Women massively under-represented: Lauren Jackson

Driving Gender equity in sport for women and girls conference at the National Convetion Centre. Speaker Lauren Jackson. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos
Driving Gender equity in sport for women and girls conference at the National Convetion Centre. Speaker Lauren Jackson. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Just nine per cent of Australia's coaches at the Rio Olympic Games were women. Nine. At a time when women's sport is meant to be on the rise.

It's no wonder four-time Olympian Lauren Jackson says there's still a massive under-representation of female leaders in sport.

But she's one of 34 women taking part in the AIS Talent Programs, which started on Tuesday and is looking to help change all that.

It's the second year of the program that's looking to bolster the numbers of women in leadership roles in sport.

Jackson's made the transition from elite athlete to administrator, taking up the role of head of women in basketball at Basketball Australia.

The 44-year-old said while there's been a groundswell in female athletes, that was yet to flow over to coaching and administration.

"There's a massive under-representation of women in sport across all levels," Jackson said. "We're starting to see an influx of athletes now ... and people want to see women in sport at the moment as athletes.

"Which is great, but as administrators, as coaches there's still quite big gaps there that we're definitely trying to break.

"Break down those barriers and challenges, which are ever present in society, [and] are definitely pretty present in sport still."

Jackson expected to pick up skills she'd never had the chance to learn during her time as an athlete and also how to utilise the ones she had in her new role.

She's hoping the program would help create a new era for women in sport.

"It's about picking up things I missed out on as an athlete and also taking the skills I did have and learning how to apply them in this different field," Jackson said.

"It's time for me to take that next step and really learn how to operate in an organisation like Basketball Australia.

"And help move the culture into this new era of women's sport and try to take our sport, in particular, into another era.

"It's a really exciting time for me and a great opportunity to be as good as I can possibly be."

Three-time Olympic gold medallist Petria Thomas also was taking part in the program.

Having made her name as a swimmer, Thomas is now a high-performance manager at Gymnastics Australia.

She said the program was about ensuring the number of female coaches and administrators increased because they were the best candidates - not because they're women.

The leadership program will run for the entire year.

"It's all about giving more women the skills and experience so they're the best person for the job," Thomas said. "There is a bit of a gender gap in some areas of sport and this program is a great way to start addressing those issues and addressing the gap."

This story Where are sport's female leaders, asks Lauren Jackson first appeared on The Canberra Times.