Cricket Australia has fallen short on some of its gender equality targets over the past year, noting the impact the pandemic has had on its ability to increase the number of women on its boards, and in its workforce.
The targets, which were set well before the pandemic hit, are detailed in its Press for Progress report, released on Tuesday. The report tracks Cricket Australia’s aspiration to become a gender equal sport, and to be publicly accountable on its progress and setbacks.
This year’s report shows that the number of women making up executive management positions in cricket has dropped from 34 per cent in 2018-19, to 31 per cent in 2020-21. Compared to last year, there has been no increase in female representation at the board level in cricket, with the number of women board directors remaining the same at 32 per cent.
In order to meet it’s 2022 target of 40 per cent women on boards, there will need to be an 8 per cent increase in female representation at the board level over the next year.
Cricket Australia notes that three women have been appointed to CEO roles over the past year, including Olivia Thornton, as Cricket ACT’s CEO, Michelle Enright as the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Australia 2022 Local Organising Committee CEO, and Jodie Newton as the Cricket South Australia’s Acting CEO. They joined Christina Matthews, who is the Cricket Western Australia’s CEO.
There were also declines in the number of women employed in “other management” roles, dropping from 33 per cent to 30 per cent, as well as declines in the total number of female staff across Australian cricket, from 36 per cent to 35 per cent.
Christina Matthews, WA Cricket CEO, noted that the number of women who lost jobs within cricket over the last year due to Covid was disproportionate to men. “It’s important to have the data, and data that’s publicly available,” she said on Tuesday.
Addressing the decline of women in executive management, the report says it showcased “the need to continually provide leadership opportunities for women across Australian cricket”.
“The acceleration of gender diversity in the workforce continues to be a focus area for improvement, particularly for executive management and developing our future leaders.”
Cricket Australia has dedicated female leadership programs on its radar in order to meet its 2022 targets, as well as the development of a new strategic plan to help push forward gender equity within the workforce.
“Heading into the final year of the Australian Cricket strategy, we know we have work to do in reaching our goal and we will continue to strive for gender equality,” the report’s introduction states.
“Reporting and transparency, as well as owning our challenges, is critical in our progression towards a gender equal future. We will need to build strategies and develop comprehensive action plans to minimise the adverse effects of the pandemic on gender equality.”
Elizabeth Broderick, the founder of Champions of Change, said, “There’s no question that Covid has had a huge impact on sport generally, and some would say a disproportionate impact on women.”
“When we look at what’s happening, it does present challenges, but it does present opportunities.”
Broderick said the pandemic is “opening up some new and interesting opportunities…the opportunity for us is to be build back better. It’s a question of how we build a new way, a more inclusive way.”
More young girls playing in the Cricket Blast
In other areas of cricket, including girls’ participation at the community sport level, there has been some good progress, with more girls than ever playing the Woolworths Cricket Blast in the 2020-21 summer. Girls now make up 1 in 5 children in the entry level program, with an overall increase of 27.4 per cent in girls playing in the Blast competition.
But the negative impact of COVID was also felt at the community level, with the cancellation of some competitions felt acutely in indoor cricket and school competitions.
Elite talent pathways felt the sting of COVID, as top level cricket prioritised
The report also notes the significant impact the pandemic has had on elite talent pathways, with the postponement of the Women’s U19 World Cup, the bi-lateral Australia A and India A Series and the underage National Championships.
Positively, there was a focus amid the chaos of COVID in making sure international and domestic seasons were played for Australia’s top players, with the Australia vs New Zealand series going ahead, as well as the standalone season of the WBBL and the Women’s National Cricket League proceeding as COVID safe events.
Christina Matthews, CEO of WA Cricket, said it was positive to see Cricket Australia prioritise the women’s game during Covid.
“Ten years ago, if Covid had hit, all the women’s programs would have been cut first,” she said on Tuesday. She said the only international women’s event that was cancelled was an Indian series, a result of factors outside of Australia’s control.
“It was important to see the women’s and men’s game put on the same platform,” she said.
Despite the difficulties COVID threw their way, the Australian Women’s Cricket Team also maintained their dominance on the world stage over the past year, keeping their #1 world ranking status across ODIs and T20Is.
In excellent news, the WBBL was the fourth most-watched domestic league in Australia, sitting behind only the BBL, AFL and NRL. The competition had a domestic TV cumulative audience of 4.6 million, with the final series experiencing a 26.5 per cent increase in audience.