Choose to Challenge: Breaking into the boardroom
Continuing our series highlighting the strides made in the women's game when people chose to challenge the status quo, and shining a light on the areas where work remains to be done
4 March 2021, 04:25 PM AEST
Drawing on the theme of this year's International Women's Day – Choose to Challenge – cricket.com.au is exploring the strides made in the women's game, and by women working in cricket, while also shining a light on the areas where work remains to be done.
Throughout this week in the lead-up to International Women's Day 2021, we will cast an eye on the elite game, coaching, media and broadcast, administration, participation and pathways, as well as looking at the broader picture internationally.
What's the current situation?
Before looking at the current situation in Australian cricket, let's look back at how it reached this point.
Prior to 2001, the female game was run by the Australian Women's Cricket Council (AWCC, founded in 1931. But after the Australian Sports Commission declared its desire for men's and women's sports to work together where possible, the process of integration between the AWCC and the then Australian Cricket Board began.
Dame Quentin Brice, the final AWCC president, oversaw the transition, while Australia great Belinda Clark, who was captaining her country at the time, was also the organisation's chief executive officer and played a key role in the integration process.
"We had a very progressive president at the time in Dame Quentin Bryce and Rina Hoare was her vice-president," Clark told The Scoop podcast.
"Rina had the cricket nous, Quentin had the nous around how to influence change.
"There's always resistance to change … There was resistance within the men's game.
"They were worried about having to fund something that wasn't going to be profitable.
"There was resistance within the women's game about giving up control and losing self-determination.
"Bit by bit we worked through that and ended up doing a two year trial to allay everyone's fears and give everyone the safety cord to get out of jail if they need to, and at the end of the day in 2003 it was rubberstamped as the way forward and here we are today.
"You think if you hadn't done it, what would've happened. You'd probably only have had boys playing the game."
On July 1, 2003, the integration was complete, with the game's governing body rebranded as Cricket Australia.
"I just describe it as 21-year-old brother bringing a five-year-old sister in and looking after her in a house," Clark continued. "That was the difference in size and maturity of the two organisations.
"Bit by bit, it's become like a 30 and a 40-year-old living in the same house, whereas it started off as a very unbalanced power base.
"Now if you look at the influence the teams have, it's totally different and we knew that was going to take time, but it was worth the journey."
The benefits of integration for the women's game, which had struggled for the resources it needed to grow the sport, included better conditions for players, access to facilities including the National Cricket Centre (then the Cricket Academy) and greater support off the field.
In 2005, the international game underwent a similar transition when the International Women's Cricket Council merged with the International Cricket Council.
Today, a key aim of the Australian Cricket Strategy is to become the country's leading sport for women and girls. This is not simply about on-field participation, with the goal to achieve gender equity across Australian Cricket, while developing and accelerating opportunities for women
In all aspects of the game.
Australian Cricket's most recent Press for Progress report, released last August, revealed gender diversity continued to improve, with the number of women holding director positions in Australian Cricket increasing 75 per cent since the current five-year Australian Cricket Strategy was introduced in 2017, and women representing more than 30 per cent of all directors for the first time.
Two boards – Cricket ACT and Cricket Victoria – reached the target of a minimum 40 per cent representation of men and women for the first time, while former Australian cricketer and commentator Mel Jones became the first woman elected to the Cricket Australia Board as a state nominee.
Christina Matthews is the CEO of the WACA, while Olivia Thornton was appointed CEO of Cricket ACT last month.
Two Big Bash clubs have appointed female general managers; Jodie Hawkins (Sydney Sixers) and most recently, Kate Harkness (Adelaide Strikers).
Currently, women make up 36 per cent of the total Australian cricket workforce.
Where can it improve?
Australian Cricket has a stated goal of reaching a minimum 40 per cent representation of men and women across every level of the workforce.
The Press for Progress placed that number at 36 per cent at the time of its release last August, though the percentage dropped among higher ranked employees: 32 per cent of directors were women and 33 per cent of executive management.
Former CA head of female engagement Sarah Styles believes breaking through the 30 per cent barrier in leadership roles was a tipping point that will influence further change.
"That's where we've seen the shift over the last few years, particularly in the boardrooms," Styles told The Scoop podcast.
"Women represented about 18 per cent of Australian Cricket directors … and as of last year, it broke through the 30-per-cent barrier for the first time, and is hopefully it is on its way to breaking through the 40-per-cent barrier, with that 40 per cent being a floor and not a ceiling.
"The 30-per-cent barrier is really important because there is research that suggests that's around the point where women stop being in the room for women's issues, as in, we'll check in when we need you for the women's issues, and you start having a gender diverse room where people are just having a conversation.
"What you have to assume is that with these brilliant women being in these rooms, that will continue to drive change and you have this wonderful amplification effect."
Adelaide Strikers general manager Harkness, who was promoted to the role last year, believes diversity must be the top priority for sporting organisations.
"It can only enrich everything having different perspectives. You're engaging different people," she told The Scoop podcast.
"By bringing diversity to your industry, you're doubling, tripling, quadrupling your customer base.
"There's not as many women at the management level as you'd like there to be across the sports industry, the numbers tell us that.
"But I do hope it's only a matter of time because we've got wonderful, wonderful women at middle management and lower management levels who I've got no doubt will be running these sports in five, ten years. No doubt about it."
In Harkness' view, that push must start at the top, through leaders who truly believe in the importance of diversity.
As cricket's female participation levels continue to grow, she can also see that eventually translating into more women working in off-field areas of the game.
"If it's not in your organisation's strategy, if it's you're not living and breathing it, then it doesn't happen and it doesn't filter down.
"You need to provide opportunities, but you also need to provide a workplace where women feel encouraged to come and work and that attracts women into that workplace in the first place, which I think cricket is doing a really good job of with its women and girls strategy.
"If you look at a 12-year-old girl now who's grown up with cricket participation being much more of a thing than when I was a little girl .... in ten years, when she's 22, she'll say 'why wouldn't I want to work in cricket, it's one of my sports'."