Women in sport: Sharp increase in female sport board representation


Female participation in rugby league has nearly tripled since 2016. Photosport

Female voices in governance have been amplified across the sport and recreation sector, with the number of Sport NZ partner organisations achieving the board gender equity target rising from just over half in 2018 to 91 percent in 2021.

The target was developed to support the Government’s 2018 Strategy for Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation.

Of Sport NZ’s 64 eligible partner organisations, 58 have met the target of 40 percent self-identified women on their boards. The remaining six have until 31 December this year to become compliant. Sport NZ is working with them, as they continue to work towards the target.

The target applies to partners who receive more than $50,000 of annual investment.

On the third anniversary of the strategy, Sport NZ Chief Executive Raelene Castle says the organisation is grateful for the way the sector has supported the initiative and worked hard to make positive change.

 Sport NZ Chief Executive Raelene Castle. Photosport
Sport NZ Chief Executive Raelene Castle. Photosport

“This initiative has proven that if targets are introduced in the right way, and the right support is given to organisations to achieve them, they can be incredibly successful.

“It is so important that all boards right throughout our sector reflect the community they serve. Better decisions are made when there are more diverse voices in the room.”

New Zealand Rugby League is one of the organisations which has already met the target. Chair Hugh Martyn says the diversity on its board strengthens decision making by bringing greater perspective and representation to the table.

“Female participation in rugby league has nearly tripled since 2016. 50 percent of our internal staff and 60 percent of our executive team identify as female, and we are encouraged by growing female representation across our grassroots sporting committees.”

“However, we are not there yet. We remain committed to continuing to work towards greater diversity and representation across all levels of the game.”

The benefits of the board gender equity initiative mean there will be consequences for non-compliance. If a board is not on the way to achieving gender diversity by the end of 2021, Sport NZ will consider actions which include reduced funding.

Sport NZ will continue to assist any organisation which needs help achieving the gender equity target. This includes access to a pool of almost 200 women with the capability to serve on national, district, zone and or regional boards identified through Sport NZ’s work with Appoint Better Boards on the Women in Governance Talent Pool.

“The Women in Governance Talent Pool is a fantastic asset and I’d urge any organisation looking for female representation to take advantage of it,” says Castle.

“Sport NZ is not the only organisation championing diversity, and we will be sharing the story of our sector with others, so they can be inspired to start their own journey towards board gender equity.”

The board gender equity policy was one of 24 commitments made by Sport NZ in 2018 in response to the Government’s Women and Girls in Active Recreation and Sport Strategy.

Other highlights of Sport NZ’s achievement against the strategy over the past three years include:
– 60 women across 12 codes taking part in a Women in High Performance Sport pilot designed to address under-representation of women in coaching and leadership roles
– 62 percent of coaches selected on the Coaching for Impact programme, for coaches working with secondary school age athletes, were women.
– $2 million to support nine projects funded under the Activation Fund for Young Women to amplify existing participation projects or initiatives.
– One third of all New Zealand sports coverage is being analysed in a two year study to understand gender balance in sports media coverage and sports reporting.
– First Diversity and inclusion Survey conducted across workforce and governing boards with 1700 individuals across 154 organisations taking part.

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