Completed in the run-up to the 2016 Olympic Games in  Rio, this report by Women on Boards into the gender metrics in global sport found the performance of most organisations below par when it comes to women on their boards and the gender pay gap.


Sportswomen win gold, but still paid in bronze

2016 Global Board Data Report (diversity) => Click here  for a full copy of the report.

An update on a report into the gender metrics in global sport has found that the huge pay gap in many sports is not likely to close anytime soon. This is despite a concerted push by many global sportswomen to be rewarded equally to their male counterparts.

The addition of pay-gap data to Women on Boards UK’s Gender Balance in Global Sport Report (the report) shines a light on just how un-level the playing field is across most sports.

This comes at a time when female competitors from the world’s top sporting nations took home more than their fair share of medals from Rio.

The report, released jointly by WOB UK and WOB Australia, highlights the pay gap as another of the systemic barriers facing women in sport across the globe.

Fiona Hathorn, Managing Director of WOB UK said there is a general public acceptance that the gender pay gap in sport is a by-product of the increasingly commercial nature of sport, where major media rights and sponsorship contracts drive many tournament and player pay cheques, and it is not able to be alleviated.

“There are a lot of arguments put forward that women’s sport is not as physical and not as good to watch,” Hathorn said. “Yet this is really just an example of bias at play. Had our culture been used to seeing women, rather than men, play football and rugby for generations, we would find the idea of men playing these games a bit novel – it’s all a matter of perspective.”

The report also found that there have been positive signs that female players are no longer prepared to be treated as second class citizens and sports bodies are seeking to address gender pay issues.

In women’s cricket in both UK and Australia, action is being taken to ensure women are paid more equitably as the sport records huge growth in young girls and women flocking to the game.

“While women’s cricket has been on the rise in the last decade in all forms, the shorter T20 game is seen as significantly benefitting female players – raising their profile through increased ground audiences, TV coverage and improving sponsorship opportunities. This has supported the case for all top female cricketers in Australia, England & Wales and India to be placed on financially improved central contracts to enable them to play the sport professionally year-round,” Hathorn said.

“Unfortunately women’s football is not making great progress and the causes of the gender pay gap are symptomatic of a broader problem. Much of this starts with the leadership at the top of the sport. The main governing bodies in world football have few women on their boards. The UK fares little better whilst Australia is making greater progress and has a professional independent board, with three senior corporate women.”

Hathorn said the report has been released at a challenging time for sport globally, in particular with high profile drug scandals and match fixing.

“There is a clear need for reform of both the governance and leadership in global sport and a much greater role for women in both these areas.”

Many of the top sports governing bodies still have fewer than 30 per cent of board seats held by women and election and selection processes are a key factor in keeping them out of the race.
This includes International Sports Federations (18%) and the National Olympic Committees (16.6%), despite a pre-Sydney Games IOC target that a minimum of 20 per cent of all board members of NOCs must be female by 2005.

The statistics vary within sports and across countries:

Only Tennis recorded a significant increase in the percentage of female board members, but it was coming off a base of zero percent in 2014. Taekwondo, Aquatics, Boxing and Wrestling all recorded a slight increase in the percentage of female board members.
At country level, 20 National Olympic Committees recorded a five per cent or greater loss in the number of women on their boards, while 28 improved by more than five per cent. Again, many of the top performers came off a zero base
Only Malawi, Australia, Bermuda, Norway, New Zealand, Kiribati, Samoa and Tuvalu have more than 40 per cent women on their national Olympic boards and committees. The USA has 31.3 per cent females and the UK has 26.7 per cent.
In Paralympic sports, only the boards of Table Tennis, Basketball, Curling and Boccia recorded an increase in the number of women on their boards.
“In the majority of organisations, board members are elected by members or via nomination from a club or regional or national sports body. This election process can reward those who have participated in elite sport or served time with the sports’ governing bodies rather than those with the skills sets for the job,” Hathorn said.

“Good governance builds opportunities to increase transparency and independent oversight that opens up the prospect of improved gender balance on boards and an audit of rewards and payment structures for players.”

In 2014 the Women on Boards Gender Balance in Global Sport Report made the following recommendations to the Olympic and sports movement as a whole:

  • Mandate governance processes and tie compliance to funding outcomes where appropriate.
  • Pay particular attention to the composition and operation of the board, including:
    •    mandated terms of office;
    •    at least two independent board members; and
    •    an independent chair of the audit committee
  • Require transparency in disclosing the gender balance on the boards of all National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and related member groups, and collect and publish the data.
  • Lead by example – the IOC, CGF, ANOC, IPC and other top level bodies should set voluntary gender targets for their boards and committees for others to follow.
  • Disclose the funding provided to male and female athletes.
  • Disclose the gender composition of teams at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.
  • Review the process for election for the IOC to include independent nominations. In the first instance include the IOC Women’s Commission as one of these.

These recommendations have not changed.

For Interviews
UK – Stuart at the Press Team on 0845 094 9658 or email For any evening/weekend press enquiries please contact Jenna on 07958 263 708.

Click here  for a full copy of the report.

Graphs and data tables available on request.

The 2016 Gender Balance in Global Sport Report (the report) by Women on Boards is the first update to the inaugural report published in June 2014. This report was written in the lead up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Gendered datasets in the report cover more than 600 bodies including:
•    129 of the 206 National Olympic Committees
•    27 Paralympic Committees for Olympic Sports
•    28 International Sports Federations
•    14 Paralympic International Sports Federations
•    59 National Governing Bodies (NGBs) in the United Kingdom
•    57 National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) in Australia

For the original 2014 report, click here.