Gender equity not achieved by token numbers at the top
After all these years, are two positions for women out of 16 the best the men running football can do?03 November 2017 | Bonita Mersiades
It was just one sentence tucked away towards the end of this report from AAP regarding the latest development in the FFA Congress saga.
The report noted that the proposal being bandied about by the FFA Board two days ago was that instead of their previously offered 9:4:1:1, the suggestion was 9:4:1:2 with the additional one Congress member being another woman.
The original '1' woman was to be selected by the 'professional' game, that is the A-League clubs and the PFA, while the new '2' woman was to be selected by the state federations.
Chairman of the Australian Professional Football Clubs' Association (APFCA), Greg Griffin, said the additional designated position was nothing but a “smokescreen” and another FFA Board tactic designed to hold the balance of power. What it would do to the 'formula' for decision-making on the Congress would be again to give the state federations 62.5% of the vote, which is what APFCA and the PFA want to avoid.
The fact that, almost 48 hours later, we've heard nothing official suggests there may not be sufficient support for 9:4:1:2 from the requisite number of other stakeholders either, for the FFA Board to institute Constitutional change.
And that's just as well - because two out of 16 is not anyone's definition of 'gender equity'.
Sure, two women on the FFA Congress is 200% more than is currently there - and that is not to be sneezed at - but cherry-picking two women who are already making their way towards the 'top' does not address the enormous gender imbalance in the game.
For a start, there are slim pickings. As we showed in earlier articles, only 22.6% of state federation Board members are women.
If the idea was to nominate one of the two designated positions from community football, for example, via state-based Women's Standing Committees, the pickings could be even slimmer.
Based on the state federations' websites, only three states have a Women's Standing Committee.
- NSW's committee has seven members, two of whom are women, and it's chaired by a man.
- Victoria has seven members, four of whom are women, with five vacancies.
- Western Australia has eight members, five of whom are women - one of whom with the same family name as the WA federation president which may be coincidental, it's chaired by a man, and it is uncertain whether it even meets.
- Although not mentioned on their website, we understand South Australia has one but it doesn't meet.
- Apparently, the other five state federations don't have a Women's Standing Committee.
Not that the A-League clubs and the PFA should be sniggering too hard. To the extent that it is possible to tell, only four of the 22 (18.2%) known A-League club Board members are women. PFA does better with one-third of their Board who are women.
But let's look further.
Of the 36 people who are chairpersons and CEOs of the state federations and the Australian A-League clubs, absolutely none are women.
Of the ten people who are currently members of the FFA Congress - and who are having these discussions and making these decisions - none are women.
The FFA Board was effectively forced into appointing two women, in addition to Moya Dodd, to its Board in recent years because of a requirement of the Australia Sports Commission tied to funding.
The AAFC - which is also hoping to have a seat at the FFA Congress - has only one woman Board member from eight positions.
All of this underscores a point.
Offering one, two, or even three or four positions on the FFA Congress for women will not do anything to change this.
The proposal for two designated positions on FFA Congress may be 'better than nothing', but if football is to really do something to advance the role of women in the game, it needs to be addressed on a structural and systemic basis within FFA, within state federations, within A-League clubs and broader club-land so there is a larger pool of women involved in the game at all levels.
FFA and state federation constitutions should be changed to give women more opportunities to hold a leadership role. For example, a requirement for at least (say) 40% of positions on state federation boards to be women; a requirement within A-League licenses for a similar number; and a requirement for at least 40% of positions within AAFC clubs to be held by women within a three-year timeframe.
When it comes to ‘gender equity', two positions from 16 passes no test. It’s 1980s tokenism, and it’s not good enough in 2017.
If the state federations and the A-League clubs are serious about gender equity, they will look hard and long at their own administrations, fix their constitutions, bring in some genuine and long lasting reform and change in their own organisations, and demand the same of each other and at FFA.
And then watch women rise through the ranks to challenge on their own merits. Given the opportunity, that’s what we’ll do.
ffa congress, a-league, gender equality