Little Athletics Victoria - Achieving Gender Balance

Written by: Jasmine Richwol, Vicsport

Background

Little Athletics Victoria was founded in 1964 in Geelong and was one of the first sporting organisations to cater solely for children. Today, LAVic run programs for U6 – U16 age groups with over 17,000 athletes competing across 100 Centres in Victoria.

Current CEO, Anthony McIntosh joined the organisation in December 2016 and at the LAVic board meeting in Dec 2015, it became apparent that there was an appetite for change within the governance practices of the organisation. Historically, LAVic sought board directors from within the sport and this saw the recruitment of directors were predominately male. This, along with strengthened governance practices, was something the organisation was determined to address and change.

Approach

With knowledge that the State Government of Victoria was looking at introducing mandatory board quotas by 1 July 2019, LAVic decided to be proactive and start addressing board recruitment in order to develop strong practice and meet the quotas. The organisation knew that it would take at least two Annual General Meeting’s (AGMs) to have the members change the constitution to allow for the creation of two nominator director roles given the first AGM failed to accept the constitutional change. The board at the time also understood that meeting the quotas would require governance and cultural changes, which they were happy to undertake.

Before the 2017 AGM, the Board of LAVic consisted of seven directors, one of which was female. Each director had a responsibility and an operational portfolio (ie membership, human resources, education etc). After the AGM, the board decided to expand to nine positions with the introduction of two independent director roles allowing for a skills/experience/diversity-based search. It was clear that changes to the board would have needed to be approved by the membership as it would affect the constitution. Portfolio roles were eliminated requiring the directors to oversee the organisation as a whole rather than in small areas. This changed proved to be positive enabling the directors to discuss strategy across the entire organisation and assisted in raising the types of conversations to “where do we want to be in 5 – 10 years?”.

 

Steps Undertaken

In order to fill the two newly created appointed positions, the board undertook a skills audit that was completed by Vicsport over a six week period which enabled the board to identify that skills were needed in two key areas; human resources and marketing.

The board utilised a range of channels (i.e. Seek and internal networks) to advertise the vacant positions, but made a conscious effort to engage female oriented organisations which had banks for women seeking director positions (such as Women on Boards) to draw in the right candidates. Job descriptions and advertisements were gender neutral, however utilising female oriented networks resulted in a higher amount of female applicants. The Board recruitment advertising and screening was managed in-house by LAVic.

Of the 20 applicants, 14 were females and the calibre of talent was extremely high. Two female independent Directors were appointed in February 2018. Both women were highly skilled and met the requirements of the board. Today, the LAVic Board currently has 3 female out of 9 directors and is well positioned to meet the incoming quotas at the 2018 AGM in August.

Outcomes

Opportunity of Board Quotas

  • Key opportunity to strengthen governance practices
  • Vicsport consultant assisted with the strategy and planning of expanding the board
  • Identified the key areas in skillset that the board was missing and publicly advertised for those roles

Change in number of directors

  • Recruiting independent directors that are not involved/invested in sport helps bring an external perspective to discussions at board level. This has proven to be a positive operational outcome as the new directors assist with marketing, advertising and promotional side of the organisation.
  • The addition of independent Directors has helped elevate the Board conversations out of the operational component to recruiting new members. Directors are questioning the validity and suitability of issues they bring to the table much more now.
  • Infusing knowledge of other sports into Board conversations would rarely happen previously; the Board is now more aware of the position of LAVic in the world of sport, as opposed to being concerned solely with what was going on within the sport.

The journey to meet the quotas - 1 July 2019

  • Need to communicate to the wider Little Athletics Community about the journey they are on and why
  • Encourage females within the community to nominate for positions as they are advertised
  • Inspire more females to be part of LAVic change

Key Learnings

The process to meet the quotas for LAVic is ongoing and continues to focus on creating a gender equal organisation. The following key learnings to date were noted by LAVic:

  • Tell the Little Athletics community about opportunities, especially women so they are inspired to nominate for roles
  • Use female friendly channels to promote the vacant roles i.e. Women on Boards
  • A diverse group of directors brings a broader perspective and understanding of what affects the sport sector
  • Recruit directors with children that play in other sports to gain a broad perspective
  • Diversity on a board contributes to the broader strategy of expanding the sport

Key Take-away points

Advice for other sports

  • Have a clear process in place and plan for the change
  • Sell the vision of the sport and encourage opportunities for new directors to be part of the journey to meet the quotas
  • The depth of talent among female directors is extensive. Recruit women who are looking for an opportunity to join an expanding sporting organisation
  • It’s not as hard as you might expect. Make a start, there are resources to assist you
  • The process to meet the quotas may appear to be challenging and requires a lot of work, but it can be done
  • There are lots of highly competent females out there wanting to be a part of sport and have broad insights to share

Vicsport have developed a range of resources, specifically designed to assist sporting organisations meet the upcoming quota.

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