From the Sideline to CEO: An Investigation into Women, Leadership Roles and Australian Rugby League

Gabriella Hotham

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Over the past few decades, there has been an increase in female participation in sport; however women remain significantly under-represented in management, coaching and officiating, particularly at the highest levels of sport (Sundstrom, 2012). Research in the field of sport and gender equality has identified barriers that have inhibited women’s progression to elite level sports leadership (Blom et al., 2011; Norman, 2010a). Little is known, however about the experiences and perspectives of women carrying out these roles and in particular, those involved in rugby league. This thesis highlights the lived experiences and perspectives of 30 women working and volunteering in leadership positions, such as coaches, board members, trainers, strappers, officials, exercise scientists and administrators in elite and sub-elite rugby league competitions in Australia. Using research methods such as in-depth interviews and thematic analysis, this thesis investigates the traditionally male dominated environment of rugby league and whether women are welcomed, included, and respected within this space. The extent to which elite and sub-elite rugby league competitions practice gender equality is also explored. The participants of this study shared experiences where both subtle and explicit forms of sexism were evident within the workplace. However, participants also felt motivated to continue their careers within rugby league despite experiencing hostile and unwelcoming behaviours from male colleagues and athletes. As such, by adopting an organisational culture lens and third-wave feminism perspective, this research concluded that the environment of elite and sub-elite rugby league competitions in Australia are simultaneously empowering and oppressive for women involved in leadership positions.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Litchfield, Chelsea, Principal Supervisor
  • Osborne, Jaquelyn, Co-Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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