Time to end 'fundamental bias' against women's sport: Virginia Haussegger

The Capitals saw their crowds jump to sell out levels at the end of last year. Picture: Marina Neil
The Capitals saw their crowds jump to sell out levels at the end of last year. Picture: Marina Neil

ACT Australian of the year Virginia Haussegger has called for an end to "fundamental bias" and believes federal government intervention can be a trigger to change coverage of women's sport.

Haussegger will speak next week as part of a panel convened by the University of Canberra to discuss the lack of coverage of female athletes and how it can be improved in the future.

The WNBL and W-League basketball and soccer competitions are well established in Canberra, while the ACT Meteors begin their women's cricket campaign this week.

The WNBL will launch its season at Parliament House on Wednesday, while the Australian Opals will play against China at the AIS Arena on Thursday night.

But Haussegger, a director of the 50-50 by 2030 Foundation, said women's sport was still fighting to get the coverage it deserves.

Until we tackle really deeply entrenched gender bias, we're not really going to crack through.

Virginia Haussegger

Haussegger will join former Opals and Canberra Capitals coach Carrie Graf, WNBL all star Kelsey Griffin and The Canberra Times at the forum event.

"In gender equality terms we talk about the trickle-down effect," Haussegger said.

"It doesn't work. The research tells us that ... The problem is at the core, what is really behind the lack of representation of women in sport, is bias. Fundamental bias.

"People who ought to be supporting women's sport and covering it deep down don't believe the audience wants it.

"Until we tackle really deeply entrenched gender bias, we're not really going to crack through."

Haussegger also pointed to a lack of women being quoted in the media, particularly in sport.

"The research tells us that 34 per cent of quotes in news items in broadcast, radio or print, are by women," Haussegger said.

"It goes down in every industry. In sport, only five per cent of those quoted are female. It comes back to if you can't see it, you can't be it."

Kelsey Griffin won the grand final, WNBL and Capitals most valuable player awards last season. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Kelsey Griffin won the grand final, WNBL and Capitals most valuable player awards last season. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The Capitals will defend their WNBL title when they start their season on October 13 and Graf, now the team's director, hopes to take advantage of the hype created by sell-out crowds last year.

The Capitals had 4817 fans in the stands for game three of their grand final series against Adelaide last season, a massive jump from the average of between 1000 and 2000 during the regular season.

But Graf also hoped better television deals would boost the profile of female athletes and make them visible to a new generation.

"It takes some ballsy decision makers to see [women's sport] as a business opportunity," Graf said.

"To broadcast elite women's competition on free-to-air television and pay per view. But like anything, you need to invest in something to see it grow and then get a return.

"It's overtly obvious that there is an appetite for men, women, children to view elite female sporting contests on television.

"...To give you an example of the return on investment, over the last 12 months, there was report done across the whole Capitals season. There was $66 million worth of media exposure and advertising. If that's not return on investment, then what is?"

UNCOVER EVENT

Levelling the playing field: Women's sport in the media

September 26: A forum with Virginia Haussegger, Carrie Graf, Kelsey Griffin and The Canberra Times at Lucky's Speakesasy, QT from 6.30pm. Admission is free

This story Time to end 'fundamental bias' against women's sport: Haussegger first appeared on The Canberra Times.