The husband of Olympian Anne Hare has taken aim at the leaders of two of the country's biggest sports organisations, accusing them of not doing enough to bridge the gender gap in sporting boardrooms.
Chris Hare has written an open letter to two of his old schoolmates, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew and Sport NZ boss Peter Miskimmin, urging them not to simply pay lip service to the need for better female representation in sporting boardrooms.
The NZRU has never had a woman on its board but told the Herald last month, as part of the Grass Ceiling series, its members "recognise it is an issue for us" and hope the balance will be redressed in time.
In the same series, Miskimmin said there was a wealth of highly qualified female business leaders keen to be involved with sport's governance, but the problem lay in the demand side.
"Part of it is to educate chairs and boards that they have to be far wider in their perspective," Miskimmin said.
Referring to these comments, Chris Hare said the two men needed to back up their words with action.
"It's good to see there is now no issue on the 'supply side', which will be easy peasy for you both to take up the leadership roles on the 'demand side'," he wrote. In the letter, Hare also details the struggles of his wife, a former middle-distance runner, in sport's boardrooms.
"My partner had real issues in dealing with bullying, lack of respect, exclusive networks, being marginalised and ostracised," he wrote.
Anne Hare has served on the board of both Athletics NZ and the New Zealand Olympic Committee but was forced to quit, she says, because she was bullied and felt her opinions were constantly disregarded.
"It was shocking, absolutely shocking," the athlete said of her experiences at board level.
"[The decision-making] wasn't rational - it was just that old boys' mentality that we can't back down on our opinion because we've already put it out there," she told the Herald.
Although Sport NZ has two women on its board, as one of the main funders of sport in New Zealand, Hare believes it should be putting more pressure on national sporting organisations to get better female representation on their boards.
She said the "name and shame" system they used was not working.
"I kind of see Sport NZ as really the gatekeeper - they need to put more pressure on those organisations to look at their board."
The Atlanta Olympian, who works as an investment adviser in Wellington, said she found it particularly frustrating when sports tried to claim there were no women out there qualified to serve on their boards.
"A lot of the men aren't any good at it, so what's the benchmark? A few sports have managed to mess themselves up, I'm not sure what damage they think women are going to do."
A letter to a couple of high school mates
Kia ora Steve & Pete,
Hey, remember me! It's Chris from when we were at HVHS back in the early 70s.
What great times we had being immersed in rugby and hockey at that college. Forty years has gone by and gee you fellas have done awesome making it to the top of your chosen professions without using the "Old Boys Network"!
Good on you and no doubt some gongs will come your way in the next couple of years.
As for me, I have also had a privileged life but I have to tell you my partner has had to work mighty hard to become an Olympian and then achieve success in the finance/governance worlds.
Yep, my partner had real issues in dealing with bullying, lack of respect, exclusive networks, being marginalised and ostracised. I'm so pleased that you fellas will not tolerate lip service. It's good to see there is now no issue on the "supply side", which will be easy peasy for you both to take up the leadership roles on the "demand side".
Oh and having a woman on the NZRU Board will even things up with the Maori voice already on.
Finally, I look forward to catching up with you both in another 40 years on our La-Z-Boys, chewing over the amazing changes you boys have dedicated for women in sport!
Ma te wa,