Women in Sport Governance: Perceptions of Inclusion in Cricket in New Zealand
The continued underrepresentation of women across all areas of sport has led to a growing focus on women’s involvement in sport governance. Whilst the concept of diversity in sport leadership has been increasingly discussed in recent literature, we know less about the shift from diversity to inclusion, and how to foster an inclusive environment that preserves female engagement once they have gained board positions. In order to contribute to this growing area of literature, the current study aims to investigate the perception of the inclusion of women in governance within cricket in New Zealand.
The case of New Zealand Cricket (NZC) was explored, revealing that although many positive steps have been taken to increase the involvement of women in cricket across New Zealand, more work is needed before the concept of inclusion moves beyond what has been perceived as a box-ticking exercise, and is engraved into organisational culture. Using a case study approach, data were collected via secondary document analysis and four semi-structured interviews with members of District boards who shared their experiences and knowledge of inclusion within NZC. This in-depth insight offered a deeper understanding of various factors that contribute to the inclusion of women on District boards, and what further strategies could be implemented to provide more women with the opportunity to contribute to the governance of cricket in New Zealand. It is evident to see through both the participant interviews and secondary document analysis that over the past six years since the publishing of the Women in Cricket Report, NZC has taken great strides in ‘levelling the playing field’ and encouraging the engagement of women in cricket at all levels. Themes including the following were uncovered; inclusion is more than just a seat at the table, it’s just easier to recruit men, and despite NZC putting clear inclusion policies into place, a hierarchical disconnect remains. The findings suggest that despite positive institutional change occurring within NZC that has resulted in increased female participation and engagement in cricket governance, evidence shows that at a District Association (DA) level, there is still a way to go in truly understanding and implementing what inclusion looks like in a board setting.
These outcomes have implications for our understanding of inclusion in sport governance literature. Specifically, the results of this research suggest that the current approach to encouraging inclusive practices at the District board must move beyond setting statistical representative goals and expectations, to fostering the transition from diversity to a culture that retains and nurtures female inclusion on District boards. The conclusions of this research are also enlightening for other sports pursuing organisational change that results in improved opportunities and outcomes for women in sport governance and leadership.