• Shayne Leslie

Getting the Board and CEO gender diversity conversation to stick

When the history of women’s sport in Australia is being written a decade or more from now, 2017 will be remembered as a pivotal year – women in AFL, the Matildas, Women's Rugby Sevens, Southern Stars. (Missing… the W-NRL).

Same, too, with women in films with the three most popular movies of 2017 in North America all featuring female actors in their lead roles – Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Wonder Woman, and Beauty and the Beast. Women saving the galaxy, the world… and their dad.

These changes to the sporting and entertainment landscape have been bubbling under the surface for decades. Manifesting change took dedicated effort and planning. There was a tipping point where the efforts of legions of men and women behind the scenes as well as government policy and programs finally converted into participation, fans, and broadcasting success.

This is where the diversity conversation gets stuck for the NSW Club Industry. There are not enough women in the top echelons of management and club boards to get the diversity conversation to stick.

Is the weight of older gents in positions of wealth and power preventing gender diversity from happening in NSW clubs?

Take these broad statistics;

  • The top 20 NSW clubs earn over $1Billion in revenue between them

  • The top 20 NSW clubs have NO female CEOs and NO female chairs or vice-presidents

  • The top 20 NSW clubs have 10 female directors out of 150 (or 6.6%)

  • Over half of the top 20 NSW clubs have NO female directors

  • There are only 2 women CEOs in the top 100 clubs

  • There are only 6 women CEOs in the top 200 clubs

  • Across the industry, there are 20 female directors for every 100 male directors

  • Across the industry, there are 17 female CEOs for every 100 male CEOs, mostly in small clubs

When people ask why there are few women applying for directorships and CEO positions in the club industry, we point to these numbers. The statistics do not provide good odds if you’re a woman thinking of building a board or management career in the club industry. Many talented women take roles outside the club-CEO pathway due to a lack of opportunity and become consultants. Or they leave the industry.

These achingly skewed statistics suit many men in positions of power and influence in the club industry, and that contributes to a general non-commitment in practice to gender diversity.

We believe the $1Billion Club, that is the top 20, have a serious role to play in disrupting the club boardroom. This includes the four RSLs who are in this top 20, and the ten or so other RSLs that are just outside the top 20… who, by the way, all have male CEOs and presidents.

Success today is because of strategic planning and implementation in the past. For those clubs that do have a strategy, many have not considered ‘leadership and governance’ as a critical strategic driver, including deliberate volunteer and paid workforce development that supports promoting women to leadership positions.

There are not enough female voices to provide new perspectives, new ideas, new thinking in the industry, in associations, on regional committees, and in the local boardroom.

The answer isn’t more token events for women, or grants, or appointing attractive and smart young ‘millennial’ women to a board of otherwise older men.

It is having the awareness to call out self-selection at election time, poor behaviour in the boardroom, and bias in decision-making. It is investing cash into the board nominations and recruitment process. It is committing to robust and non-bias recruitment for CEOs and managers beyond a copy-and-paste ad on the web.

But why would you do it? If these top clubs are doing well, why change?

Ten years ago, you would have said, why have women's AFL? Why have a female Big Bash League? Who wants to see women saving the galaxy?

Clubs claim to be for the community. Back that claim by being representative of the community. Increase female participation, and, like sports and entertainment have discovered, a new world of community participation - and revenue - will follow.

Women aren't there to represent 'all other women', and they are not there as ethical gatekeepers or to keep the boys 'behaving'.

Research has consistently shown a skilled gender-diverse board will outperform a board whose members share the same gender and background. While I have met competent female and male directors, indeed, some women on club boards I have met are as ineffectual as some of their male counterparts!

Integrated Governance’s role in the RSLSA’s Fit for 2020 program is to ensure that your Club is flexible, dynamic, and adaptable from governance to strategy to leadership.

We’re ready to help boards and CEOs who are ready to disrupt their governance and leadership, their strategic approach, and their management hierarchy and unconscious biases.

This year, talk to us about your Nominations and Elections program, Applied Director Training, and your Governance and Leadership Strategy. Succession planning can take years to show results, so we encourage you to start in 2018.


#board #attractingboardmembers #boardsuccession #disruption #governance

Phone: 1300 76 22 38
ABN: 54114140251

Address: Head Office, Gosford, New South Wales, Australia

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