The Game Changer's Working in the Victorian Sport & Rec Landscape

While it comes as no surprise that women are under-represented in leadership roles in the sport and recreation sector, there are many shining examples of hardworking and motivated females across the state.

To highlight those who have persevered within this traditionally male-dominated industry, Change Our Game interviewed a range of influential women working across different fields of the Victorian sport and recreation industry.

These women have shown courage, persistence and passion to overcome barriers and reach their current positions.

In the first of this series, we asked these leaders what they hope will transpire from our campaign, and what advice they would give young women wanting to pursue a career in their footsteps.

Some common themes that were revealed included an urgent need to eradicate the stereotyping of women within the industry and the need for our future leaders to be resilient and determined to make a difference in their roles.

Below are their responses…

 

       Leigh Russell
       CEO, Swimming Australia

 

Leigh Russell is the recently appointed CEO of Swimming Australia who has brought a fresh range of insights and experience to organisation after trailblazing career in sport administration. Russell was the first woman to hold a senior executive position within  an AFL club at the Essendon Football Club (working across football & administration) and the youngest CEO appointed in Netball Victoria’s history.

What is the number one thing you’d like to see happen as an outcome of the Change Our Game campaign?

“I never want to hear the sentence ‘But we can’t find a woman for our board/team/committee, they are just not there in sport’. I want to make visible the enormous contribution that women are already making to this industry and shine a light on unconscious bias that threatens to hold our industry back.”

What advice would you give to young women wanting to pursue a career in sport?

“Sport progression isn’t linear, so embrace the adventure - It helps to not be too caught up in job titles, PDs or get too entitled… Learn to take feedback and see failure as a data set you can use to be successful. Enjoy being part of an industry that has impact on people's lives and the world we live in.”

   

       Kate O’Halloran  
       Freelance Journalist

 

A former Victorian cricketer, Kate O’Halloran is a freelance sports journalist and a champion for promoting women’s sport in the media. The former deputy Sports Editor at The Guardian, O’Halloran holds a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Gender and Cultural Studies from the University of Sydney.

What is the number one thing you’d like to see happen as an outcome of the Change Our Game campaign?

“I’d love to see a shift in cultural norms around masculinity and femininity, because I believe that it’s the rigid gender stereotyping that is the biggest barrier to us achieving genuine gender equity in sports.” “I also believe it’s that same stereotyping, particularly toxic masculinity and its traditional place at the heart of men’s sport, which sets the necessary context for violence against women to occur. If we can start to unwind some of those normative expectations around gender, I think we can start to address a number of different problems at once.” What advice would you give to young women wanting to pursue a career in sport? “I'd tell them to persist, but also to be prepared to fight and scrap for every bit of progress and opportunity… when you think you're going somewhere, be prepared to go ten steps backwards. There'll inevitably be abuse, mansplaining etc. but if you think you can handle it, then we desperately need you, because until women have some of the decision-making capacity and power as men working in sport, nothing will change.”

“Of course, we need men to be champions too, but you only have to flick through the sport pages of any given newspaper to figure out how far we've got waiting for men to lead this change.”

 

       Lucy Benjamin 
       Communications & Government Relations Manager, Rowing Australia

 

A former sports journalist and sub-editor, Lucy Benjamin has extensive international sports media experience and is now the Communications & Government Relations Manager at Rowing Australia. Benjamin’s previous experience includes her roles as Media and Communications Officer at the International Cricket Council and as the Rowing Media Liaison for Australian Olympic Team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

What is the number one thing you’d like to see happen as an outcome of the Change Our Game campaign?

“It may sound daft, but I'd really like for one day, it not be necessary to have to champion for women. To instead be treated as equals in the sporting environment. For people to view a woman's ability as one that delivers on a role or a project without being judged on the fact that she's a woman.”

What advice would you give to young women wanting to pursue a career in sport?

“Don't be afraid to jump in. I've been lucky enough to work with some amazing men and women in sport - as a sports journalist, as a Media and Communications Officer at the International Cricket Council and currently in my role at Rowing Australia. Sport is a diverse culture that can provide you with the most amazing opportunities - be persistent, continue to always improve yourself and back your ability to deliver!”

 

       Sally Phillips
       Head of Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL)

 

A former Opal, Sally Phillips has been leading the WNBL since her appointment in 2016 and brings an infectious energy and professionalism to her role. Phillips leads her team to drive the strategic objectives of the league including growing revenue, attendances and media attention in the aim of becoming Australia’s pre-eminent women’s sporting league.

What is the number one thing you’d like to see happen as an outcome of the Change Our Game campaign?

“Spark conversations that we've never had before around women and sport. Women continue to be under-represented in leadership roles, and sport continues to be predominantly male-centric and dominated in so many different areas.”

“Female friendly built environments and equitable facility usage policies. I can't tell you the amount of football grounds we go to each week and there is only one toilet in a change room! I really look forward to the day the girls can walk into a football club and have great facilities to use.”

What advice would you give to young women wanting to pursue a career in Sport?

