News that gender equity on the governing boards of sports organisations will be a condition of taxpayer funding has reignited debate around representation and quotas. One loud objector to the announcement expressed in their disappointment that it risked not having "the best people for the job".
"Theoretically, would it be nice to have balance? Of course," the objector stated. "But against a backdrop of win and loss, when you're looking for people to take you forward, what counts? What can they bring to your group?"
In keeping with long-standing criticism of equity quotas, he went on to say that women would also be elevated over "better" male candidates.
The comments took me back to an unsuccessful job interview in Toronto.
At the time, I had recently moved to the city. The interview panel consisted of three people.
After someone else was selected, one of the panellists was kind enough to get in contact as I was her preferred candidate. She analysed my interview and explained I failed to "sell" the skills on my CV.
"You basically just rattled off your background and made everything sound rather ordinary," she said. "But when I looked at your CV, it's far from that, and importantly, you probably have more experience than the other guy. He was just way more convincing."
"You know, you basically have to pretend you're a 22-year-old male who knows he can do anything and is pretty much the best at it."
The panellist in my corner had put it perfectly. What I understood she was saying was one should thrash out one's CV and perhaps embellish convincingly. We were on the same page and laughed about it.
Previously, I had dismissed selling one's skills as unnecessary and annoying chit chat.
It took some pointed advice to highlight the immaturity in my thinking.
I believed talking about myself too much was distasteful. However, I failed to acknowledge how that might look to an interview panel. It found I lacked confidence. The "brilliant" story ideas I presented only convinced one member of my worth. As such, I was still unemployed in a new city.
The critique of gender equity quotas for boards of sports organisations reminded me of lessons from that interview. Outlined in earlier comments were fears that requiring governance bodies to be 40 per cent female would result in less worthy candidates filling roles.
But who is defining worthy or "best"?
As I learnt from Toronto, what I thought as tactful interviewing differed to the panel's interpretation. Between members, views also varied.
Deborah Frances-White, host of The Guilty Feminist podcast, observed: "Confidence is the product of our experience. I notice that again and again men present their opinion as fact, and women present fact as their opinion. The reason I want to combat that is because we are working in a very male environment a lot of the time, and so the male ideas get through because they're presented as excellent and top-drawer."
She added that "female ideas which are sometimes of better quality, don't get through because it's being presented as 'it's just a little thing I've thought of'".
Frances-White touched on a crucial point. Presentation of ideas, like one's CV, was important. She saw first-hand how those portrayed as less-than-perfect simply did not survive in a workplace, regardless of substance.
Equity quotas at governance level increase diversity at the decision-making table. Upholding them enables a wider range of perspectives. The overall intention is to find a more robust notion of "the best". Presentation, while likely to still be important, may be less of a determining factor should voices traditionally not at the top be allowed to weigh in.
Notably, Olympian and world cycling champion Alison Shanks applauded the implementation of a quota system for sporting boards. Leadership diversity will ultimately improve the performance of an organisation, she told Newstalk ZB. Shanks, also a former franchise netball player, surely brings the expertise, sporting prowess and insight to offer excellent advice in this area. Her experience certainly fits the bill.
Overall, I believe the development of sporting bodies under the new direction will tap into a dynamic previously underused or absent in the boardroom.
And by the way, I ended up with the job in Toronto because the previous candidate fell through.