Jillion Potter receives World Rugby Leadership Development Scholarship

To celebrate International Women's Day 2018, World Rugby yesterday announced the inaugural recipients of its Leadership Development Scholarships. Among them was Former Women's Eagle, Jillion Potter, who after her playing career has decided to pick up the whistle and continue with the rugby community as a referee. 

The theme for this year's International Women's Day is #PressForProgress. Under World Rugby's scheme, a total of $335,000 will be awarded in scholarships to inspiring female leaders across World Rugby's six regional associations over the next two years. The scholarships can be used to enhance the professional development of the successful applicants through a variety of opportunities such as formal or informal education, conferences, workshops, mentoring, secondments, or best practice study tours.

"Press for Progress acknowledges that more must be done to address the challenges women face in sport and business," said Potter, "This scholarship provides women the education and momentum to create meaningful and sustainable change within our industry. The program will accelerate gender equity, inclusiveness, and development in rugby for girls and women.

I am extremely grateful and humbled to be a part of such a program among many influential women around the world. Together we will accelerate the global development of women in rugby, on and off the pitch. The message embedded in the Press for Progress scholarship meant: We believe in you. You can do it. We'll help you get there."

The scholarships, introduced as a key objective of World Rugby's wider strategy to accelerate the global development of women in rugby, aim to maximize the rugby leadership potential of talented women currently working in the game.

The first seven scholarship recipients are:

· Jillion Potter (USA) - A USA Eagle for nearly 10 years, who played at Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 in 15s and led Team USA to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in sevens.

· Ada Milby (Philippines) - Member of World Rugby Council and the Asia Rugby Executive Committee, Secretary General of the Philippine Rugby Football Union and former captain of Philippines in sevens and 15s

· Samantha Feausi (Hong Kong) - Head of Women's Rugby Development for Hong Kong Rugby Union and former Hong Kong captain in sevens and 15s

· Maha Zaoui (Tunisia) - General Manager of the Fédération Tunisienne de Rugby and member of the Executive Board, responsible for women's rugby

· Rolande Boro (Burkina Faso) - President of the Fédération Burkinabe de Rugby and former Burkina Faso player

· Dr Araba "Roo" Chintoh (Canada) - Provincial Director and member of Rugby Canada's Board of Directors who played for Canada at Women's Rugby World Cup 2002

· Maria Thomas (Trinidad and Tobago) - Honorary Secretary and member of the Trinidad and Tobago Rugby Football Union Executive Committee, a former sevens player for Trinidad and Tobago

Further recipients from Oceania Rugby, Sudamérica Rugby and Rugby Europe will be announced later in the year.

Potter added, "There are a number of exciting developmental opportunities I will pursue with the support of the Press for Progress scholarship. Each training or event will deepen my understanding of the challenges women and girls face in sport and business, and build my skills and network to create change. I will use each event as an opportunity to build my own knowledge and skillset, and as a platform to share my story to inspire future leaders."

When asked what programs could be on the horizon, Potter answered with 7th IWG World Conference on Women and Sport, ESPN W: Women and Sports Summit, Cornell University: Women in Leadership Certificate and the TedWomen Conference. 

Since the launch of World Rugby's ground-breaking Women's Plan 2017-25 in November last year, the international federation has been working with unions and regional associations to review gender inclusiveness in governance and management and to put in place proactive strategies to develop good practice.

Part of this has been to design and implement targeted leadership development programs to identify and support the current and next generation of female leaders. World Rugby is also helping run regional leadership forums and developing a good practice governance resource for regions and unions.

World Rugby's mission is to drive forward gender-balance in the sport by ensuring women have equal opportunities in all areas, are integrated in strategy, plans and structures and make highly valued contributions to participation, performance, leadership and investment in the global game.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: "On International Women's Day World Rugby joins the global call to action to press for progress on gender parity. The promotion of women in rugby is a top priority for World Rugby following the launch of our landmark 2017-2025 Women's Plan. We remain committed to accelerating the development of women at all levels of the game, both on and off the field of play."

Serge Simon, the new Chair of the World Rugby Women's Advisory Committee, said: "It is pleasing to see the ongoing work of the Women's Advisory Committee being realized in such a positive and impactful way on International Women's Day. These scholarships will make a big difference to the development of female leaders in our regions and unions and have a significant knock-on effect for the governance of game, representing an important step forward in our ambition to bring greater gender balance to rugby."

World Rugby General Manager of Women's Rugby Katie Sadleir added: "Under our strategic Women's Plan, we are determined to be a global leader in sport, with governance and management processes setting the standard for good practice. We firmly believe that inspirational role models will attract future leaders. That is why we are proud to announce the first Leadership Development Scholarships on International Women's Day as we continue to drive forward progress on gender balance in rugby."