The Women of NRL Boards

This weekend’s NRL double header headlined by Melbourne Storm, NQ Cowboys, Brisbane Broncos and Manly Sea Eagles allowed a unique opportunity to gather together the women who serve as directors on the Boards of each club.

Katie Bickford (Broncos), Kerry Chrysiliou (Sea Eagles), Professor Sandra Harding (Cowboys) and Danielle Smith (Storm) were guest panellists at the AIM Outstanding Leaders Luncheon in Brisbane on the eve of the double header. Each of these impressive women, who have come from different backgrounds and taken different paths to their directorships, shared their stories with the capacity crowd.

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L-R Kerry Chrysiliou (Manly), Katie Bickford (Brisbane), Danielle Smith (Melbourne), Professor Sandra Harding (NQ) and Commissioner Katarina Carroll (Moderator).

Not unexpectedly the topic of female board quotas arose and each woman felt strongly that Board appointments must, quota or not, be meritous and add to the skill set of the Board. In fact Katie Bickford recalled her initial query to her interviewers when approached for the Broncos role was whether she had been approached to meet a quota or for her expertise. It was the latter, she accepted the opportunity and the rest is history. Prof Sandra Harding likened the curiosity of the media surrounding her appointment on the Cowboys Board (the first by a Qld NRL club) to as if they had just seen a dog playing a piano. Quite unusual indeed.

In discussing challenges faced along their paths Katie reflected that the life and family challenges one faces in one’s personal life allows one to build the resilience to deal with business challenges as they arise.Whilst Sandra was of the view that you redefine “challenges” with each one you successfully navigate through.

Kerry emphasised the fundamental importance of having a strong CEO and sound organisational structure as key to allowing the Board to remain focussed on strategy rather than operational issues.  Whilst Danielle recalled the moment she received the watershed advice to stop thinking why you cant do it and start thinking why you can. A piece of advice that shifted her way of thinking from that point in time.

Each of these accomplished women take their positions very much in their stride and their no fuss approach will ensure their actions will quietly pave a way for many more women to follow in their footsteps in similar roles.

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