Q&A with Sport England’s Head of Equality and Diversity, Cathy Hughes

With a wealth of experience in the field of D&I, Cathy Hughes has championed RimJhim Consulting’s Get on Board initiative from the onset. Having commissioned several reports into the diverse communities Sport England serves, Cathy spoke to us about the importance of representation and why we still need to set goals to help ensure that organisations include BAME professionals at the very top. 

Tell us a little bit about your role at Sport England.

I’m the Head of Equality & Diversity at Sport England and I work with my colleague Jamie Hooper to cover the following areas; women, BAME, LGBT+ and all other areas except disability – we have a specific team to manage our disability work. Our work in itself is very diverse, ranging from managing a number of national partners such as Women in Sport, Women’s Sport Trust, Pride Sport to developing policy guidance in areas that are affected by equality & diversity, so currently working on guidance on trans participation in facilities, to diversity on Boards which is the work being delivered by Perrett Laver and RimJhim Consulting and releasing insight, such as the BAME insight we recently released.

What are the aims and objectives of Sport England in terms of equality in the sporting arena? 

We have some public aims such as our participation targets for women and lower socio-economic groups which we aim to achieve by 2021.  But at a ‘softer’ level, we’re really aiming to make sport and physical activity as accessible to and supportive of as wide a range of people as possible.

What is the Governance Code and what does this mean for sports organisations of the future? 

The Governance Code is a number of requirements that our partners have to achieve to secure funding from us which help ensure that the organisations are managed as robustly as possible.  It contains 5 principles of good governance which are structure, people, communication, standards & conduct and policies & processes. Depending upon the level of funding being received and the length of the relationship the partners has had with Sport England, the partners are classified into 3 tiers with different levels of accreditation required by the 3 tiers.  So, for example, our National Governing Bodies of Sport and Active Partnerships are all Tier 3 partners for the Code meaning they have to undertake the most rigorous requirements because of the level of funding they receive.

Please shed some light on the work that Sport England has done so far in the area of inclusion in particular to encourage greater representation from BAME communities? 

We’ve had a long standing funding relationship with Sporting Equals, we have various funding pots that we have specifically targeted towards BAME groups (such as Great Ideas), we have a Talent Inclusion Plan covering the high performance work by our NGBs and we have recently released specific insight on BAME participation in sport and physical activity, for example.

How do you see the Get on Board project as part of Sport England’s desire to help women into senior leadership roles?

The Get on Board and Perrett Laver projects are important resources in helping our funded partners develop more diverse boards.  We have specific targets for greater diversity on Boards although we will always maintain that the best person for any role on a Board should be the best person!  But if our partners are to reach more diverse participants and remain appealing and attractive to new consumers, they have to understand and reflect the communities they serve, and that’s as important at the top of the organisation as it is at the bottom.  We know that more diversely led companies make better decisions, so that’s what we’re hoping will start to happen as this project matures.

What do you enjoy most about your role at Sport England?

The most favourite part of my job is probably the feeling that I’m helping to make a difference. Not as quickly as I’d like, but I genuinely think this project will help develop individuals and benefit the sport sector by bringing different voices, perspectives and life experiences to the board rooms.

The Get on Board Programme is funded by Sport England and is a ten-month senior-level initiative in conjunction with other partners to help prepare high achieving women for board-level positions within the sports sector. 

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