Catherine Ordway

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Meet Catherine Ordway, an Independent Director, Australian Canoeing (Appointed 11th April 2012) and Senior Lecturer and PhD candidate in Sports Management at University of Canberra.

Catherine Ordway is an international expert in the field of sports law and anti-doping. She is also an experienced investigator with a Graduate Diploma in Investigations Management. Catherine has contributed to a wide range of investigations, prosecuted before administrative tribunals and conducted hearings, including as Chair, in the sports environment and within the Australian Public Service. Catherine has lived in Europe (Norway) and in the Middle East (Qatar). Catherine is currently an Independent Director of Canoeing Australia and was on the Advisory Board for the 2012 Asia Pacific World Sport and Women conference. She is a member of the IBAF (international baseball), SportAccord (GAISF Association of International Sports Federations) and ICC (international cricket) anti-doping tribunals and currently a Chair of the Capital Football disciplinary committee.

You were involved with Ruth Medd, Chair, Women on Boards in the genesis of WOB. Can you tell us what you were trying to achieve?

In the lead-up to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, I was working as a solicitor for the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC). At that time, the International Olympic Committee had set a target that by 2005, a minimum of 20% of all National Olympic Committee boards must be women. On behalf of the AOC, I sought an exemption from the Victorian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal to require that the President and Vice-President of the AOC Athletes Commission had to be of different genders. A representative of the Athletes Commission sat on the AOC Board, thereby ensuring that, alternately at least, this person would be a woman.

As the AOC Board is otherwise composed of representatives from the National Sports Organisations, who are in turn composed of representatives from the State Sports Organisations (SSOs), most of whom were male presidents at the state and therefore national level, this led to me to think about how we could influence the number of women at the state board level. I started to call around the NSW SSOs to find out when their elections would be coming up, how many positions were to be voted on and whether they had given the skills composition of their board any thought. For example, if they said they were looking for someone with a finance background, I would contact my female friends and colleagues to see if I could put some names forward for the election. The sports organisations were mainly concerned to ensure a good cultural "fit", so I aimed to provide 3-5 names each time.

Phoning around to match organisations with suitably skilled women was obviously an unsustainable strategy, so I sent an email to a number of my friends and colleagues in the industry to see if they had any ideas on how we could streamline this process. Ruth Medd (inaugural and current WOB Chair) and I had a brainstorming session, and I approached the NSW Department of Sport & Recreation about a funding proposal through the Womens Sport & Recreation board I was a member of. The idea was to join with women's groups such as NFAW that Ruth was a member of, Zonta, and others to set up a register of women interested in joining sports boards, and put them in contact with women who were already on boards who could mentor the aspirants. Ruth had many contacts in the senior executive ranks, and she rallied together 10 mentors. The result was a function in March 2001 involving 80 women, who heard speakers breakdown some of the myths and concerns women had about joining boards.

What has changed for women on sports boards since that time?

Nothing. Disappointingly, the WOB Board Diversity Index just published for 2011 indicates that the percentage of women on sports boards has actually dropped in the last 12 months. [AWRA Note, as of January 2014, 28.9% of the positions on national sports boards are filled by women.]

What can this be accredited to?

Most sports and teams in Australia benefit to some extent from Government funding. I do not support the view espoused by the previous Australian Sports Commission (ASC) Chairman, Warwick Smith, at the 2011 WOB Diversity Conference, that the ASC's role is to be merely "aspirational" in this context. If leading by example were sufficient, the ASC's 50-50 gender split on their board would have been replicated on sports board across the country some time ago. To suggest that the current system is "merit-based" is insulting.

I support introducing a raft of new initiatives that provide the skills and confidence to more women so they will apply for decision-making positions. I would like to see it mandated that all board and CEO positions be advertised, using inclusive language to encourage women and those from a culturally diverse background to apply. Some initiatives being looked at include turning over the Board and CEO positions more often, so that the same person cannot hold a decision making position for more than one term. Also, one term should not exceed three years. It may then also be possible to include a quota system that reflects the number of applicants to ensure that no single gender holds more than 60% of decision-making positions in an organisation. There is a lot that can be done to ensure there is an open and transparent process. I would also welcome a merit and values based assessment of all current boards.

What involvement do you have in continuing to shine the spot light on the issue?

With women currently holding the positions of Governor-General, Prime Minister, several state Governors and Premiers and immediate past Premiers, and importantly the current Sports Minister in Kate Lundy, I am optimistic that the time is right to make deep and lasting changes to the composition of decision-making positions in sport, and the presentation of women's sport in the media. Both Governor-General Bryce and Minister Lundy will be the key note speakers at the Asia Pacific World Sport and Women conference (Melbourne, 7-9 October 2012) at which Women on Boards will also be speaking, and I expect they will be presenting some of the positive initiatives to create a legacy on this issue.

I am also involved with the Centenary of Canberra National Women's Sporting Congress which will be held in February 2013. Canberra currently has three very successful national women's teams that do not have male team counterparts and this makes Canberra unique in women's sport. The Congress will involve an examination of the success of women's sport in Canberra and the ability to transplant aspects of that success to other centres.

Tell us about your board role at Australian Canoeing.

In April 2012, I was appointed as the second independent member to the Board. Independent Directors should have specific skills in commerce, finance, marketing, law or business generally or such other skills which compliment the Board composition, but need not have experience in or exposure to the sport of canoeing. The remaining Board members (5 of 7), are referred to as "Interested Directors" as they have sport-specific knowledge and are nominated by their State Federations. The Board is expected to provide strategic direction and oversee the operations of Australian Canoeing.

