Public Seminar: Sport, Sexism and the Law

Legal and cultural experts will discuss the continuing struggle by female athletes against discrimination at a Western Sydney University Public Seminar on Thursday 28 April, at the Collector Hotel in Parramatta.

The seminar comes against the backdrop of recent pay rises for Australian female athletes, including the Matilda's soccer team, which recently signed a new pay agreement after a protracted legal dispute.

Speakers at the conference:

  • Erin Riley (opens in a new window), sports journalist and author, will discuss the current situation for women athletes in Australia regarding pay, discrimination and harassment
  • Professor David Rowe, Western Sydney University sports sociologist, will outline the historical and social causes of sexism, and how this reflects Australian society more broadly
  • Associate Professor Belinda Smith (opens in a new window), Sydney University anti-discrimination lawyer, will discuss the legal framework around equality, and what falls within the scope of anti-discrimination law
  • Dr Thomas Hickie (opens in a new window), University of NSW sports lawyer, will outline how these issues play out in the courtroom

The organizer of the conference, Dr Catherine Renshaw from the Western Sydney University School of Law, says despite recent high-profile pay rises for female athletes, there is still much to be done.

"Women playing sport in Australia are confronted with numerous obstacles, which first emerge during their formative years when they are provided second rate facilities compared to boys," she says.

"As they progress to the ranks of professional athletes, they receive lower pay and less recognition. This treatment also extends to female sports commentators, as demonstrated by the well publicised sexist remarks by international cricketer Chris Gayle to presenter Mel McLaughlin."

Professor David Rowe, from the Institute for Culture and Society, is currently researching cultural citizenship and sport in Australia for an Australian Research Council project.

"During the late-19th century sport came to define masculinity itself, and when sport transformed into a major industry and a pivotal element of broadcast media in the 20th century, it became even harder for women to make inroads into it," says Professor Rowe.

"As such, women have been allocated predominantly supporting organisational roles, while sportswomen have received generally inequitable recognition, media attention and remuneration."

"Systematic sex and gender marginalisation and discrimination in sport bring the law into play, but it is questionable how effective it can be in challenging a long-established culture of male supremacy and sporting bodies that fiercely defend their territory."


20 April 2016

Mark Smith, Senior Media Officer