International Women’s Day – Change Makers

International Women’s Day is an important day for us to highlight gender equity issues that exist in sport and wider society, and how with a focused effort we are transforming systems of inequality.

There are plenty of organisations and individuals that work every day to encourage more women and girls to get involved in sport. Their roles are extremely important in shaping the future of sport, and creating environments that are accessible, safe and equitable for all women and girls.

Football Victoria is one organisation that has a clear objective to increase the participation of women and girls in their sport. Their aim to reach 50:50 gender equity by 2027 is an important target, and one that would hopefully encourage many other organisations to follow.

Speaking to RSV, Football Victoria’s Executive Manager of Equity, Growth, and Inclusion, Karen Pearce OAM spoke about the organisation’s reasoning behind the objective.

“There was a realisation that there was a low participation rate for women and girls, and as we delved deeper into that we found it’s not just for player participation or coach and referee participation,” she explained.

“It delves right into volunteers, committee structures, [and] leadership positions. So, it’s across the entire realm of life, and [we’re] making sure that we’re not just enabling women and girls to play, but providing a place for them to belong or play and be involved in whichever way they would like to.”

Karen also spoke about how important it is to her that she can encourage involvement in sport from women and girls, and her hopes for where these efforts will lead in the future.

“I would love to be at the point where one day, my role doesn’t exist to be solely focused on [these issues]. To me that would be absolutely ideal… It would be fabulous one day if we don’t have to talk about equity, we don’t have to talk about diversity, we don’t have to talk about inclusive practice. We just do it,” she said.

“That would be extremely exciting to actually see that come to fruition. It does drive me. It’s part of why I get up every morning, and that’s a nice way to be. But, we’ve got a lot of work to do.

Another person who advocates heavily for involvement of women and girls in sport, is senior coach of Sale United FC Anouk Meereboer.

Holding such a senior position at the club, Anouk is a perfect example of someone who has worked hard to get into the position she is in, and has been acknowledged for the work she puts in each day.

Speaking to RSV, Anouk explained what International Women’s Day means to her, and how important it has been to have the support of those around her upon becoming senior coach.

“It is important to highlight certain things that people might not be aware of, or aren’t used to. Having a day like this to highlight the issues and make people aware of it [is important]. Without being aware of it, you can’t change it,” she said.

“It is awesome to get that support from the club, and from the players as well. Realising that it doesn’t matter if you are male or female when becoming head coach [is important]. Getting that support from the club makes [the achievement] even more special for me.”

Much like Karen, Anouk is in a position where she is able to encourage women and girls to break gender barriers and pursue their dreams in sport. Her involvement in the facilitation of programs such as GO Girls and GO Soccer Mums, are key examples of the important work she does.

Anouk spoke about the two programs which aim to increase involvement from women and girls. She also highlighted what it means to be someone who is able drive change in a male-dominated field.

“Getting the GO Girls and GO [Soccer] Mums up and running, I just felt a need to get more females around the club, that is really important. I think having a good mixture of females and males around the club improves the culture overall,” she explained.

“Providing the opportunity for females, doesn’t matter what level they are, to train and play and be involved at a club is really important.”

Anouk also went on to elaborate on some of the things that Sale United FC are doing as a club to further initiate change.

“[We’re doing] a range of things. Me and the president Tom Breakspear are currently being a part of ‘Change Makers’ with Football Victoria, the club has assigned a female vice president this year, and as well from a media point of view, one of our women’s players is working at the Gippsland Times and for her to be involved and able to promote females is extra [important],” she explained.

“It’s a team effort… it’s not just one or two things, it’s [everyone] from coaches, to community members, to volunteers, the media, the players. Everybody is involved to make it happen.”

While Karen and Anouk are just two individuals who are leading the charge, so much is being done across the sporting landscape. The importance of their work cannot be understated, and the hope is that more will follow in their footsteps and fight for change.

RSV is proud to be collaborating alongside Football Victoria and Victoria University to deliver the Change Makers program. Change Makers has been established with the aim to help sporting clubs improve their gender equality practices through guided workshops and dedicated, ongoing support. The Change Makers program is supported by the Victorian Government.

For more information on the program, click here

To seek further information regarding Change Makers please contact