In March 2018 Rugby Americas North awarded three World Rugby Leadership Development scholarships to women in the RAN region. The scholarships are a part of World Rugby’s Leadership Development program which was launched in 2018 to develop and support the next generation of female leaders. World Rugby provided funds for two recipients in 2018, with Rugby Americas North taking the added step to fund one additional scholarship.  Araba ‘Roo’  Chintoh (CAN), Jillion Potter (USA) and Maria Thomas (TTO) received funding for their proposals in the inaugural year.

First meeting of the RAN Women in Leadership Directive in Miami, Florida, August 2018.

This past August the recipients were joined by Martha Daines (USA), Tamara Dixon (JAM), Liz Ferguson (CAN), Cristina Flores (MEX), and Meg Howat (CAN) ahead of the Rugby Americas North EGM. During a productive 1-day workshop the group saw a need for additional structure and recognized the desire to create a broader impact.  The Women in Leadership Directive (WiLD) was born and the following mission was set forth:

  • To be an inclusive resource to support and advocate for girls and women in rugby 
  • To work to raise the standard of resources, education, governance, and competitions for girls and women in rugby
  • To achieve the vision of women in RAN making an impact in all aspects of the global game of rugby

WiLD is comprised of women representing all of the regions of RAN and dedicated to organic and reciprocal examples of positive and accurate representation.

“It’s time we represent ourselves with authenticity,” said Dixon. “Without this holistic movement, sport will never evolve to its full potential; both masculine and feminine aspects of rugby need to be nurtured and represented to be successful.”

RAN provided the support of Jen Gray, Laura Gill, Kwaneize John, Niall Brooks, Mike Luke, and Scott Harland who contributed to an inclusive discussion in the inaugural meeting.

To achieve the goals of women filling key leadership roles in governance, administrative, technical, and commercial positions in RAN, and women being technical experts of the game, a sustainable community for mentorship, support, networking, advocacy, and representation in the women’s game was deemed imperative. WiLD seeks to establish communities of conversation and demonstrate inclusivity in action. The opportunity to do so was not lost over the RAN EGM weekend; individuals such as Pam Kosanke (USA) and Andrea Burke (CAN) offered support and resources to the team.

“It is inspiring to see rhetoric turned into action”, commented Thomas. “From inception we have been supported, encouraged, and given the tools we need to reach our potential.”

Recently elected RAN representative to the World Rugby Council, Cristina Flores, threw her support behind the initiative:

“I call all member unions to count at least one woman on their rugby boards, and to endeavour to provide resources and guidance on governance. Women are already leading in some parts of the rugby world and can share valuable experience. It is not a matter of women replacing men, but adding to the game and its leadership by working side by side together.”

Each recipient of the scholarship is not only working hard to complete the personal development initiatives set forth in their scholarships, but the group also has a full slate of engagements planned for the coming months. WiLD is working on a number of projects to facilitate the growing number of women and girls who are stepping up, and serve the unions who are in full support of the initiatives.

RAN scholarship recipient and WiLD member Maria Thomas (right) meets with youth in Barbados at 2018 RAN Sevens to discuss the initiative.

RAN Sevens in Barbados provided the first springboard to introduce WiLD initiatives within the Caribbean, with Thomas and Chintoh playing active rolls in the tournament as well as presenting to local rugby communities.  The group also vetted applicants for a video analyst training at the Americas Combine Camp to learn alongside the World Rugby Analyst Team. Plans are also underway for WiLD opportunities at the Canadian Universities Championship, the Women’s Rugby Coaches and Referees Association Conference, and the Barbados World 7s this year, with many more initiates to come in the 2019-2021 term.

RAN will continue to provide updates on opportunities, projects, and progress from the Women in Leadership Directive as the group continues to change the game in the region and beyond. Information on regional women’s rugby milestones can also be found on the RAN Trailblazers page. 

The application process for 2019 scholarship program is open. More information can be found here.