• Gender equity: The power of male champions of change

    13m 35s

    Kate Jenkins, Play by the Rules Co-Chair and Sex Discrimination Commissioner, talks about Gender Equity and the Power of Male Champions of Change. 

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Facilitator: Our next speaker is the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, also from the Australian Human Rights Commission to talk about gender equity - the power of male champions of change in sport. Please welcome Kate Jenkins.

Kate: Thank you very much and also thank you to Perry who has had to sneak out for that beautiful welcome and I also pay my respects to the Elders of the Warrangeri people and to any Aboriginal people here today. Thank you.

Great to hear Tim and in terms of sport talking about racism, we know sexism and we also know homophobia, a real focus which is why the Human Rights Commission is really interested in this issue and why we’re very supportive of this conference.

Last year in the Herald Sun there was a title of an article by Rita Panahi - the title was ‘AFL should stop politics and just play the game’ and the first line was ‘The AFL has to decide whether it wants to be Australia’s premier sporting code or a vehicle for socially progressive change’. She’s not the only one who has expressed those sentiments. I’m sure everyone in this room has heard this for your crazy PC madness and all the other things that are said about sporting codes and certainly there is a question on gender equality about sport. We do see examples of sexism, sexual harassment; we know there are very few Journalists. We know that women don’t get to play some of them. If they do they get less pay. They have poorer facilities. They’re not in leadership roles so there are some things here that are a bit worrying in terms of sexism and sport but the reality is the reason that everyone in this room is interested in sport is as Patty will talk about from our watch that we know change that we need in our community for a better community can be made or should be made in the high impact places and that includes where we live, work, play and learn and sport has such a huge reach in our community, at a grass roots level, at elite level, in people’s homes, on their television, at school, in the playground and on our community surfaces we know that we have such a connection with sport.

The other thing about sport as well is that in terms of gender equality and all the other types of diversity that we’re talking about today there is a massive business case for engaging a wider community in our sport. If nothing more until I got involved in sport I didn’t understand the word eyeballs but I know that means people watching sport, people participating in sports and people spending money for sport at sporting events through their communities is a really strong business case. So I get to that and then I say, “Is engaging half the population i.e. men to include the other half of the population, i.e. women really such a mad PC idea or the reality is it’s now recognised that it’s just good business sense and the right thing to do”.

That’s why I know in the recent times there is this huge momentum and it has become a really important priority for pretty much every sporting code I’ve come across with and dealt with in my current role and also as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner.

Now I recognise that sporting codes, Government, Sports Commissions across the country and a whole lot of other organisations are taking some really positive steps. There’s a mass of work going on but my topic today is to talk particularly about the engagement of men in advancement of equality and particularly gender equality so why men? There’s a bit of a debate about this. Women have been plugging away hard for women to be recognised as equals for a very long time and now ‘te da!’ men have arrived but the practical reality is that in our current system men hold significant numbers of the positions of influences, they’re coaches and they’ve really got the positions of power to really drive some change.

I also know that they have the power to change the systems that might create barriers for a diverse community and they have the influence to change attitudes. They I think in more recent times now understand the problems or the negative impacts of non-including diversity and also understand those benefits as I mentioned and the reality is that engaging men is really helping them join women who have also been really interested in advancing gender equality because inequality is a community-wide issue not a women’s problem.

So I just wanted to give you four examples in sport of how male champions are operating, what they’re doing - just to get you up to-date to what’s going on so the four examples - I’ll start with the group so Liz Broderick commenced this initiative called Male Champions of Change with the idea of gathering groups of CEOs together to step up beside women and listen, learn and then take some action to actually get results and in the Victorian group that I pulled together which includes people like NAB and AFL in particular I decided I wanted Gillon McLachlan on that group. I think Liz who’s a Sydney-sider - well she said, “Why do you need this sport?” but I know because I’m a Victorian that Gillon is that kind of man of men in some of the sporting world.

