CGF chief executive chief executive Katie Sadleir believes International Federations need to do more to elevate women into high-ranking positions ©CGF

Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chief executive Katie Sadleir believes World Rugby can help to "show the way" for other International Federations (IF) to ensure there are more women in high-ranking positions.

Sadleir spent five years at the governing body for rugby union where she held the role of general manager for women’s rugby before joining the CGF in August 2021.

During her time at World Rugby, Sadleir oversaw big changes in the women’s game having implemented a long-term strategic plan in 2017, launched the WXV competition in 2021 and helped to elevate female officials into senior positions.

Sadleir said she was "shocked" by the lack of female presence on the World Rugby Council when she joined the organisation in 2016, and she thanked chair Sir Bill Beaumont for making necessary changes.

"When I started at World Rugby, it was governed by a Council of 30 men," Sadleir told insidethegames.

"There was a 27 per cent female membership and all 30 [Board of Directors] were men.

"Bill Beaumont - a man with a vision - clearly wanted a change so we supported him in looking at how they could change the Council.

Katie Sadleir worked at World Rugby for five years before joining the Commonwealth Games Federation ©World Rugby
Katie Sadleir worked at World Rugby for five years before joining the Commonwealth Games Federation ©World Rugby

"By the end of my first year, we signed stuff on the five-year strategy for women’s rugby and we brought on 17 female directors onto the Council.

"That was a fundamental shift.

"Before I started I was asked to come out to a Council meeting in Buenos Aires.

"I went there and there was not a single woman.

"The men were saying it is really unusual to have a woman here.

"Now it is chalk and cheese."

Sadleir highlighted the introduction of the World Rugby Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship programme that aims to invest in the acceleration of women in leaderships roles in rugby.

"World Rugby has invested over £600,000 ($730,000/€710,000) into the leadership development of women and every year they hand out 12 scholarships worth £10,000 ($12,200/€12,000)," said Sadleir.

"When I look at where they are now, several of them are on the World Rugby Council and some of them are chief executives and lots of them are Presidents.

"It was all about lifting the leadership capability so dramatic changes took place over those five years.

"In CGF’s constitution there is a minimum of 40 per cent of each gender on the Board and sub-committees so it is definitely on that path towards driving more women leaders."

A recent governance review by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federation (ASOIF) found that only three of the 33 IFs that responded to its self-assessment questionnaire had at least 40 per cent female representation on their Boards.

It was also revealed that five IF Boards featured fewer than 15 per cent of women members with 15 comprising of at least 25 per cent of female officials with rules and policies to encourage gender balance.

"There are some IFs that have progressed more than others," said Sadleir.

"When I was at World Rugby we participated in that ASOIF survey on a regular basis and in the first year we were probably in the bottom quarter.

"I am proud of the transformation that happened during those five years.

"World Rugby took a holistic solution to change the look and feel of their leadership model and on the field of play.

"Other IFs probably have bit more to do."

World Rugby was among the top-ranked International Federations in ASOIF's latest governance review ©ASOIF
World Rugby was among the top-ranked International Federations in ASOIF's latest governance review ©ASOIF

Sadlier claimed there were "some issues around investment" in leadership development in sport to bolster female presence on Boards and felt IFs could take a leaf out of World Rugby’s book.

"It is about showcasing great practice," added Sadleir.

"We often talk about balancing the Board and the importance of diversity in a cooperate world and the changes you have seen to bottom line statistics and performances.

"But we need to do more documentation in the sports world to see where we have seen some significant changes.

"I would love to do research into where they started in rugby and where they are now and what has happened to investment in the women’s game.

"It can be a really good case study in terms of what other IFs can learn from.

"I think there is a lot more that can be done like that that can show the way."