The Women’s Rugby Leadership Council (WRLC) and US Women's Rugby Foundation (USWRF) advocate for women in leadership positions, and supplying USA Rugby with viable candidates for the vacant Board of Director positions is just one way in which the organizations support women. The WRLC has not only assembled an impressive pool of nominees but prefaced the effort with the following letter to USA Rugby's board members.
To Members of the Board and Congress:
We, the undersigned members of the Women’s Rugby Leadership Council and US Women’s Rugby Foundation, believe that USA Rugby as the National Governing Body for Rugby in the United States is obligated to have a board, Congress and leadership that reflect the diversity of its members.
An immediate way to prioritize meeting this objective is to elect a woman to the pending open, USAR board position. The most compelling reason for this action is one of basic fairness as women represent a significant proportion of the membership of USAR yet remain underrepresented at every level of governance. Beyond issues of proportionality, the ongoing composition of the board promotes misleading ideas about women’s capacities and demonstrates an ongoing pattern by USA Rugby of diminishing the contributions of women to the sport.
We would like to point out the recent efforts of World Rugby to broaden the global presence of women in leadership positions and their recently announced target plans for increasing female leadership*
Minimum of 30% Women on World Rugby Council
Women representatives in all WR Committees and working parties
Minimum of 2 women on all Target Unions and Regional Association Executive Committees
80% of the teams competing at Pinnacle events have women appointments in their coaching staff
Double the number of women employed in senior leadership positions in targeted Unions.
*See Attached Documents - Balance the Board and World Rugby Women's Rugby Development Plan 2017-2025.
It’s worth noting that while international efforts toward gender equity are eclipsing efforts in the US, the US women were arguably the early adopters and pioneers of the game, a source of great pride to many women in the US rugby community. We ask that USAR Board and Congress move immediately to adopt similar ‘internal’ goals for gender inclusivity in governance and work with representatives from identified advocacy groups like the Women’s Rugby Leadership Council, the Women’s Rugby Coaches and Referees Association and the US Women’s Rugby Foundation to further goals of inclusivity.
Perhaps a more compelling reason to add women to the board is the demonstrated value that women bring to boards. Research supports that companies with strong levels of gender diversity have stronger financial performances as well as fewer governance related issues such as bribery, corruption, shareholder battles and fraud. Research suggests this is attributed to the outside perspective brought into boardrooms by adding women to the board. The addition of women has proven to introduce a varied set of skills and expertise and improve financial performance. (State Street Global Advisors Guidance on Enhancing Gender Diversity on Boards, 2018)
We recognize that in the past there may have been concerns by the nominating committee about developing a suitable pool of female candidates. We would counter that past and current practices for identifying and nominating women are biased. These include:
Reliance on existing networks and connections
Expecting nominees to have CEO level experience
Lack of effort to address behavioral gender bias in the USAR culture
To remedy these challenges, the Women’s Rugby Leadership Council stands ready to serve as a resource to identify and nominate a suitable pool of candidates. However, it is critical that there is a suitable level of transparency and communication between the Women’s Rugby Leadership Council and the nominating committee.
We hope that in the coming weeks the voices and experiences of women will be included in discussions at a level that is truly representative. We believe this inclusion will enhance the governance structures within USA Rugby and lead to improved outcomes in every area of the organization.
We look forward to working with you for positive change.
US Women's Rugby Foundation
Women's Rugby Leadership Council
USA Rugby CEO
Rugby International Marketing
US Rugby Players Association