Acting Head of Sport
22 February 2007: Wimbledon announces that it will institute a policy of equal pay for the male and female winners of the Championships, following the lead of the Australian Open, French Open and US Open.
6 November 2015: The Matildas strike a new collective bargaining agreement, more than doubling their previous contracts, providing much needed financial and logistical support for Australia’s elite female footballers.
May 17 2019 is another landmark day in women’s sport – snowsport company Burton announced that all female Burton athletes will be able to continue their sponsorships during and after pregnancy, allowing their athletes to not have to make the far-too-common choice: my family or my career?
It was Nike who generated so much interest this year with their campaign “Dream Crazier”, but former Nike athlete and Olympian Kara Goucher quickly learned that being a mum and an athlete was too crazy for Nike – they would not continue her sponsorship whilst she was pregnant and not competing.
Since women entered the workplace, there has always been situations where they have needed to choose between continuing their career or pressing pause to have a child, and nowhere is it more pronounced than for professional athletes, who not only have the extra responsibilities of raising a child, but also need to return to the peak physical fitness that comes with competing at the highest level.
2017 was a landmark year for professional and semi-professional female sport in Australia. It started with the AFL drastically underestimating the interest in AFLW, with thousands turned away from a Collingwood vs Carlton match. Super Netball then took the torch, launching Australia’s first fully professional sport league, which was also importantly telecast live and free to air. The Matildas conquered all who dared challenge them, winning the Tournament of Nations, followed soon by the cricketers picking up the Ashes vs England and finished with The Jillaroos winning their World Cup.
All of these achievements were celebrated across the country, and for the first time, celebrated by young girls and women wearing Matildas shirts, Jillaroo jerseys and Collingwood guernseys designed specifically for females. The major sporting companies had realised (some would say far too late) that it wasn’t just boys buying sport gear any more. In 2017, Kookaburra relabelled their cricket equipment from ‘Boys’ and ‘Mens’ to ‘Juniors’ and ‘Adults’ to reflect the growing demand of female cricketers. This year, Nike launched the 2019 Matildas World Cup shirt – a kit specifically designed for the Matildas as opposed to simply copying the men’s jersey.
The important next step is recognising what else needs to be done to support women’s sport that is specific to women’s sport. More flexible contracts to allow athletes to not have to choose between their career and their family is certainly a good start.
Not every professional athlete wants to be a mum. Not every mum wants to be a professional athlete. But thanks to the forward thinking moves by companies like Burton, professional athletes who want to be a mum will have the opportunity to do both, and that’s the way it should be.
Mr Matt Mulroney
Acting Head of Sport