With more money being poured into women’s sport in New Zealand, there could soon be push-back, Zoe George reports in this month’s Fair Play podcast.

A leading American sports academic has warned of a backlash following the announcement of a new $2.7 million fund for New Zealand women in elite sports leadership and coaching.

Minister for Sport Grant Robertson announced the new fund at the Women and Girls in Sport Summit in Wellington in October.

Only 19 percent of high-performance coaches in New Zealand are women, and the fund is to support more females onto that pathway.

The $2.7 million is on top of the $10 million the government committed to women’s sport last year.

Dr Nicole LaVoi, an academic based at the Tucker Institute – a leading research centre for girls and women in sport at the University of Minnesota – says when women are given funding, there’s often a lot of push-back.

LaVoi, who spoke at the Wellington summit, says internationally there is backlash coming from boys and men when they see resources, including millions of dollars, going towards women and girls in sport.

“They say ‘well, what about me? Now we’re being reversely discriminated against’. That to me is just… fake news,” LaVoi says.

“Boys and men are doing just fine, and they will continue to do just fine.”

She says it’s about giving resources and opportunities to “equal the playing field”.

“It’s not about taking it away from boys and men. That’s part of the narrative that we have to educate when we hear pushback on that.”

Sports primarily played by men and boys still receive large amounts of funding from Sport New Zealand. In the last three years, the male-heavy New Zealand Golf and New Zealand Rugby received $1.6 million each, while New Zealand Cricket was given $1.2 million.

Netball New Zealand, meanwhile, received $2.2 million in government funding over the last three years.

New Zealand is not alone in putting more funding towards boosting female sport. Canada recently committed $30 million to women in sport. “I think New Zealand and Canada are really on the leading edge of this movement,” LaVoi says.

Dr Nicole LaVoi says women’s sport needs the support of men. Photo: supplied. 

At the summit, which had more than 340 attendees, head of Sport NZ, Peter Miskimmin, thanked the men in the room for their participation. LaVoi says to move women’s sport forward, the support of men is essential.

“Men hold most of the positions of power and no social change movement happens without the people in power,” she says. “We need men. We need more male allies to be active in that social change movement.”

During her speech at the summit, LaVoi showed a continuum from “allies” to “men that are very hostile towards gender equality”. She challenged those in sport to consider bringing men who are interested in women’s sport into the fold.

“How do we bring… the men who actually want to get it right, but who are just afraid, or don’t want to say the wrong thing?” she says. “How do we move them to ‘ally’… so we can really work together to create change?

“We need the men, we absolutely need the men.”

Also on Fair Play this month: LockerRoom’s Suzanne McFadden co-hosts; Beatrice Faumuina discusses life after elite level sport; and Dr Rosalind Stanwell-Smith explains the importance of proper access to public toilets. Fair Play is a monthly podcast covering issues related to women in sport. It’s made in collaboration with RNZ, LockerRoom and WiSPSports.

Zo—ë George is a Radio New Zealand producer, and presenter of the Fair Play podcast, a co-production of RNZ and WiSP Sports.

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