UK Sport Chief Expects Female Sports Leadership Target to be Met

October 24, 2013

Liz Nicholl, the chief executive of UK Sport, is adamant that governing bodies will reach their target to get more women in the boardroom

Maria Miller, Culture Secretary and Minister for Women, wants to see at least a quarter of women making up sporting boardrooms by 2017 – but research conducted by Sky Sports has revealed more than half of our national bodies are lagging behind.

Liz Nicholl believes organisations should be made to have women at their top tables but admits an emphasis on ‘quotas’ could be hindering the battle for diversity.

“Absolutely, boards should be made to have women members,” Nicholl told Sky Sports News.

“Using the word quota sounds like anyone would do when it’s about really good women, great women, being appointed to create balanced boards. Diverse boards are more effective boards and they make better decisions.

“There are some things that need to change before a board can appoint an independent, outside of the membership of their governing body, to the board; articles need to be changed, sometimes that takes a year to get through. It’s a journey but what we’re hearing is that the sports are very committed.

“Making people aware of opportunities is also important and I’ve seen a big difference in the way the sports are now handling that; they’re openly advertising for board appointments.”

Nicholl revealed UK Sport would re-examine the figures after the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“We might consider sanctions at some point,” she added.

“(A quarter) is not a tough target, you’d expect that to be achievable a lot earlier. We hope to have a really good look after Rio 2016 when we make our decisions about the next funding cycle because that is the point we can decide whether or not to make (female representation) a funding requirement.”

Leora Hanser of the Women’s Sports & Fitness Foundation believes the target should be set higher.

“We applaud the 25 per cent expectation but I think we’d say that 30 per cent is the new normal; when you have a third of women in the board that mainstreams diversification,” she told Sky Sports News.

“No one is saying we need to have 25 or 30 per cent tomorrow; the timeframe is quite generous.

“Women on boards can help improve participation among females at grassroots level, they can help boost the support for women athletes at elite level and they can help improve media coverage of women’s sport.

“There’s a whole host of really talented women – often outside of the sports sector – out there so we need a better process to let these women know that opportunities are available.”