Now in reality that group of men have come together for a year now and have learnt a lot about what are the challenges and barriers as well as what are the benefits but just to flag for you two or three things that I know in the last 12 months I’ve seen Gillon do that I think has helped change the conversation and it is because of his position that he’s been able to have that influence. One thing would be last year when Gillon McLachlan announced or informed the Carbone Club that they couldn’t have the privilege of hosting their Brownlow Lunch every year if they continued to be a male only club. He certainly didn’t say “You have to not be a male only club” but he said it doesn’t match the values that we work towards so you might know that this year they did not host that lunch. He’s obviously been a key driver behind getting the women’s competition up and running and the motivation to do that with the competition quickly scrambling to catch up with his vision has been to really say, “We just need to get on and do this”

Another example that I saw was in the what is now called the Eddie McGuire incident - the bath dunking discussion on media - my view is he came out really clearly after that happened to really try and articulate why this isn’t a joke and why it matters so there were lots of debates about the consequence but from my point of view what he did was he didn’t say, “It’s a joke”. He actually said, “This is not a joke and we need to change our thinking about these issues” which I thought was really positive.

Second is Liz Broderick has actually gathered together a group of male champions of change who are specifically in elite sports so that includes swimming, basketball, ARU, tennis, the Sports Commission, Collingwood, Richmond, St Kilda, the Melbourne Stars and the Sydney Sixers so those organisations have specific initiatives that they’re putting in place.

The third I was going to talk about was something close to home for me. I’m also on the Board of Carlton, the football club and I was asked to join there really part of their recognition on how badly they were doing on some of their diversity programs but also particularly with women. This example is not to say, “Look what I did when I got there” because in fact me joining the Board was part of them trying to rectify their problems of both the reputation and history of really being a boy’s club and so over the last 12 months it is an example for me of where you have the commitment of the CEO and the Chair - both men to really make a change on something that they saw as important. They certainly wanted and worked really hard to get the women’s team that they got - the license but as well as that they did a whole lot of other things that really would be seen in a sporting sense as unnecessary. They got Kristy McKellar a Family Violence Advocate to come and speak to the club. As a result of that the club decided to do a Carlton Respects Campaign, an awareness campaign and a community program targeting family violence in multicultural communities. They’ve engaged with our watch to improve their policies and procedures; they’ve changed their own parental leave policy. They’ve held a forum specifically to hear what the views of women are. They’ve made sure their key Journalist is a woman. 

They’ve believe it or not got a female mascot. I had nothing to do with it but it has been recognised that it recognises our fans aren’t all connecting with Captain Carlton. They’ve increased numbers of female staff, Senior Managers, Board Members and in fact membership so for me that’s a really simple example of when you get the commitment how many things can happen in really a 12 month period.

The last example I wanted to give you which I think is the sleeper for sport and it’s also the huge opportunity which is that high profile players, male players have started becoming involved with issues that involve gender equality and I think those players as compared to other industries where you don’t have high profile influential individuals in the teams, those players’ voices can influence changes in attitudes like no others in some ways and particularly of young people so particularly just bringing three from the last couple of months that have started conversations going. So we know Jimmy Bartel in the last 12 months has really spoken very openly about his experience; childhood experience of family violence and that was recognised at the Brownlow Medal. That advocacy has been really important to start shifting the conversation and to inform a whole lot of people that perhaps might not have understood the impacts of family violence.

Jobe Watson - little thing but did everyone see his cap when he came out and said he was coming back to Essendon - it had feminist on it and I know most people would have been listening to what he was saying but I was looking thinking that’s really interesting. There is a really interesting change in the message there.

The other one that I really liked recently was Andy Murray at the Rio Olympics when he was told, “Wow, isn’t it fantastic. You’re the only person who has ever won two gold medals in tennis”, he just said, “Oh I think Serena and Venus have each won four” and the interview - you know he was there and it really showed that underlying assumption that sport is about men and that women are something different.

So in closing I would like though to particularly recognise the many female champions of change who have been working many many years to get us to this point in time that we’re at where there’s huge momentum for change; where the LGBTIQ community is beginning to feel engaged and involved in sporting events where women are getting the opportunity to play sports and in many cases be paid in a better way than they have in the past and as I look at this issue what I know is engaging men is not at the expense of those people but in recognition of the huge contribution they’ve made and so I’m conscious as I finish there’s a lot of really great women to think about but just in terms of high profile we know Kate Palmer is getting recognition at netball, Layne Beachley but I would in closing like to recognise the important contribution Rebecca Wilson has made given her sad passing that we learnt about today. She has been a real path breaker as have a number of women Journalists to show that women are involved in sport, they do have perfectly important views and they can mix it with the best of them.

Thank you.