Case Study: Recruiting a gender diverse board

At the start of 2017 the Alliance approached a new set of recruitment practices to successfully bring gender parity to our board and to also showcase our efforts to improve other strands of diversity, including BAME and disability representation.   

This case study will help provide practical tips for you to enhance your own board recruitment practices by outlining how we identified and facilitated the recruitment practices and policies needed and how this shaped our current board composition.  

The board is the primary decision-making body in an organisation, with overall responsibility for promoting the organisation’s interests. Sport England and UK Sport's A Code for Sports Governance requires organisations to have at least 30% of each gender on their board and encourages boards to aim for gender parity. 

The case study includes:   

  • How to identify the skills gaps on your board;

  • The implementation and recruitment process of the Sport and Recreation Alliance;

  • The outcome and changes as a result of the recruitment process;

  • The Sport and Recreation Alliance’s board recruitment policy;

  • A link to the corporate governance structure used by the Sport and Recreation Alliance.

Identifying the gaps 

The following steps were taken with the existing board to identify any skills gaps before the recruitment period: 

1. A board skills audit and board evaluation survey was circulated and conducted by the board of directors 

2. The survey was completed during the month of October  

3. Results of the survey were collated and discussed at the December board meeting 

4. Any skills gaps and required experiences were then identified for the following year’s recruitment cycle 

Implementation and recruitment process  

Upon determining an agreed focus on gender diversity, we implemented the following changes to increase female representation on the board: 

1. The board identified and agreed in April 2017 to recruit an external consultant to assist with the Non-Executive Director search, and help to meet diversity targets on the board. 

2. The consultant changed the language of the job advert to appeal to a wider demographic, particularly women. 

3. The job description was then advertised on the sports council’s websites, along with LeaderBoard (Sporting Equals) and English Federation of Disability Sports.  

4. To target our focus demographic, we also reached out to other networks including; NEDonBoard, Women in Sport, Women’s Sport Trust, Muslim Women Sports Foundation and Women Ahead.   

5. The Alliance’s current board directors also circulated the advert through their own networks, encouraging individuals to apply for the role.  

Outcome and changes 

A total of 30 applications were received for the three appointed positions (19 male & 11 female) 
Four men and four women, who all met the requirements of the role, were interviewed for the positions and the nominations committee, having considered the skills and experience identified in 2016, made their recommendation to the board 
Nomination committee recommendations were accepted by the board 
Three female board directors were appointed at our AGM in 2017 
Separately a female board director elected on to the board by our membership 
Resulting in a total number of six female directors out of a board of eleven 
Gender parity on the board 

Board Recruitment Policy  

The Alliance recognises the benefit of a diverse board in promoting board effectiveness.  The Alliance places great emphasis and encourages all forms of diversity including gender, race, disability, sex, religion or belief, age, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity as well as culture and personality.  

The board composition is managed by our nominations committee (“committee”) on behalf of our board and recommends the appointments or directors, either to the board or the membership.  All appointments are made on the basis of merit, against the skills and competencies which the board requires to be effective. In reviewing the board composition, the committee will: 

  • Consider all aspects of diversity and its benefits for the current board composition; 

  • Identify suitable candidates based on their skills, experience and suitability for the role while having regard to diversity levels on the board;  

  • Annually discuss and approve the objectives to achieve optimum levels of diversity on the board; 

  • Focus on improving one or more elements of diversity while recommending new board directors;  

  • Aim to include at least 30% of each gender on board at all times with an aspiration of gender parity. 

This policy is supported by the chairman and the board and is reviewed annually.  

Corporate Governance Structure 

Find out more about the Sport and Recreation Alliance’s 11-person board of directors and its makeup.