How did you find and get the role?

I saw the advertisement in the weekly WOB Vacancies email back in early March 2012. I sent in my CV, and then had an interview via teleconference with the CEO, President and another Board member. My appointment was announced on 18 April 2012, which is a much quicker turnaround than you could expect from a Government appointment, for example.

What board / committee roles have you held previously?

Apart from the Australia Canoeing board, I am on the Advisory Board for the 2012 Asia Pacific World Sport and Women conference. I am also a member of the IBAF (international baseball), SportAccord (GAISF Association of International Sports Federations) and ICC (international cricket) anti-doping tribunals. I am currently a Chair of the Capital Football disciplinary committee.

I have held several other board positions in sport, including with the Women's Soccer Association, Womensport & Recreation (NSW), Women's Cricket (NSW), Capital Football and the ACT Association for Women in Sport & Recreation. I Chaired the successful 2009 Australian & New Zealand Sports Law Association (ANZSLA) Conference Co-ordination Committee. My role as a mentor with the Capital Football mentoring project in 2011 was also extremely rewarding.

What is your career background?

I was first admitted to legal practice in South Australia in 1993, having obtained my Law/Arts degree from Adelaide University. I am the first lawyer in my family. Coming from country South Australia, I was pleased to have been given the opportunity to work in suburban Adelaide private practices, including with Nick Xenophon, before moving to Canberra to take up a position with Snedden, Hall & Gallop in 1994. As a result of winning the Australian & New Zealand Sports Law Association 1st Time Presenter's Prize in 1996, I joined Browne & Co to open their Sydney office. There I became a Senior Associate and I primarily advised the Australian Olympic Committee on intellectual property, trademarks and anti-doping issues in the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. I developed an interest and expertise in anti-doping at this time through prosecuting approximately one third of the world's anti-doping cases before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

In 2001 I moved to Oslo to work in the anti-doping and ethics department of the Norwegian Olympic Committee (which subsequently became Anti-Doping Norway). After establishing the Association of National Anti-Doping Organisations, I moved to Qatar to take on the role of Head of the Anti-Doping Program for the 2006 Asian Games. Immediately prior to the Games, I returned to Canberra, as I had accepted the role of Group Director, Enforcement with the newly established Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA). I then left ASADA in June 2008 in order to set up my own consultancy business, specialising in sport and anti-doping. This allowed me to complete a Graduate Diploma in Investigations Management focused on inter-agency collaboration and information sharing between law enforcement and anti-doping organisations.

What is the driver for your specialisation in anti-doping?

I am passionate about sport and its capacity to create happier communities. I work to promote clean sport to ensure that children can excel and enjoy all the health and social benefits of sport into the future.

Where did your passion for sport begin?

My mum came from a sporting family, where the women played representative hockey for my home town of Whyalla, South Australia. My mum played A Grade and representative tennis and netball in her younger days, and I remember many hours spent at the back of the squash courts with my brother watching my mum on Monday nights. At university I played tennis, netball, mixed basketball, intervarsity fencing and state level handball. I went on to be selected for the national handball squad. I then moved to Canberra, and as a South Aussie, I had to take up rugby union, so I could understand another football code, and I represented the ACT for a season.

Were you involved in the London Olympics?

Yes, during 2008-2010, I assisted Drug-Free Sport, then within UK Sport, to transition into the stand-alone agency, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD). UKAD was established as a non-departmental public body. The vision then was to develop a world-leading National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) which would be in a position to fully implement the new World Anti-Doping Code, minimise the threat of doping at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and provide the UK with a lasting legacy as a leader in the global fight against doping in sport. My role was to provide expert advice on the requirements for a world class NADO, and to develop UKAD's intelligence management function.

Can you tell us about your work for the Istanbul bid?

Turkey has nominated Istanbul as a Candidate to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. I am engaged as one of the consultants to provide expert advice on anti-doping through the consulting group, Event Knowledge Services. The International Olympic Committee will conduct the election of the Host City for the 2020 Olympic Games on 7 September 2013 at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Who will you be cheering for during the Olympics?

Naturally I will be cheering on the canoers and paddlers! I am also Australia's IAAF anti-doping delegate, so I will be willing Sally Pearson, Dani Samuels and Genevieve LaCaze to put in their best performances as I have been watching them during the Grand Prix season. The Matildas were robbed of their spot by the North Koreans, but I will be cheering on the Opals, and hoping the women's rowing 8s quiet any remaining critics for their inclusion. My sentimental favourite is Anna Mears, who has come back from a horrific injury on the bike, and deserves all of our encouragement on the track. For the Paralympics, I will be hoping that Carol Cooke will do well on the trike, as she was selected ahead of my friends Brandie O'Connor and Kerry Knowler in the Para-cycling.

Any tips for WOBers who are interested in being involved in sports boards?

My tip is to directly approach any sport you have an interest in, and tell them what you have to offer. Apart from the professional sports and teams, sports organisations and event organising committees are always looking for volunteers, as they rarely have the money to pay boards or committees. Even if the majority of board representatives must come from the sport, many have vacant independent board positions, and capacity to take on people through sub-committee structures. While most of the paid positions have been secured by men up until now, the good news is that there are almost endless opportunities for women to become volunteers in the sports of their choice.

This profile has been reproduced by AWRA with permission from Catherine Ordway and WOB. Interview in 2012.