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Milby: World Rugby must lead from the front

We speak to Ada Milby who is standing as a candidate to be elected to World Rugby's important Executive Committee. 

Milby is one of two female candidates vying for a spot on the committee, which is currently made up of 10 men and one woman and is the game's most important day to day decision making group.

We've written an open letter here to Council members urging them to deliver on their commitments to advancing women in rugby and we ask Milby what she feels she can bring to the position. 

Why have you decided to stand for ExCo
Looking at World Rugby’s strategic goals to increase participation and drive more diversity, I reviewed the current ExCo composition and identified some areas where my experience and background from an emerging market and a small developing union could contribute to achieving these strategic goals. There is strength in diversity of thought and an opportunity for a fresh perspective to look at the current challenges facing rugby globally.

What's your experience been like on the Council so far
As the first woman appointed to Council in 2017, I remember someone asking me this same question. I said then that change is a process, not just a decision. Fours years on, I can say that there has been notable progress with the presence of women on Council from the gender neutral naming of Rugby World Cups, having female representation across all World Rugby committees, and the support for the global Women’s XVs calendar. Leading from the top down in this way has also had a knock on effect, and it’s been great to see regional bodies and unions doing more to support more women in leadership roles and driving initiatives for this “single biggest opportunity to grow the sport” (World Rugby Strategic Plan 2021-2024).

Give us a sense of how rugby is developing in Asia and how important it is that the region has a stronger voice in the main places of decision
One of the driving factors for placing a Rubgy World Cup in Asia in 2019 was because of the identified opportunity for growth to the Game. 60% of the world’s population reside in Asia and roughly 25% of that are between the ages of 15-24 years old. RWC2019 was one of the most successful RWC’s to date and we haven’t even scratched the surface of the growth potential for the region. With the current challenges in traditional markets, we need to consider how to best engage these communities in a way that demonstrates the value of rugby and why it should be the choice sport for youth.

What's your view on how World Rugby have worked to improve gender diversity across all its committees
As I mentioned earlier, seeing female representation on all committees is definitely a step in the right direction and taking on the recommendation from the independent governance review working group to achieve 40% gender diversity across all committees helps give concrete targets we can work towards. I was really pleased to see Deborah Griffin appointed as Chair for the Audit and Risk Committee with a target of three committees to be Chaired by women. It’s a fine line to walk between chasing numbers and strategically placing Council representatives on committees based on their strengths, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.

Why is gender diversity on boards and committees important?
There are no shortage of studies on the benefits of gender diversity for better decision making on boards and committees. I think what’s important to note is that as an international federation, we need to lead from the front on driving diversity and inclusion. We have done some great work in these areas with the World Rugby Scholarship programme to build the pipeline and specific interventions such as the high performance coaching programme for female coaches. We will find that as we create more space and opportunities for women to step into leadership roles, we will start to see rugby boards and committees globally look more representative of the community we all serve.

Why should Council members vote for you
My fellow candidates are all valued members in their respective Union/Region and I’m sure would provide value to ExCo. I think what sets me apart is my unique journey through rugby. Rising through the ranks of rugby administration while continuing to play representative level rugby and supporting sport for social impact initiatives gives me a unique perspective of understanding the challenges of both players and administrators. The voice I bring to the table is first hand experiences that are both recent and relevant from grassroots community rugby to the board room.

If you join ExCo what will your main priority areas be?
I am in full support of the recent strategic plan recently launched by World Rugby for 2021 – 2024 with a focus on “game-changing targets, centered on enhancing competition portfolio, growing participation and increasing engagement, [and] inclusion and diversity” (World Rugby Strategic Plan 2021-2024). I would also advocate for innovative ways to engage audiences, recognising that technological disruption is not just a threat, but also a massive opportunity to reaching new and younger audiences.