Raiders seek female board member

Raiders’ chairman Allan Hawke. Photo: Rohan Thomson Brumbies board member Carmel McGregor says gender is just one factor in a diverse boardroom. Photo: Graham Tidy

The Canberra Raiders want to become just the second NRL team with two female board members as the NRL takes steps to make female representation on club boards compulsory to help clean up the game’s image.

Canberra Raiders chairman Allan Hawke confirmed the club is investigating suitable female candidates to join Raiders Group chief financial officer Yvonne Gillett, who was elected onto an eight-person board this year.

The Raiders have one board spot vacant and Hawke confirmed they have identified a number of female candidates worthy of filling the position.

Manly is the only NRL club with two female board members, and most teams don’t have a women on their board at all.

The NRL have drawn up proposed ”model club’ ‘reforms, which include at least one female board member in every club, and the majority of board members to be independent.

The Raiders already meet that criteria as Raiders group general manager Simon Hawkins and Gillett are the only non-independent board members.

Hawke is a long time advocate for more women in executive roles, and the Raiders had been keen to install a second female director before the NRL’s plans became public.

Manly is the one club with two female board members, while North Queensland, Brisbane and Canterbury have women either on the board or chief executive.

“We are examining that issue [second female board member] right now, we just haven’t got to the end of that process,” Hawke said.

“We’ve identified a number of women who could do this, there’s a wide range of suitable candidates we would contemplate joining the Raiders board.

“We’re ahead of the game here, we’ve been going down this road in our own right before the NRL came out with this idea.

“It just gives us a bit of added impetus to do that.”

Hawke insisted the move isn’t in response to the sackings of former Raiders stars Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson, or other unsavoury incidents which have tarnished the game’s reputation.

“We’re doing what we’re doing, because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

“It will be fascinating to see how other teams deal with this, they’re talking about gender equity.

“This will mean they [rival boards] will have to morph over times as some directors’ terms come up, and look at finding women to replace them.”

He believes the move will help attract more fans, particularly female ones, to the game.

“There’s no doubt in my mind women bring different qualities to a board, and we’re hoping by sending that message in that regard it will help us in terms of our membership drive.

“We’re trying to set the right ethical and cultural base for the team and the Raiders itself, and this is an important part of that.”

Hawke said earlier this year after Gillett was elected that female board representation ”has certainly been a hobby horse of mine, not just the Raiders board but through my career.”

“Women bring different things to meetings than men do.  I’m not aware the men are any smarter or brighter than they are and if you’re looking to attract a family element and attract women to the game, you need to hear that from women on the board. Not from blokes who think they know best.”

Carmel McGregor, the deputy secretary  People Strategies and Policy in the Department of Defence, was elected as the first female board member of Super Rugby club ACT Brumbies this year.

She applauded the NRL for their stance, but said teams should avoid appointing females on boards as a ”token” gesture.

“Good on them, but having just one is not enough,” she said.

“If you’re excluding 51 per cent of the population from having a look in, you are inevitably denying the best talent.

“Boards should be more diverse. Gender’s one thing but people with a different way of thinking enhances board performance.

“Good on them for following the Brumbies lead.”

McGregor said a woman’s opinion would give clubs a greater understanding of how off-field incidents may affect their female fan base.

“It gives a different perspective and understanding of the implications some of that behaviour may have with women,” she said.

“One thing I’ve found heartening is the Brumbies board all listen, are very respectful and inclusive, and I wondered whether it would be like that.

“They’re normal blokes who have wives and daughters, and want their daughters to experience fair and equal society.”

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