Business leader and ARL Commissioner Catherine Harris launched rugby league’s sixth annual Women in League round on Thursday. This is her speech.
It’s a pleasure to be with you for the Launch of the Harvey Norman Women in League and a warm welcome to the women in the room who are here as professions in the game; including the media where it is wonderful to increasingly hear women’s voices in the world of sports presentation. Also a very warm welcome to the women who are here that work tirelessly behind the scenes to get the players onto the field!
Professor Richard Cashman wrote in his paper - Paradise of Sport: the rise of organised sport in Australia
“For better or worse, sport has become central to Australian life and the business of being Australian”
As a businesswomen, a mother of five boys and a sports fan I know how correct this statement is. How many of us would pass a day without some mention of sport?
Less well known and less visible is the part that women play in this story – the amount of sport played by women, including rugby league, the number of women involved in the administration of sport both paid and unpaid, the number of women fans (over 40 percent of rugby league members are women). We are increasingly seeing women in the rugby league media, it’s great to see and hear more women on television and radio talking sport! A further area is, of course, the invaluable contribution women make to sporting careers.
Before I talk further about the direct contribution of women in our sport I would like to acknowledge the special women who have been invited here today by “our favourite sons” nominees for 2012, welcome. You have been there through the good times and the challenging times and I hope that those who cheer the players along each weekend at least spare a thought for the sacrifices that take place behind the scenes. I salute you.
To reach its full potential in a competitive world of entertainment rugby league has to be a game that is administered by the best, loved and respected by all. We could only achieve this by using every good idea, every talented worker, every amazing volunteer and 50 percent of that potential pool are women.
In the five months the ARL Commission has been in operation I can say that I have had the opportunity to really look at what rugby league has done in this area and can say I have been really encouraged by the huge strides that rugby league has taken to proactively welcome, encourage and recognise the role of women in the game. Programs such as the Harvey Norman Women in League round have had a dramatic impact and are becoming a bench mark for other codes to follow.
The numbers tell the story:-
- The number of females in senior/executive management/Board positions has increased by 70%
- Middle management figures are up 10%.
- Almost 40% of NRL employees are female.
- Female participation in regular competitions has increased by almost 20%.
- There are currently more than 52,000 female volunteers across the country.
- ARL Development staff deliver skills and curriculum-based lessons to almost 750,000 female students across Australia and New Zealand annually.
I think Australian Rugby League has shown that they go a lot deeper than simply putting on a pink scarf once a year… not that there is anything wrong with a pink scarf at the right time mind you!
I certainly hope we can go a lot further again.
I’d like to see a Kasey Badger who is here with us today go from being the first woman to referee Toyota Cup to being the first woman to referee first grade, or State of Origin.
In the next year we will continue to look at ways to:-
- Improve the employment prospects for women in the game.
- Encourage more women to get involved in playing the game.
- Support the women who support others to succeed and play the game.
- And recognise the enormous role that women have in influencing the game, in all areas.
That doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by encouraging people and by recognising a person’s talent rather than their gender. It also means looking at the culture of organisations and insuring that women’s voices are heard.
I certainly want to do what I can in my role as a Commissioner to ensure that we are making it easier for women to feel a part of the game and making mothers feel confident about their children playing.
This is a wonderful game on every level and the more we include women, the more women will include rugby league in their lives and the lives of their families.
I am really looking forward to the Harvey Norman Women in League Round and I really encourage everyone to get into the spirit of the events leading up to the round itself.
As I said – “For better or worse, sport has become central to Australian life and the business of being Australian”. Fifty percent of Australians are women and for those sceptics out there who still don’t get it I would just like to remind them that the other 50% have mothers!