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Scholars of the game

Meet the women transforming rugby

Capgemini is supporting trailblazing leaders from the world of rugby as part of the Women in Rugby Leadership Programme

Capgemini is partnering with World Rugby, the world governing body for rugby union, on a leadership programme to support women playing leading roles in the sport. The Capgemini Women in Rugby Leadership Programme highlights Capgemini’s commitment to promoting equal opportunities in technology and rugby, on and off the pitch, and to meet the goal of reaching a 30% proportion of women in executive leadership positions at Capgemini by 2025.

The programme, which was first launched by World Rugby in 2017, selects 12 women from across the globe each year and helps to develop their leadership skills. Capgemini joined as a global partner in 2022 with a focus on supporting scholarship through the training and mentoring resources of the Capgemini University.

Lessons in rugby

One of the 2022 cohort of rugby scholars is Rowena Davenport. Her career in rugby kicked off when she played for her university team in Dunedin, New Zealand, while building a successful career in finance.

“Whether it’s a sports team or a workplace, as a leader we all manage people in teams,” she says. “We work towards a game plan or a strategy and for a common goal. There are a lot of similarities and transferable skills shared between sport and business.

“Rugby can teach us a lot about how we work alongside others. In a match you’re only on the field for 80 minutes, so you’ve got to make it work, whereas in business it’s about the long game, but it’s the same philosophy.”

A trailblazing career

Rowena has a trailblazing career as a woman in rugby. When promoted to Chair of the Otago Rugby Football Union in 2019, she became the first female chair of a major provincial rugby union board in New Zealand. She is also a founding member of the WIRA (Women in Rugby Aotearoa) and in 2022 was appointed as a member of the New Zealand Rugby Board.

“It’s fantastic that Capgemini partnered with World Rugby, and particularly with the women and girls’ programme,” she says. “For me, as a World Rugby scholarship winner, the connections I’ve made through Capgemini – with their mentors and coaches – have been invaluable.”

Powering rugby forward

Rebecca Davies was a 2021 Women in Rugby Leadership scholar. Her rugby career is also high-profile. For more than 10 years she worked alongside England Rugby, delivering projects on volunteering, recruitment, and more. She became a mentor for the National Women and Girls RFU Leadership Academy, and has most recently helped deliver the National Women’s and Girls’ Leaders programme, helping future leaders to drive the game forward.

After being awarded the scholarship in March 2021, Rebecca was appointed to roles within the Rugby Football Union (RFU) – the national governing body for rugby union in England – and then as an RFU Council Member in November that year.

“A key leadership skill in any industry is to understand exactly what you can do and how you can influence change,” she says. “It’s no different in rugby. Through listening and clear communication, you can bring together key stakeholders to ensure that you achieve your ambitions. It’s the same if you want to lead a rugby team to success on the field.”

Rebecca says that rugby also has its own special set of values.

“It’s about teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline, fairness, inclusivity, and diversity. I’ve taken many examples of how I’ve overcome challenging situations in rugby using these values, and can transfer them to situations in other areas.”

Making an impact with sporting values

Based in the Philippines, Ada Milby was part of the first cohort of scholars in 2018. In 2017, she became the World Rugby Council’s first female member and then the first woman President of the Philippine Rugby Football Union. She was named one of the 50 most influential people in rugby in 2020.

“I come from a military background in the US Army,” Ada says. “With both the military and rugby, it’s about putting yourself on the line for others.

“You can carry over those values into life and, in that way, rugby has had a significant impact on me. I’ve learned about solidarity, discipline, and integrity. Rugby has also taught me to be passionate and pursue that passion, whatever it is.”

Capgemini’s involvement in rugby has been vital in helping raise the profile of women in the sport, Ada says.

“Having these partnerships helps to make sure we are investing in women in rugby, getting more women into the boardroom and in decision-making positions. It’s really helping to change the game.”

The challenge of leadership

Ada says her roles in rugby have taught her how to achieve change in the world.

“Setting out to change the world may seem like a daunting task,” she says. “But every journey starts with the first step. I only think about the next step in front of me. And, once I’ve made that step, I can think about the next and, by thinking of change as making small steps, it’s a lot easier to achieve.”

Rowena adds that whether in rugby, or the wider world, leadership is never something that should be taken lightly.

“You have to take the responsibility seriously,” she says. “Your role is influential and a lot of teamwork goes into ensuring systems and processes give better outcomes – whether that’s rugby, our local communities, or society.” All three describe being able to lead change for a better future as challenging, exciting, and a privilege. As scholars in the Women in Rugby Leadership Programme, they know it’s a challenge they are better placed to succeed in as part of a value-driven, supportive team.

Inside stories

Transformational stories

Director of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union

World Rugby Women in Leadership scholar
RFU Council Member

President Philippine Rugby Football Union

Women in Rugby

Global Partner of Women in Rugby and Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2021