Body of evidence
The report by the Commission on the Future of Women's Sport throws up a series of statistics that demand further examination, not just the headline fact that only one in five of those on the boards of our sporting governing bodies is a woman, and that a quarter of them don't have women on the board at all... (among them football, cycling and rugby union.)
Delve a little deeper, and there are several more arresting numbers. More than 80% of women, it is claimed, do too little physical activity to benefit their health. That's shocking.
Here's another: women's elite sport still only attracts 2% of sports media coverage.
That's a statistic produced by the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation in a recently published survey of the media.
It looked at the back pages on three separate days in March 2007, and discovered that on average, for every single article written about women's sport, there were 53 about men, and only 1% of all images in the pages of national newspapers were devoted to female athletes and women's sport (that would've been a lot higher if they'd looked at the red-tops during Wimbledon fortnight, but perhaps that's another story for another day).
The argument made at the time by the foundation is that young girls just like boys, need role models, and apart from the brainless portrayal of the wives and girlfriends (WAGS) as vapid clothes-horses, they're not seeing enough women in the sports media, and that includes on television and sports internet sites.
In the same survey, they looked at Sky Sports for a day: 72 hours of programming, three of them for women's sport. Of 10 sports news websites looked at, there were 367 links from the front page to articles, just five of which went to female sports, with not one image of a woman on the front pages of any of them.
Clearly, there's an imbalance throughout the structure of sport, and it's hard to disagree with the commission's concern in its latest findings, that this is threatening to lead to a huge missed opportunity ahead of the 2012 Olympics in London.
The women's sports market is the sector with the greatest potential for growth, but without more women in the boardroom, are those opportunities going to be seized? I guess the answer is no, if the status quo remains, so how to change things?
The urgings of such luminaries as Lord Triesman, the chairman of the Football Association, Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, the chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, Lord Coe, Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe and his shadow Hugh Robertson, at least reflect that fact that some have woken up and smelled the coffee.
All have spoken in support of the commission and its work: less encouraging is the report's own sober assessment of the barriers that still stand in the way: existing leaders reluctant to embrace change and foster female talent: institutionalised structures and recruitment processes: sport's 'macho' and inhospitable culture, and a vicious circle of under-representation.
Enlightenment is required, sport needs to look to the commercial world for best practice, and start making change a priority, not a dirty word.