Sports governing bodies - a quarter of boards should be women by 2017, or face funding cuts

British Cycling has NO female board members

by Sarah Barth   November 4, 2012  

British Cycling Logo

Sports governing bodies that fail to appoint at least one in four women to their boards should face funding cuts, according to a leading sports figure.

Sue Tibballs, chief executive of the Women's Sports and Fitness Foundation, has said that sports funding agencies have promised to ask "hard questions" if targets are not met - and that includes British Cycling, which has no female board members.

"There have been exhortations for years and years and very little has changed, so we know that appealing to the better judgment of these sports on its own doesn't get us to where we need to be," she told The Guardian.

"This is public money that everyone in the community is contributing to. Those sports have to serve and represent the whole community and at the moment their governance structures aren't, so our very strong view is that if they do not comply they should not be funded.

"Sport England have started to take money away, not around governance, but if sports haven't been meeting the targets, so there is precedence in withdrawing funds and we would strongly urge them to keep that up and take it further."

British Cycling receives £24.7m from Sport England annually.

UK Sport's chair, Sue Campbell said: "Twenty per cent are already doing it, 60% are open to being coached to do it and 20% it will take a different kind of effort.

"Progress on equality and diversity will continue to inform our ongoing funding decisions – if it's stagnant we will ask some hard questions. But that's slightly different than sanctioning."

Sport England's chief operating officer, Rona Chester said that it would be an improvement for sport. "We know there is a correlation between well balanced boards and better NGOs. Gender equality is just one part of that, but open recruitment and independence are essential for better governance," she said.

More women on boards of sports governing bodies could lead to better conditions for women in pro cycling, an issue that has been circulating for some time.

Olympic star Lizzie Armistead raised the issue of sexism in the sport this summer, as did Sarah Storey, Britain's most successful Paralympian (and gold-medal cyclist). Then Dave Brailsford toyed with the idea of a women's Sky team - but any progress seems to have stalled under the weight of the post-Armstrong doping scandals.

24 user comments

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Why on earth should any body have their funding cut, surely they don't go out seeking only male employees?

To have this threat looming over them can only harm sport. Any board in their right mind is going to choose the best candidate for the job, regardless of their sex.

If this wasn't the case, then I could see the problem, but to force them to hire woman just because they don't have enough on the board in some people's eyes in nonsense.

I'm all for equality, but if the best person for a role is male, then employ him, if the best is female, employ here. Don't make them choose a female just to make up the numbers and keep their funding. Angry

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9040 posts]
4th November 2012 - 20:42

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Positive discrimination is still discrimination. How many men are on the Women's Sports and Fitness Foundation's board I wonder. And is that not disciminating anyway?

Wardy

Wardy74's picture

posted by Wardy74 [22 posts]
4th November 2012 - 21:28

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The point here is that bodies such as British Cycling receive a large slice of funding from the taxpayer and quite a lot of taxpayers happen to be women, who might reasonably expect the the bodies they are helping to fund might be doing more for women and reflect the fact that half the population… aren't men.

My guess is that BC have known for a while exactly how the wind is blowing on this one, hence the various initiatives to get more women on bikes.

It's also got to be said that despite so much of British Cycling's success coming from its female athletes it's got a pretty woeful record in supporting the women's side of the sport and its women athletes as a number of them have said both on and off the record recently.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4160 posts]
4th November 2012 - 22:03

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I fully support what you said Tony, sorting out an even playing field in terms of funding athletes in all sports, men do get alot more than women, there is no denying that, apart from maybe Synchronised swimming Wink

But that's not really what's being called for, its saying in the next 5 years, women should be put onto boards or face funding cuts.

It defeats the purpose of having the best people for the job if they happen to be male, but the boards need to keep the funding and lose the best because it tips the balance in favour of male board members Thinking

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9040 posts]
4th November 2012 - 22:20

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Do we really need these same old hackneyed sexist arguments again?

Who says men are the best people for the job? Who says that they aren't just employed by other men - their friends - jobs for the boys?

Football is basically by men, for men, but Karen Brady seems to be considered a valuable addition to West Ham and the England 2018 World Cup bid advisory board.

I don't imagine for a minute boards would 'lose the best' if a few more women were brought in to even things out.

Or maybe we should just stick to the status quo and assume the only people in the world who are good at doing anything are white, middle class, able bodied men.

But last time I checked, that's not what the world looked like.

