Inclusion throughout all layers of the sport ecosystem, where people have the opportunity to participate to their desired capacity without discrimination, is an important part of a fair society. Participation in sport in both playing (athlete/participant) and non-playing (coaches/officials/ administration/governance) roles are associated with positive individual, social, strategic and economic benefits [1, 2]. However, women and girls have historically been, and continues to be, an underrepresented throughout sport, [3, 4] in both playing and non-playing roles such as coaches and board members .
In terms of participation in community sport, males participate at twice the rate of females . In general, it is argued that gender is a highly visible position of inequality in sport , and historically this disparity in participation across gender reflects the societal perceptions that sport participation is part of a typical male domain . Further the negative stereotypes about women playing sport affects the sports activities that women and girls participate in and specifically for those sports that at traditionally male dominated or considered suited to males . These negative stereotypes are also amplified with a lack of female representation in sport media, and specifically in traditionally male dominated sports .
An international study of gender diversity in sport governance reports that across 45 countries women remain underrepresented as board directors (global average 20 %), board chairs (11 %) and chief executives (16 %). Few countries achieved a critical mass of women in leadership roles . There is strong evidence that gender diversity on corporate boards has a positive impact through a range of processes and business outcomes as well as being important role models for other women .
In Australia, grass-roots sports are often community run, not for profit organisations. Across grass-roots sports there are over 2.3 million people  involved in non-playing roles, paid or unpaid roles, who collectively contribute to the capacity of the organisation and deliver their sport [12, 13]. The majority of research to date which has focused on the sport workforce refers to them as ‘volunteers’, however, this insinuates that they are not paid for their time, when in fact roles such as coaches, officials and administrators may be paid. As such, in this study will use the collective term ‘non-playing’ roles for both paid and voluntary roles which enable players to participate throughout the sport ecosystem including sport governance, sport administration, coaching and officiating as well as playing.
Within community grass-roots sport, the motivations for involvement in non-playing roles include networking, having a child playing the sport, as well as other extrinsic benefits such as awards and recognition from others [14,15,16,17]. Other key drivers to their involvement include a general interest in the sport, and a desire to help others or to give back to a club or community [14, 15]. In addition to the benefits of people in non-playing roles to run sports clubs, their participation can positively impact individuals. For example their involvement can provide a sense of belonging, sense of satisfaction, work-related experience, new relationships and an increased sense of self [14, 18, 19].
Involvement in non-playing roles in sport has historically been dominated by men (aged 35–54 years) with few women involved . The masculine hegemony in sport can influence how gender operates as an organising principle in leadership in sports organisations . As a result women are often overlooked for sports coaching, officiating and governance roles [20,21,22,23]. This is sometimes due to a presumption that women sports coaches do not have the same skillset and attributes as male coaches such as toughness, strength, competitiveness, aggressiveness and loudness, and opinions that women are incapable of coaching sport [21, 24]. Even within women’s sport, men are often the head coaches . A lack of role models for women in non-playing sports roles can hinder their involvement .
Recently, the importance of gender diversity in non-playing roles in sport from chief executive officers, board members through to coaches and officials has been highlighted by government and as such various policies and strategies have been developed and implemented [26,27,28]. For example, in Victoria, Australia there are numerous programs aimed at sports organisations tackling gender inequality on and off the playing field. This includes a Five Year Game Plan, which aims to encourage the sports sector to challenge gender stereotypes and encourage more women and girls to reach their full potential, and includes a range of initiatives including funding for female friendly sports infrastructure and quotas for women on boards . Another example of commitment to gender equality in sport policy is in New Zealand, which focuses on.
increasing female participation at all levels, in sport and recreation in addition to recognising the power that gender balance has to positively change social, economic and culture future of countries .
Given these recent government initiatives which focus on gender inclusive sports environments, the aim of this study is to investigate the proportions of women engaged in non-playing roles in sport over recent years.