Embracing equity in the leadership of sport with Professor Sue Dopson

Panel urges women in sport to ‘be brave, be bold, be bulldozers’.

Women’s professional football has been surging in popularity in recent years, but – with the possible exception of tennis – women’s sport is still under-paid, under-reported, and under-funded in comparison with men’s sport. Women themselves are under-represented on the field, in coaching, in marketing and leadership.

Professor Sue Dopson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, hosts a panel of fascinating speakers from the world of professional sports to share their views on breaking the bias.


The discussion touches on a wide variety of issues affecting women in sport, from the mortifying experience of being picked last for a team at school to the difficulties of inappropriate kit even at national level. But, the panellists say, ‘you can create the world in which you want to live’, offering advice to women and male allies including:

Call out inequity when you see it

The tennis player Andy Murray famously corrected a sports reporter who said that he was the first tennis player to win two Olympic gold medals, saying ‘I think Venus and Serena Williams have got about four each.’

Accept that quotas might work

No one ever wants to accept a job ‘just because they’re a woman’, but requirements from funding bodies that sports organisations should have, for example, at least 30% of each gender represented at board level have notably made a difference. Indeed, Jennifer Bishop urges women to accept positions especially when they are being offered on the basis of gender, ‘because I look at the generations before me in my law firm, for example, in the sporting world and you talk to women in their 70s and 80s who  weren't even allowed to have lunch at private members’ clubs or had to walk in through the back door - and they did that so that I can be sitting here talking to you.’

Bring everyone into the conversation

There is a danger that when only women talk about these issues, the conversation becomes internally focused. The panellists welcome the large numbers of men wanting to be male allies, and encourage them to be as ‘bold’ as the women in speaking up, perhaps declining a board position if women are under-represented, and making an effort to create opportunities.

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