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A Statement to the Rugby Community: USAR Board Nominations

August 20, 2020

With the recent restructuring of USA Rugby (USAR), the U.S. Women's Rugby Foundation (USWRF) has again received multiple inquiries from the rugby community to help identify women and people of color (POC) as potential nominees to be placed on the USAR Board.

In 2017-2018, we actively participated in the USAR nomination process as part of an overall call to Balance the Board. Despite USWRF supported nominees being named to Board seats, true equity was not achieved.

USWRF continues to passionately believe that NO real change will occur until USAR recognizes the value of a diverse board and the governance structures/bylaws drastically change accordingly. We remain committed to the growth of rugby by supporting and advocating for diverse representation and leadership at the Board, Council, Committee, staff, and grassroots levels. However, before activating our networks again to tee up strong applicants and candidates, we make the following ask for a second time.

We urge USAR leadership and members of Councils to codify a commitment to diversity - in thought and leadership - into the USAR bylaws by adopting a requirement that there be a minimum of 40% representation of each gender on the USAR Board.

Specific language and details for what this would look like was provided to USAR working committees in the previous nomination cycle. As we offered in an open letter to the USAR Board at the time, while increasing the number of women and POC on the USAR Board is an issue of equity and representation, it’s also good business. It is good for the entire rugby community at all levels. Research is consistent that organizations with strong levels of gender diversity are overall more productive and effective, particularly regarding financial performance.

Although a restructuring of USAR is in progress and new bylaws were recently adopted, we continue to be cautious as a codification of diversity has not yet been ratified into these new bylaws.

We make no apologies for putting forth these necessities to the USAR Board.

Our View - For real change to occur, USAR must:

  • Codify equity into their bylaws. While the amendment process is lengthy, it’s critical for USAR to commit to ensuring that the governing structure is diverse and representative

  • Take a hard look at how “merit” is defined when reviewing nominees and commit to a dedicated, diverse leadership group that can best serve the rugby community

  • Implement annual, legislative efforts to audit and change systems

  • Identify and confront unfairness with documentation and transparency

  • Engage in a public education campaign, including data reports to media and the membership

  • Formalize checks and balances to educate and to hold those in leadership accountable

  • Do the research on the benefits of a diverse board, see the value of real change, and then commit to that change

Sponsors and advertisers are already insisting that corporations and sports organizations make these kinds of meaningful changes. Other rugby unions have made governance changes to support diversity targets as well. We hope that USAR will follow suit.

It is not enough to have a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, and other working committees and administrative roles filled by women doing the hard work, when the Board, Councils, and real leadership roles continue to be held by men.

USWRF requests that USAR move beyond diversity goals and aspirations to measurable and accountable actions.

Danita Knox

President & Board Chair, U.S. Women’s Rugby Foundation

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