Women in Sport responds below to the release today of a new Code for Sports Governance by Sport England and UK Sport. This dropped a pre-existing gender target of 30% but otherwise represented a strong commitment to equality and inclusion.
The 30% rule which WiS lobbied for and was in the 2015 Governance Code has been pivotal in increasing the gender balance of sport boards. With this review of the Code we had hoped to see the target raised to 50% and for associated effort to go in to culture change as recommended in our 2018 report Beyond 30%.
We do recognise that Sport England and UK Sport are genuinely determined to drive further on equality, to the point where national and local sports boards truly reflect their communities. Whilst we’re disappointed the gender target was dropped, it had already had an impact, and we know gender targets for Boards alone will never be enough. The change needs to permeate beyond the boardroom, and culture matters as well as numbers. The two are linked.
Over the past year we have seen scandals around abuse, wider discrimination and sexism across various sports, demonstrating that the sports sector is still falling short of its duty to women and girls. We have a long way to go to achieve true representation and cultural change across sport. CEOs and Performance Directors have a leading role in achieving the cultural change we need to see – diverse women bringing their lived experience to the table will be critical. But whilst over a quarter of mainstream English and UK National Governing Bodies are led by women [not half], less than one in twelve Performance Directors are female.
We welcome Sport England’s and UK Sport’s proposal for individual sports to produce publicly accountable diversity and inclusion action plans, we will call for these to include gender targets and culture change programmes. Women in Sport stands ready to support the sector in achieving these.