Women in Sport Governance: Challenging Institutionalised Practices in a National Sport Organisation
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Women’s continued underrepresentation in sport leadership has led to a growing focus on the study on women’s involvement in sport governance. While we know something of the barriers to women’s participation on sport boards (Adriaanse & Scofield, 2013), there has been no sustained focus on how to change or address these issues. In order to contribute to this evolving body of literature, the current study draws on institutional theory as a lens to: investigate how a national sport organisation (NSO) creates change in the practices of the institution, resulting in the creation of opportunities for women in sport governance. The case of New Zealand Cricket was explored, revealing that the organisation has undergone a process of institutional change. This change appeared to be stimulated by the Women and Cricket report (New Zealand Cricket, 2016), which detailed a bleak picture of the relationship between women and cricket. Using a case study approach, data were collected through semi-structured in-depth interviews with individuals associated with New Zealand Cricket’s institutional change process. This insight provided a deeper understanding of the factors that have contributed to change and have resulted in greater opportunities for women in governance. Across all interviews it was evident that the Women and Cricket report (New Zealand Cricket, 2016) was a catalyst for change and resulted in New Zealand Cricket’s senior leadership team recognising the significance of women as key stakeholders. The findings of this study revealed that the New Zealand Cricket Board put a number of sub-strategies in place to enhance both the quantitative and qualitative nature of women in cricket governance. While the organisation has undergone significant change, participants voiced the need for continued momentum to break down some remaining institutionalised attitudes and behaviours towards women in governance. However, as the change process within New Zealand Cricket was found to be evolutionary in nature, it is expected that this will happen over time as evolutionary change is gradual. This study has established the notion of ‘evolutionary revolution’ as an institutional change process for the context under examination. This process appeared effective for New Zealand Cricket when implementing phases of change over time and seemed to result in minimal resistance from stakeholders. In particular, outcomes from this study reveal that New Zealand Cricket is not only challenging institutional practices, but is seeking to embed new institutional practices, and has been ‘successful’ with its current ‘women and cricket’ initiatives. This outcome has implications for our understanding of institutional change literature. Specifically, the outcomes of this research posit that the current approach to examining institutional practices that impact on women in governance, specifically, how to deinstitutionalise current practices, needs to be augmented with greater understanding of how organisations can create and institutionalise new practices. Similarly, for practitioners, a solutions-based approach that targets steps to create and institutionalise new practices is offered as the applied outcome. This outcome is also informative for other sport organisations seeking to champion change. Future research could therefore focus on exploring ‘evolutionary revolution’ as an institutional change process.