Realising potential as confident leaders
A Women Leaders in Sport grant has helped staff at Bowls Australia (BA) improve their decision making skills and gave them confidence and enthusiasm to become stronger leaders.
BA operations and HR manager Meghan Albert said the organisation used its Women Leaders in Sport organisation grant to fund a female leadership program course for five of its female staff members. BA also paid for two national squad members — touted as potential future Australian captains — to participate in the two-day course.
Meghan described it as ‘an incredible experience’.
‘You don’t often get time to reflect on your own true path and how you react with others,’ she said.
The course focussed on the unique challenges women encounter in sport leadership positions and delves into leadership styles.
Many of the participants said they valued the extra tools they gained to boost confidence, improve communication skills and set goals for the future.
‘One of the things I took away was that you apologise for your existence when you’re a female in a male dominated environment,’ Meghan said. ‘It’s about improving your confidence.’
Facilitating the course and setting time aside to work on development had fostered a stronger support network within the organisation, and helped them feel more comfortable in their work.
Meghan said BA was embracing gender diversity throughout the organisation, both from an administration and sport participation point of view. Chief executive officer Neil Dalrymple had become an ambassador for promoting the benefits of gender diversity brought to sporting organisations.
‘I think we’re becoming a leader in that space. Holistically we’re embracing [gender diversity], our board is a really good example of that — five out of nine board members are female,’ Meghan said.
Meghan also spoke highly of the Australian Sports Commission’s sport leadership workshop – a requirement for all Women Leaders in Sport grant recipients.
‘It was an amazing group of women who were willing to share their experiences and offer advice to those of us who are in the infancy of our sport administration careers.’
She encouraged all sports to look into the Women Leaders in Sport programme and find opportunities to benefit their organisations.
Since the workshop, several of the participants have made positive steps in their careers, including Meghan who started a new role as general manager at Vicsport in September 2015.
Networking and support valuable tools in promoting the benefits of gender balance in sport
Women Leaders in Sport grant recipient Heather Reid says networking, mentoring and encouraging women to ‘have a go’ are important ways to improve the number of women in leadership roles in Australian sport.
Having been a driver for better gender balance in sport for 34 years, the Canberra-based Capital Football Chief Executive Officer put her grant towards travel for several education and networking opportunities, including attending the sixth International Working Group (IWG) on Women and Sport in Helsinki in 2014.
Heather said the conference enabled her to stay up to date with the latest policies and strategies to improve the status of women in sport and build and maintain networking contacts around the world.
She said there were two main issues facing women in sport — increasing the number of women in leadership positions, and the need to support and mentor these women. Addressing the gender imbalance on boards was for the benefit of organisations as a whole.
“I continue to say that these are not just women’s issues — they are sport issues. It’s about more diversity of people around the board room,” she said. “It’s not a male versus female thing.”
She said champions of industry were already realising that diversity helped improve performance and productivity, so men and women should be aiming to increase the number of women leaders in sport.
“Men can become champions of change … if men are the spokespeople for change, rather than just women, we will see attitudes shift.”
Promotion of women in sport and women’s events also had to improve in order to benefit sport as a whole.
The recent FIFA Women’s World Cup had highlighted the gap between men’s and women’s sport in the public eye, and increasing awareness of the lack of media coverage for women’s sport and pay disparities was key to changing attitudes.
While the potential demise of ABC TV’s coverage of the W-League and WNBL had been disappointing, it was encouraging to see sports like cricket and the AFL investing more in women’s competitions.
“The willingness of national sporting organisations to accept that more funding and more investment in the women’s game will enhance the whole sport is encouraging,” Heather said.
One opportunity for women’s sport in the future lay in embracing new technology and finding ways to deliver live coverage and content into people’s homes via their smartphones or computers.
“Looking beyond the traditional media is important - the days of relying on local newspapers for coverage are fading.”
For women hoping to move into leadership roles, Heather said financial literacy, good governance knowledge and a good mentoring network were important.
“Everybody on a board needs to be able to interpret financial statements and understand constitutions … there are many skills required to be a good company director.”
But qualifications alone were not the way to increase the number of women on boards – a cultural change was needed to have boards more open to a more diverse range of directors.
As well as the Helsinki conference, Heather also completed a 5 day residential Governance course and presented a paper on mentoring at the FREE – Football Research for an Enlarged Europe conference at the University of Copenhagen in 2013.
Having finished the program, she hoped there would be more opportunities to get together with other grant recipients and perhaps share some experiences with the new inductees.