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Open Letter: Seize the moment

We write an open letter to all of World Rugby's Council members ahead of a vote on May 6 (and the announcement in May 12) for a vacant position on World Rugby's powerful Executive Committee. 

Dear Council Member

Next month you will have an opportunity to elect a new member to World Rugby's Executive Committee (ExCo)

As you know, the latest World Rugby data shows that 28% of players globally are women and your organisation, through your chair, has committed to improving gender balance and ensuring that women have equal opportunities on and off the field including, “from the highest levels of the sport’s governance”.

Although we recognise that important progress has been made to ensure that the Council is far more representative of the game it serves and society more broadly, the ExCo unfortunately reflects a bygone era, with just one woman currently amongst the 12-person committee. That is clearly a long way from World Rugby’s own plans to introduce a target of 40% of female representation on committees.

Your vote on May 6 therefore, is a golden opportunity to change this and to ensure that the decisions the ExCo are taking are being made by a group of people properly representative of the game they serve and of the audiences they would like to grow.  

Not only do we believe it is vital that the key decision-making groups in rugby are representative, it is also well documented that gender-diverse boards and committees make better and more profitable decisions, as well as reflecting good governance, and that, as the game’s global body, the choices you make about who runs the sport, have a significant knock-on impact on what happens everywhere else. 

This is crucial because, sadly, women are under-represented, or not represented at all, in many of the most important places where decisions are being made in rugby.  The Six Nations Council which signs off on decisions, for example, is made up entirely of 12 men and the Irish Rugby Union has just two women on its 25-person main committee.

World Rugby must surely now demonstrate what Bill Beaumont describes as your “unwavering commitment to advancing women in rugby both on and off the field".

You have the perfect opportunity to deliver on this commitment in the coming weeks. 

While it's clear that all three of the proposed candidates are highly qualified and would add significant value to the ExCo, there are two women on the shortlist and we are writing to encourage you to choose one of them.

We understand that these candidates – Ada Milby (who would also become the first person to represent Asia on the ExCo) and Cristina Flores – face an uphill battle to secure the votes needed because of likely agreements among regions and unions in advance. 

Yet we are urging you to look at the bigger picture and the message that World Rugby wants to send to the sport as a whole about diversity and inclusion.

Please do not allow this opportunity to be missed.