Sarah Barth's picture

posted by Sarah Barth [1062 posts]
4th November 2012 - 22:42

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Wardy74 wrote:
Positive discrimination is still discrimination. How many men are on the Women's Sports and Fitness Foundation's board I wonder. And is that not disciminating anyway?

Since it's a body trying to get more *women* into sport/activity (the point being that there are far fewer women taking part than men) - of course it's not discriminatory - whereas British Cycling, for example, is supposed to cover both men *and* women. You don't have to look very far to see how women's sport's been held back by male-dominated associations. One example being the FA which completely scuppered women's football - at the time very popular and well-supported (from I think during/after WW1) up to 1921 when womens teams were banned from FA grounds - that ban stood until the 70's.

In any case, if you could have been bothered to look the WSFF website you'd have found out their board comprises 2 men and 6 women
http://wsff.org.uk/

posted by JonD [213 posts]
5th November 2012 - 0:44

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Totaly agree with the proposal and the argument that if an organisation takes public money, they should be representative of the public they serve.

Old male dominated organisations replicate themselves in their own image, the term 'old boys network' reflects a reality in many of them. Grab these organisations by their wallets and their hearts and minds will follow. Wink

posted by FMOAB [238 posts]
5th November 2012 - 1:18

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Wholeheartedly agree, there should be women present at board meetings i mean who else will serve the tea and biscuits Devil

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [605 posts]
5th November 2012 - 7:34

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If BC can't reach this target then they don't deserve to be board members.

Sudor

posted by Sudor [183 posts]
5th November 2012 - 8:03

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From experience, many cycling club events would go to the wall if it wasn't for the support given by women members and members wives. Next time you are at the Time Trial HQ, take a good look round.

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1018 posts]
5th November 2012 - 8:58

1 Like

I agree with Gkam on this issue, if they are good enough and want the position they should apply, its as simple as that and if they have a grievance after that then there is massive amount of legislation to assist in their complaint.

So you are in favour of discrimination on the grounds of sex as long as it achieves an end you favour ?. Why stop at sex discrimination, lets have quotas for race, creed etc. Appointment based on merit is the only answer, not on any other criteria.

Positive discrimination is wrong as is any form of discrimination.

Sarah - be careful about making reference to Brady. She is not your run of the mill female, having been born into a wealthy family, a convent, followed by, private education and her first job was as a graduate entry to a company even though she did not have a degree Surprise.

It's obvious her fathers wealth and contacts have assisted her rise. Perhaps the "old boys" network worked in her favour there ?.

She is not the best role model to name, as there are probably thousands of other females more suited to be named as examples.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2847 posts]
5th November 2012 - 10:13

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There's a flip side to this. Why would women apply for jobs they simply assume they can't get?

I wouldn't set my education and career sights on a pathway that no woman had ever taken before. Might sound unadventurous, but also a form of risk management.

It's not 'discrimination' on the grounds of sex. There are still 3 out of 4 jobs available for the men. The cream will still have ample chance to rise.

Actually, it's completely converse. Boards being forced to search wider for candidates actually leads to an INCREASE in the size of the available talent pool, and in time, talented women will step forward, seeing important work for them to do.

Some studies have shown better risk management and long term planning when boards have more women on them. Others show that women on boards hold the board to account for poor decisions.

As men, I don't expect any of you have ever given a moment's thought as to what your gender means for you in the workplace. Will you achieve your potential? Will it be harder for you to make yourself seen? Are there jobs that only you are traditionally expected to do?

But don't think about that if you don't want to. Go back to your caves and worry about the poor men who might miss out.

Sarah Barth's picture

posted by Sarah Barth [1062 posts]
5th November 2012 - 11:43

1 Like

I dont think these days that there is a job out there which couldn't be filled by a woman.

The problem in some sports is the culture behind them, then factor in the number of men/women who have the experience or qualifications to have the job/place on the board. It is changing, but to force it to change within five years is pushing things just for the sake of political correctness and not looking discriminatory.

Until women's sport is on an even balance with the male alternative, how can you even begin to sort the boards out?

I think it should be more a focus and I'll use cycling here as an example, to get women's cycling on a level playing field with men's in terms of sponsor's, live coverage, teams....etc

Then once you have equality in sport, work on equality on the boards.

I know myself this sounds backwards as I type it out, because the come back will be. "how can you make sports equal without having women on the boards"

But I think it is possible to do it, if there is the want for it.

