Sport sector study reveals gender pay gaps, ageing workforce

Respondents said poor salary is a barrier to progression

Sport sector study reveals gender pay gaps, ageing workforce

A new study on sports organisations across New Zealand has revealed a gender pay gap that’s unfavourable to women, as males dominate governance roles. The Diversity and Inclusion Survey 2020 sought the responses of 1,679 individuals from 154 national and regional organisations, to find out the situation of the relevant companies in diversity, equity, engagement, and inclusion.

One of the key findings of the study is the 15% gender pay gap between women and men, and a nine per cent differential in median income between NZ European and Maori. In terms of specific role types, males at the chief executive level receive a higher median income and a higher media hourly rate.

While there is a bigger number of women in paid roles, more men are in position of governance roles, such as chief executives, high performance directors, high performance coaches, as well as coach/sport development managers.

"Overall, the sector's workforce reflects the wider adult population by gender, but there is a male skew in governance and four of the seven leadership role types," the study read.

The respondents said they believe that poor salary is "the most common barrier to progression," with females more likely to see such barrier in the sector than males. On the other hand, nearly one-third of the respondents said COVID-19 is a sector barrier. 

Read more: Government launches plan to close gender pay gap

In addition, women are also less likely to agree that their organisation is committed to practices on diversity and inclusion, according to the study, while disabled people are less likely to agree that they are treated fairly.

Despite this, more than 90% of the sector's workforce agrees that they feel safe at work, while majority agree that they are treated fairly and receive support from colleagues. There is also a higher number of gay or lesbian employees in the workforce compared to heterosexuals.

Only one-seventh of the workforce reported experiencing discrimination, harassment, or bullying in their current workplace in the past year, but those with ongoing mental illness or impairment are more likely to have experienced such workplace issues.

Meanwhile, the study also revealed an ageing workforce, with the sector "over-represented by ages 35 to 54."

"While those aged 55 years or more make up 24% of the sector's workforce and 32% of New Zealand's working age population, they account for 48% of Board Chairs and 43% of other board members," it added.

There is also an under-representation of Asian and Pacific ethnicities, with the sector's workforce skewed towards those born in New Zealand. Maori are over-represented in the workforces of Regional Sports Trusts and Territorial Authorities, while NZ European are more likely to be in leadership roles.

"Age, gender, and ethnicity are the three dimensions where improvements are likely to make significant impact, as there is recurring difference that these dimensions differentiate experience," the study read.

Read more: Kiwi employers admit age bias

Raelene Castle, Sport NZ chief executive officer, said in a statement that the study can help offer insights on the ongoing situation on the sector.

"Much of what the survey tells us doesn’t come as a surprise, but it gives us line of sight into the current state of the sector. As a collective we can advance discussions around under-representation and jointly develop strategies to improve," said Castle in a statement.

She added that the organisation will continue supporting the sector to "address equity issues and champion the benefits of diversity" in the workforce.

"With this information we can now work within our own organisation, and with others across the sector, to build a more diverse and inclusive landscape," said Castle.

The study the first of the three ones conducted by the agency. The survey to be repeated in 2022 and 2024, according to Sport NZ, so the trends can be identified, and progress can be monitored overtime.

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