“Sport is tribal, sport is emotional, I don't know of any other industry that you could work in where the passion and emotion peak. As a result, working in administration can be very challenging because of that emotion. Everyone always wants the very best for their club, team or league, emotions can run high and there are moments when I feel I'm not succeeding because I can't make everyone happy!”

 

       Daniela Di Toro 
       Athlete Welfare Engagement Officer, Australian Paralympic Committee

 

As a 13-year-old, Daniela Di Toro’s life changed forever when a brick wall collapsed on her body whilst competing at a swimming carnival, causing her to become a paraplegic. Through perseverance, Di Toro went on to become a six-time Paralympian tennis and table tennis champion, and now works with the Australian Paralympic Committee as their Paralympian and Athlete Welfare Engagement Officer.

What is the number one thing you’d like to see happen as an outcome of the Change Our Game campaign?

“You can't be what you can't see, so first and foremost it's crucial that we actively see women with various disabilities and of various ages being used to promote sport and recreation. We need to support females with a disability to actively engage in sport at grassroots, at the club level and all the way along that performance pathway. We need to actively see women with disabilities being used as leadership role models and prove to us what is possible both on and off the sporting field.”

What advice would you give to young women wanting to pursue a career in Sport?

“Find mentors who display qualities you wish to build on in your life as well as your career. Having a community around you that you can turn to, share experiences with and ask advice is vital and allows the sporting journey to be rewarding, especially when you are feeling the most challenged. Having like-minded people in your corner helps but having people with very different opinions helps us push our own boundaries and grow as humans.”

 

       Robyn Smith
       CEO, Sport Inclusion Australia

 

A champion of inclusivity, Robyn Smith has lead Sport Inclusion Australia (formerly AUSRAPID) since taking on the CEO role in 1991, working to assist the inclusion of people with an intellectual disability into the mainstream community using sport as the medium. Smith is also the Chief Executive of the Global Games Sports Company, organising and delivering the INAS Global Games for athletes with an intellectual impairment in Brisbane in 2019.

What is the number one thing you’d like to see happen as an outcome of the Change Our Game campaign?

“That women are given a fair go to shine in whatever field they choose, and that key women can become role models and mentors for the next generation of both young men and women.”

What advice would you give to young women wanting to pursue a career in sport?

“It is a fantastic industry to work in and with so many females athletes and female teams getting more coverage, I think sport is leading the equity issue in many ways.”

 

       Stephanie Beltrame
       General Manager Media Rights & Broadcasting, Cricket Australia

 

With an association with Cricket Australia since 2000, Stephanie Beltrame has become an integral operator for cricket media in Australia, and now leads in her current role as General Manager Media Rights & Broadcasting. Beltrame is also a Non-Executive Director at Vicsport.

What is the number one thing you’d like to see happen as an outcome of the Change Our Game campaign?

“Results. The first stage of the campaign is about growing awareness and we need to continue to convert that awareness into actions across a range of stakeholders and deliver meaningful results.”

What advice would you give to young women wanting to pursue a career in sport?

“Don’t think twice - It is an amazing industry full of reward, diversity and passion. It is an industry that will continue to welcome skilled females who are keen to work hard and get involved.”

 

       Molina Asthana
       Founder and Executive Director, Multicultural Women in Sport

 

Moving from India to Australia in 2004, Molina Asthana has been a leader in both the Indian and Australia legal sectors and a determined and passionate campaigner for the organisation she founded, Multicultural Women in Sport. With a goal to motivate Australia’s multicultural community to become more active, Asthana is also a Commissioner for the AFL South East Commission and sits on the AFL advisory Committee for multicultural engagement. Asthana is also a Cricket Australia 'Sport for All' Community Ambassador and Commonwealth Games Ambassador.

What is the number one thing you’d like to see happen as an outcome of the Change Our Game campaign?

“More women participating in sport, both on and off the field.”

What advice would you give to young women wanting to pursue a career in sport?

“Now is the time. There are opportunities available as well as pathways. Don't be shy, be pushy and claim your space.”

 

       Elaine Tor 
       Lead Biomechanist, Victorian Institute of Sport

 

Previously working at the Australian Institute of Sport, Elaine Tor has been the Lead Biomechanist at the Victorian Institute of Sport since 2015. With a PhD in Swimming Biomechanics, Tor’s extensive practical experience has seen her selected as the Biomechanist on multiple international Swimming Australia teams.

What is the number one thing you’d like to see happen as an outcome of the Change Our Game campaign?

“More leadership opportunities and recognition for females in sport.”

What advice would you give to young women wanting to pursue a career in sport?

“Don't ever take ‘NO’ for an answer and don't ever compromise your values.”

 

The Office for Women in Sport and Recreation was created in 2017 by the Victorian Government in response to the Inquiry into Women and Girls in Sport and Recreation. It is the first Office of it’s kind in Australia and is supported by the biggest investment by any state government into facilities, participation and leadership opportunities across all levels of sport and recreation for women and girls. 

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