For cycling, if you really wanted more female members on the board in the mean time, invite someone like Victoria Pendelton on board, I would have suggested Emma Pooley aswell, but she's just signed for another team (Bigla) if you want another news story Wink Wink Wink

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9040 posts]
5th November 2012 - 12:49

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stumps wrote:

Why stop at sex discrimination, lets have quotas for race, creed etc. Appointment based on merit is the only answer, not on any other criteria.

My point exactly Stumpy. Is it really credible to argue that in a country where 51% of the population are women that 0% female "representation" on the board of British Cycling is based on the fact that British Cycling is a meritocracy? Equally, as around 10% of the UK population is from an ethnic minority background, should this not be reflected in the composition of the BC Board?

If BC (and the other sports bodies) reflected the country they profess to serve, quotas wouldn't be needed. However, as they clearly doesn't, action is required and they don't appear to be in a hurry to act.

The call for a quarter of all sports governing bodies to be compised of women is entirely reasonable. After all if they weren't taking other factors into account, the call would be for equal 50/50 representation.

Women given parity with men, good grief, they'll want the vote next.

posted by FMOAB [238 posts]
5th November 2012 - 13:39

3 Likes

Wardy74 wrote:
Positive discrimination is still discrimination. How many men are on the Women's Sports and Fitness Foundation's board I wonder.

Two. Hugh Chambers (Chair) and Colin Brown. That makes 25% of the board.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
5th November 2012 - 13:50

1 Like

Depressing level of 'I'm not sexist but...' type replies.

G-bitch's picture

posted by G-bitch [311 posts]
5th November 2012 - 13:57

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Sarah, dont get me wrong, i fully support the idea of more women reps on boards and the like, its common sense as they see things from a different perspective to men which is a good thing.

What i dont advocate is pushing it through quickly just to prove something or threatening groups with sanctions if its not.

In my profession i have a female boss (a very good one) and only the home secretary also a women, and i use the term reluctantly, is higher than her.

The civilian head of virtually every dept is female and numerous high ranking female officers. We used pos dis for a while but, without going into it in detail, it backfired big style in some depts / areas.

As time passes it becomes more apparent that women in the work place are getting better jobs and higher grades than previous years.

However i have just been speaking to my dad (75 yr old ex welder from the yards) about this and he came out with "why ? you dont remember the mess Thatcher left us in".
Now taken into context it brought a grin to my face. Not about Thatcher (which i believe he is right about) but more that because one women made a mess we dont want that ever again. I believe, in time, it will even itself out and possibly go the other way.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2847 posts]
5th November 2012 - 14:11

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Gkam84 wrote:

Until women's sport is on an even balance with the male alternative, how can you even begin to sort the boards out?

so we wait until the overwhelmingly male governing bodies of sport bring equality to mens and womens sport before we address the fact that the governing bodies are overwhelmingly male? sounds a bit arse about face to me.

anything on this topic always reminds me of this classic charlie brooker piece: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/01/charlie-brooker-wome...

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7506 posts]
5th November 2012 - 14:16

1 Like

Gkam84 wrote:
I'm all for equality, but if the best person for a role is male, then employ him, if the best is female, employ here. Don't make them choose a female just to make up the numbers and keep their funding. Angry

That's a logical fallacy if I ever saw one - these people are on the board now, therefore they must have been the best of all possible candidates. By that line reasoning Pat McQuaid must absolutely be the best administrator in the entire sport of cycling, since he is already the head of the UCI. You are assuming that we live in a world where connections and politics does not matter, but I'm sure I don't need to tell you that that is very much not the case.

As for positive discrimination, of course it would not be justifiable if the two sides are just about evenly matched, since that would automatically imply negative discrimination of the other side (side note, I really hate the term positive discrimination). But that is clearly still not the case in our society where the deck is still very heavily stacked in men's favour.

Case in point, the board of British Cycling. Forget a quarter of the board, do you sincerely believe that there is not ONE woman that is qualified to sit on the board out of a adult female population of over 20 million? Forget proportionally represented, women are not even represented by one single board member. Mustn't there be some other reason why women are not represented in the slightest?

Have no fear Gkam. BC has what? 10 board members? I'm sure it's fairly easy to find two or three women who are qualified for the posts.

