Fostering female leaders through sport


US research shows a link between participation in sport and being successful in leadership roles in business and other sectors.



Professor Sarah Leberman.

A group of female sporting, business, academic and political leaders have chosen International Women’s Day to launch New Zealand’s first national advocacy organisation for women in sport. Women in Sport Aotearoa (Ngā Wāhine Hākinakina o Aotearoa) aims to bring positive change for women and girls in sport, and foundation board member Professor Sarah Leberman says the first step is to build the case for change through research.

The Massey University sport management expert says one of the organisation’s key focuses will be to provide evidence to show the need for change and an increase in female representation in leadership.

“There is a lack of easily accessible data for the New Zealand context,” she says. “We need better data on female coaches and their progression and regular reporting on the number of women on sport boards across all levels and in sport leadership positions.

“We also need to better understand the factors that lead to more girls and women participating in sport, as well as longitudinal data covering participation levels in areas like coaching, leadership roles, officiating and managing.”

Professor Leberman says that this will provide the baseline data against which progress can be measured and it will also inform policy decisions.

“Ideally, we would like to see a centre like the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota, which is dedicated to examining how sport and physical activity affects the lives of girls and women, their families, and communities.”

The benefits of sport 'beyond the field and court'

Women in Sport Aotearoa says sport is recognised internationally as a sector that can add value to communities beyond the obvious health benefits and entertainment value. It believes the value of sport “beyond the field/court” has not been fully recognised or developed in New Zealand, especially the benefit of growing girls’ and women’s confidence and leadership abilities.

Professor Leberman says that Women in Sport Aoteroa’s research aims include collecting data to demonstrate the positive link between participation in sport and being successful in leadership roles in business and other sectors – a link which research from the United States has shown to exist.

But the network’s objectives go beyond advocating for more research. The organisation’s also aims to develop a strong, passionate and connected network, ensure women and girls have a powerful voice in sport and increase female representation in sport and sport leadership.

The women behind Women in Sport Aotearoa

Women in Sport Aotearoa was initiated by Professor Leberman and Northern Mystics chief executive Julie Paterson and the network’s development was led by a group of 21 foundation members who are women leaders in various sectors of sport.

The foundation board is made up of:

  • Julie Paterson
  • Sarah Leberman
  • Toni Bruce
  • Pauline Harrison
  • Kirikaiahi Mahutariki
  • Laura Menzies
  • Louisa Wall

Facebook: facebook.com/womeninsportaotearoa

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