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Italy v Canada - Rugby World Cup 2021: Pool B
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Changing the future for women in rugby

As part of Capgemini’s support for World Rugby, colleagues are helping to rewrite the future for female leaders in the sport. Here, two colleagues tell us of their experiences of coaching women in rugby leadership roles.

“A rugby team is more than the sum of its parts,” says Clayton Mace, HR director for business partnering at Capgemini in Australia and New Zealand. “This is what rugby is all about. It’s about finding the right combination of people for a team. Often, that comes down to leadership, and with the right leadership we can create a positive future for everyone involved.”

Clayton joined Capgemini two years ago and alongside his day-to-day role is a volunteer coach in Capgemini’s Women in Rugby Leadership Program. Capgemini is a partner to World Rugby and the program supports its strategic plan to accelerate the development of the women’s game.

Achieving that, in what has traditionally been a male-dominated sport, means rewriting the future of the game – on the field and behind the scenes – in the way it is run and governed.

“This is the second year I’ve been a coach,” Clayton explains. “The program takes the form of one-to-one sessions, as well as participation in Capgemini’s suite of online courses. It’s about working with an individual to help them develop personally and professionally so they can take charge of the future for themselves and for the sport.

“Rugby – and sport in general – is still very male-dominated, so someone I coach might be the only female in the boardroom. My candidate this year is a Player Development Manager with aspirations to secure a boardroom position. Last year, the person I coached sat on Fiji’s national women’s rugby board, with a remit of expanding the women’s game in that country.”

Through the coaching sessions, Clayton and the candidate concentrate on building skills that help them meet specific challenges. “For example, we work on developing executive presence, so the individual has the confidence to share their excellent ideas with the room.”

Connecting personal and professional values

Emma Salaman is also a Women in Rugby Leadership coach at Capgemini.

“I’ve been with Capgemini for 17 years and my role today is Global HR Business Partner,” she says. “I’ve always enjoyed watching rugby and the sport is very well aligned to my own personal values.

“I love that Capgemini has a history and connection to the sport, so when the opportunity came up to be part of Women in Rugby as a coach, I was really excited. It allows me to connect with people outside of Capgemini in a sport that I have a passion for, and to bring support, value, and guidance to upcoming leaders. The aim is to make change happen.”

Letting people lead

The first – and most important – step for a coach, Clayton says, is to establish a rapport and sense of trust. “From there, we can work out what the candidate wants to achieve, and highlight any obstacles that might be in their way.”

Clayton then tailors his coaching to the specific needs of the individual. For example, one person might be looking to enhance their presentation skills through building confidence, while another might be focusing on leadership and how to build high-performing teams.

Emma agrees about the tailored approach

“You are led by the person you are coaching and what they want to achieve,” she says. “Every coaching discussion is specific to the individual and the challenges they face, but there are some common aims. It could be helping to frame a strategic direction that they want to take, so they can really deliver impact. It’s about recognizing how the skillsets they’ve developed as leaders in sport can be used to their best effect in a wider organizational context.

Emma with Jonny Wilkinson, Capgemini’s global ambassador for rugby

“Sometimes they have the solution already – they just haven’t had the opportunity to step back and think about it. Through the Women in Rugby Leadership Program, we can highlight those skills and reflect on how they can be applied.”

Leading in a team culture

Working together to support the talents of the individual is at the heart of coaching, and reflects the ethos of teamwork in a sport such as rugby.

“Teamwork is such an important part of leadership,” says Clayton. “You have to be able to inspire others, and this requires vision and a sense of your own journey.”

For Emma, that involves encouraging leaders to be true to themselves and have empathy for others.

“In Capgemini we put a lot of emphasis on bringing together the right people with the right capabilities to deliver the right outcomes. As a leader, you need to be empathetic and try to understand other people’s points of view. But you also need to be authentic to your true self. That’s how you become stronger and more confident.”

Giving the gift of support

For Clayton, it’s no coincidence that Capgemini, with its strong connections to sport and rugby, is running the Women in Rugby Leadership Program. “This is the first time I’ve worked at an organization that truly lives and breathes this stuff. Our seven core values – including trust, teamwork, and fun – share so much with the sporting philosophy.

“I have huge admiration and respect for these individuals and their passion for the game of rugby. If I’m contributing in some small way to help them rewrite the future of the sport, it’s wonderful.” Working together as a team, with confident leadership, both Clayton and Emma agree, will always be a foundation for success.

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World Rugby

We are the first Worldwide Partner to sponsor both World Rugby (as Digital Transformation Partner and Global Partner of Women in Rugby)