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Women's Sport Leadership Academy

Issue date: 
Monday, 10 September 2018
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, CVO, QSO

Rau rangatira mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.

Nau mai, haere mai ra ki Te Whare Kawana o Tamaki Makaurau.

Kia ora tatou katoa

Distinguished guests, warm greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House Auckland.

I specifically acknowledge The Hon Grant Robertson, Minister of Sport and Kereyn Smith, CEO of the New Zealand Olympic Committee.

Tena korua.

On the 19th of this month, it will be 125 years since women attained the right to vote in Parliamentary elections in New Zealand.

We can be proud that New Zealand women were the first in the world to vote, but we also have every right to be concerned that full emancipation of women in our society has not progressed as quickly as we would have expected.

Legislative change was only the start.  One hundred and twenty five years later we’ve come a long way but there is still work to be done. 

We are now impatient to see broad based gender equity, especially in leadership.  Gradual change can seem like glacial change, especially to people of my generation. 

We’ve been patient - over the years we’ve been assured that it’s just a matter of time – that women will come through the leadership and governance pipeline. But now we realise that the pipeline is not exactly free-flowing….To paraphrase Helen Clark, there seems to have been a thick layer of men blocking the top of it.

We need to shift outmoded attitudes before we will see widespread changes in behaviour.  These shifts in attitudes are more likely to happen if there are more women in leadership and governance roles – the magic number for a tipping point in organisational culture occurs when there are at least three women on a board. 

Organisations need leaders, whether they are men or women, who are committed to following best practice when it comes to gender equity in recruitment, equal career opportunities, education and training; and to transparency of reporting.

On Tuesday night I hosted the White Camellia Awards, which recognise business commitment to the UN’s Women’s Empowerment Principles.

It was gratifying to see how large corporates like Westpac, ANZ, and Sovereign have put policies in place that will make a positive difference – and to see that it is also possible for small businesses to do so – in this case, Ebborn Law.

I commend the New Zealand Olympic Committee for taking on the responsibility for seeding those same female empowerment principles in our sports sector.

On the world stage, male dominance in sports governance is disproportionate. In 2018, men are running 35 international federations affiliated with the Olympics, with women leading only two.

The proportions are slightly more encouraging in New Zealand, with 9 female CEs across New Zealand’s 63 sports organisations and sports trusts, while 37% of their board directors are women.   

There is clearly room for improvement if we want gender equity, a healthy and productive organisational culture, and a change in the prevailing societal attitude that high-performance sport is essentially a male domain.

Persuading the media that women’s sport is just as important as men’s is a separate issue, but having more women in leadership roles could certainly help to change that perception. 

I was interested to learn that many successful leaders have a history of participation and achievement in sport. 

It is not particularly surprising, given that the qualities needed for success in sport – resilience, determination, confidence, teamwork, courage, energy and discipline – are also qualities that will make a great leader.

So even more reason to make sure that our young women don’t see sport as a male activity, or drop out of sports at a young age. We want them to see a place for themselves and to have a chance to develop their leadership potential.

Our female Olympians have been excellent role models – and as you take on new leadership roles, you will continue to inspire girls and women not only to participate but to press for equity in the world of sport.

I am delighted to congratulate the first graduates of the WSLA programme.  I am looking forward to hearing about the results of your programme and I wish you every success in finding opportunities to implement what you have learned. You have been trailblazers for women and I am sure that your future contributions will help bring about lasting, positive change for women in sport.

Kia ora, kia kaha, kia manawanui, huihui tātou katoa.


Last updated: 
Monday, 10 September 2018

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