Right now when it comes to "positive discrimination" we are at the metaphorical point where the entire British Army is fighting a small tribe of fruit-armed pygmies (no offence ladies, it's a metaphor), and someone is suggesting that, hold on, we ought to at least give these fellows some steak knives, just to make it a little sporting. And now the British Army is whining about how that is not fair, and the odds are totally against them now.

posted by Shanghaied [41 posts]
5th November 2012 - 16:48

1 Like

Shanghaied wrote:
X([/quote
Mustn't there be some other reason why women are not represented in the slightest?

Have no fear Gkam. BC has what? 10 board members? I'm sure it's fairly easy to find two or three women who are qualified for the posts.

Right now when it comes to "positive discrimination" we are at the metaphorical point where the entire British Army is fighting a small tribe of fruit-armed pygmies (no offence ladies, it's a metaphor), and someone is suggesting that, hold on, we ought to at least give these fellows some steak knives, just to make it a little sporting. And now the British Army is whining about how that is not fair, and the odds are totally against them now.

Firstly, there are probably thousands of qualified ladies out there but it's up to them to apply isnt it ? or do we force them to apply ???

Secondly, if i've read your comments correctly about the Army in Afghanistan then it is bang out of order, women and men are dying on almost a daily basis and you have the nerve to compare their sacrifices to that of discrimination in the work place Angry

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2847 posts]
5th November 2012 - 17:26

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stumps wrote:
Firstly, there are probably thousands of qualified ladies out there but it's up to them to apply isnt it ? or do we force them to apply ???

Secondly, if i've read your comments correctly about the Army in Afghanistan then it is bang out of order, women and men are dying on almost a daily basis and you have the nerve to compare their sacrifices to that of discrimination in the work place Angry

Firstly, as far as I know the board of director for British Cycling is elected by the national council, which is in turn elected by the regional councils, which is in turn elected by local bodies. Now that makes things a bit more complicated than claiming women are simply not applying. It's kind of like asking why only less than 20% of MPs are female. Why is that so? It's easy to simply claim that BC members (or the UK electorate for that matter) are sexist. But that's just too easy and may or may not even be true. So I'm not going to go there.

But it's not easy to see a whole host of institutional reasons for this. One could be the traditional, complete dominance of men's cycling. Even at the highest level of the sport, how many cyclists can name even a few events on the women's elite racing calendar? Cycling as a sport for women has been largely invisible until quite recently. And this is at the highest level. Why would you elect a female cyclist to regional or national councils if you are barely aware of the existence or importance of their sport?

At the lowest level, local bodies voting by majority will likely always elect men simply because the men are in the majority in the sport. These men will elect more men to the national council, who will in turn elect an all-male board. There need not be malice, but simple ignorance of women's cycling and female cyclists. (Honestly I myself don't know very much about women's cycling at all. Although I don't even follow men's cycling as I use to so...) And these elected men in turn enact policies that neglect women's cycling and make it less likely that more women see cycling as a viable sport for them.

Secondly, whatever my position might be on the situation in Afghanistan, relax, it's a metaphor. A metaphor based on an obscure Blackadder reference on the colonial wars in Africa. Too obscure it seems.

posted by Shanghaied [41 posts]
5th November 2012 - 19:18

2 Likes

Don't worry Shanghaied, some of us got the Blackadder reference. Cappucino?

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
5th November 2012 - 19:44

2 Likes

Secondly, whatever my position might be on the situation in Afghanistan, relax, it's a metaphor. A metaphor based on an obscure Blackadder reference on the colonial wars in Africa. Too obscure it seems

It was !, my utmost apologies i have obviously taken it the complete wrong way Big Grin

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2847 posts]
5th November 2012 - 20:05

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I had a look at the Bc report and accounts. First, reporting - BC don't get £24 million a year from anyone, I think from reading that is for an Olympic cycle (which is 4 years last time I looked), so maybe that's wrong. Then I asked the local region and they showed me a copy of the agenda for the BC AGM. Board election for two places, not a female candidate in sight. I guess the only way to get the "quota" of 25% is for the BC board to appoint some female directors, and according to their rules I don't think that's possible. What is needed is capable women to come forward and get elected, otherwise there is always the danger of being seen as a token gesture to placate funders. By the way, BC membersship is 16% female, so in theory from eight directors you should have 1.5 women on the board. Bit of a challenge.
Take this further, look at their regional boards, it's all in the handbook, and the percentage is way below even 16%, so perhaps women simply don't come forward, which is not great, simply a fact.

Doc

posted by doc [167 posts]
6th November 2012 - 10:51

2 Likes