Plans by UK Sport and Sport England to set a target of at least 30% gender diversity in sporting boardrooms around the UK have been branded as a “tick box exercise” by a leading UCFB academic.

Jennifer Lace, who’s also a practising Performance Psychologist at Burnley FC, feels that although it may be seen as a big step forward for women in sport, individuals should be hired on ability alone and not their gender.

Under the new ‘Code for Sports Governance’, organisations such as The Football Association and UK Athletics must adhere to gold standards of transparency, accountability and financial integrity, as well as gender diversity, or risk losing their public funding.

The Code also calls for constitutional arrangements that give boards the prime role in decision making.

Jennifer was recently named as one of women of the future in the Northern Power Women (NPW) Top 50 Future list. Following her nomination, Jen was then selected to speak in front of world leaders at the UN in New York City to discuss gender equality, a topic she is hugely passionate about.

She said: “I think the awareness and the promotion of increasing the number of woman at board level is excellent and if transparency of organisational structures is met, which the code states, gender diversity might become a by-product anyway. It’s a great opportunity and forecasts more positions for women, but I think you should be given the job because you’re right for the role, not to meet stats and obtain funding. Hiring women to a board shouldn’t be a tick box exercise.”

Jen, whose career aspiration is to be a performance director, said that although the new Code would help her towards her career goal, she wants to get there through knowledge, experience and contribution rather than “because an employer has to”.

She added though: “The new governance will change the setup of sports. Being a female in a male dominated sport I can honestly say I think it’s a huge step. I totally agree with the change in calling for transparency, accountability and financial integrity where sports boards have to be open about their organisational structures and financial records.”

The new code applies to governing bodies who ask for UK government and National Lottery funding from April 2017.

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