;
  • have "equal pay and sponsorship opportunities";
  • to be treated more respectfully; and
  • have an increase overall of women in physical activity.

Overall, the gap for women in sports is slowly closing. There are still hurdles to overcome but directly discussing the issues will narrow the potential for gender discrimination in sport.

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The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in the Twentieth-Century Australia - Theme "Sport"

Play by the Rules  - Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harrasment in Sport

Coady v World Sailing et al: An Unfair Fight Against Discrimination and Victimisation 

Sex Discrimination Claim: Teen Sailor Sues Over Yacht Race Ban - Women in Sailing Website

Women in Sport: The Gender Gap is Slowly Closing - Herald Sun

Milestones for Australian Women Since 1975 - ABC News Article

Coady v Yachting Victoria Incorporated [2017] FCCA 645 (5 April 2017) - available from TimeBase LawOne

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