Board Volunteers – How Women Leaders Can Help Shape the Future of Sport

2018’s list of the world’s highest paid athletes published by Forbes this week has no women in the top 100. This is a stark reminder that the significant gender pay gap in global sport is reflective of a much broader societal problem needed to be addressed by leaders across the world.  

UK Government is now putting pressure on businesses to become gender representative, and public funders such as Sport Wales are also continuing to encourage their partners to make sure their boards recognise the impact of gender inequality and the need for diversity of representation.

The Welsh Sports Association has partnered with Acorn Executive Search to support WSA members in finding the right candidates with the right skills for their voluntary board positions. As Director for Acorn’s Executive Search Division, Jan Hughes (pictured) explains the benefits for women looking to advance their careers through joining a board:

“With over 30 years’ experience of leading and working with a variety of businesses, I’ve seen how far women have come to take a seat in the boardroom. With 25% of FTSE 350 board members being female – set to increase to 30% by 2020 – it’s all going in the right direction, but let’s not stop there.

“Becoming a voluntary board member is a fantastic route for anyone, male or female, to achieve further experience, confidence and contacts to support your long-term career goals. It’s becoming clearer that diversity at a senior level is having a tangible impact for businesses, with various studies supporting an increase in overall business performance, productivity and profitability – so now’s the time to seize these opportunities and see how far they can take you.”

To celebrate the end of Volunteers Week 2018, we have spoken to a number of women who give their time to serve on sports boards about their positive experiences. We hope that it will inspire others to consider how they can use their experience and leadership skills to support the growth of sport, whilst developing their own careers, by volunteering on the board of a sports organisation in Wales:

  • Siobhan Corria has been Head of Inclusion at Action for Children, one of the UK’s longest running children’s charities, since March 2014. She has also worked for several years within the Youth Justice field and is a qualified Social Worker. When asked what motivated her to consider a board role with the Welsh Amateur Boxing Association (WABA) she said:

‘When I saw the advert for a Non-Executive Member for WABA, I knew I had to apply.  Firstly, I absolutely love boxing and the confidence it can build in young people, and how it can positively impact on whole communities.  Secondly, I knew I had the skills, experience and confidence to support WABA in its safeguarding and equalities work.  It is so important to have a diversity of experience, opinions and backgrounds on a board as this brings new and creative ways of making decisions, challenging the status quo and ensuring the board is supporting WABA. 

“I really enjoy using my professional skills to support WABA.  I really feel like I am contributing and also that Board members look to me for my expertise.  The time commitment is what you want it to be.  I have two children but I fit my WABA work in around them and my full time job and other interests. 

“I think that if you are passionate about something then you make the time and are determined to the best possible job you can.  I would actively encourage women and people from all walks of life to seek out Board positions for organisations that you are interested in.  Give it a go!”.

  • Charly Wathan is the WRU’s National Women & Girls Engagement Manager. A former lecturer, she has a research and insight specialism and has worked with the national charity StreetGames, where she experienced first-hand the real impact that volunteering has on improving lives:

“As someone who has been involved personally and professionally across the sport and physical activity sector for about as long as I can remember,  I have seen, worked with and been supported by the army of volunteers that undoubtedly hold up our sector and facilitate the wonderful experiences we have called ‘sport’.

“When I considered taking the role on the Board of Directors at Hockey Wales, I only had to give it a split second thought…I knew that I had a skill set that could add value to the hockey family and it was important for me to ‘give something back’. Juggling a full-time professional career, three kids and an obsession with the next ridiculous physical challenge (at the moment it’s cycling!),  fitting any element of volunteering into a busy lifestyle is obviously challenging – as it is for ALL volunteers – but the satisfaction of giving up my time for something “more”, something “bigger” is something that other elements can’t offer.”

  • Helen Northmore is Programme Delivery Manager at Digital Health Ecosystem Wales. She has a strong background in public affairs and has lead national public-sector programmes. Speaking about why she decided to apply for a board role with Swim Wales, she said:

“I got involved with sport only a few years ago but being part of a team and being active has improved my health, changed my life, helped me travel the world and achieve things I never even knew I could do. I am so passionate about the value and importance of sport, I wanted to be able to bring my business experience and skills to help an organisation grow and develop. I had the opportunity to join the Board of Swim Wales as they were looking for people with experience in running organisations, growing businesses and stakeholder engagement, all of which I have done in my career.

“I look forward to our board meetings as it’s my chance to share new ideas and experience with the Swim Wales team and discuss together how we can develop aquatic sports. I am proud to be part of Swim Wales, meeting swimmers from all over the country, seeing how much joy they get out of swimming and feeling that I have had even just a small part to play in growing that joy and love of aquatic sports.”

  • If you are interested in furthering your career by joining a board, please contact [email protected] who can keep you informed of roles as and when they arise, both within WSA member bodies and other organisations.
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