Three codes and a podcast: Chloe Dalton's tireless quest to help progress women in sport

For AFLW midfielder and Olympic gold medalist, Chloe Dalton, the days leading into and following International Women's Day are the busiest of her year. Interview requests and speaking gigs from around Australia fly in, as journalists and media groups pile up to hear her stories and her thoughts on the growth of women's sport.

Over the last two years, Dalton has become one of the biggest faces in Australian women's sport, not necessarily for her exploits on the field, but following the launch of her podcast the [female] athlete project.

A triple code athlete, Dalton has played elite basketball in the WNBL, won a gold medal in Rugby 7s at the Rio Olympics, and in 2019 made the transition to Aussie rules playing in the AFLW. She's been in and around the elite sporting environment for close to a decade and it was here that she noticed the inequality; the lack of resources, the lack of funding and essentially a lack of respect for female athletes.

It's how the [female] athlete project was born.

"It's really interesting, International Women's Day has become my busiest week of the year now because I put myself in that position, both as a female athlete, but someone who's campaigning for gender equality, particularly in the sports space," Dalton said ahead of International Women's Day.

"I think I've had a really unique experience as an athlete where I've played across three different professional sporting codes, starting in basketball going across to rugby sevens and now playing in the AFLW and a really big part of my experience as a female athlete has been many comments along the way and a different level of access to resources, funding, equipment and a whole range of different things that have often felt quite frustrating as an athlete and this feeling of not being able to do something about the inequalities that exist."

The podcast started small with Dalton talking with her former Australian sevens teammate Ellia Green, before it quickly grew to feature fellow Olympians, star footballers, netballers and athletes across all codes talking about their journeys to become the best in their sport.

Weekly wrap-ups of the latest events in women's sport were produced, the podcast's Instagram blew up with tens of thousands of fans following the page and listening to her discussions. A clothing line was developed with the t-shirt emblazoned 'women don't play sport' becoming one Dalton's most popular sellers. Everything done to break down barriers and change the sporting space for women and in the process has made her one of the faces of change.

"I think for me, I really carried the weight of the role and the responsibility I have as an athlete. When I was at rugby sevens the chance to be an ambassador for OurWatch, which is the organization for the promotion of gender equality for the prevention of domestic violence, and I think throughout that training process I just really saw how huge sport is in Australian culture in being able to shape and change people's attitudes," she told ESPN.

"So I think I've got a pretty incredible platform to be able to do that and part of the [female] athlete project, I guess the growth of that it's been really amazing to see the way that we can get so many more people on board supporting that cause.

"I wanted to have a space where I could share these athletes' stories, 'cause I think that's a really powerful tool in engaging people and bringing people on board and since then, the platform's really grown and expanded.

"We want to make it a place that provides really easy to access information to some really cool things that female athletes are achieving."

Striking a balance between her AFLW commitments and the growth of her sports media empire has been hard, often meaning Dalton has to shelve some of her big goals and ideas, but it hasn't slowed her down or the growth of her project, with the 28-year-old using her platform's visibility to continue to make change in sport and especially #BreaktheBias, the theme for International Women's Day.

"The breaking the bias theme for me, I've looked back to when I was a little kid and I think there's been so many different messages whether it was things that were spoken aloud or just really subtle things that were portrayed to me and the way I've been treated as a female athlete that reinforced this idea that girls and women are seen as lesser than and do not deserve the same opportunities as boys and men," she told ESPN.

"For me breaking the bias is all about changing that idea that women are seen as less or that it's about putting things in place to actually give equal opportunity equal access equal rights equal.

"Funding girls and women at a grassroots level in the sporting context so that when they get to the professional level when we're so often compared to the men to actually put these things in place really early, and I think that obviously applies in a whole range of industries, not just sport.

"That's the beautiful thing about sport, it does have the ability to shape the way people see these athletes, and if people watch us go out and we play an amazing game of footy for someone who might have held this preconceived idea about what female athletes' talent and skill is like and they watch us perform, and that was one of my favorite things about the Rio 2016 Olympics with the rugby sevens team was that we changed a lot of people attitudes about how well women can play rugby and so many people got on board. So I think sport has an incredible ability to do that."

Asked what her one wish for women's sport is going into the future, Dalton needed no time to think, equality is all she's after.

"In the future of women's sport, I would love for female athletes to be treated equally; to have equal access to training, to be employed full time, to be professional athletes, to be covered equally in the media, to be spoken about, for them to be household names and for the same investment to be put in at a grassroots level to allow them to continue to grow the game."