Angela Collins, Legal Director of the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), is among the 14 women participating. Each has been asked to pick a mentor in the sports industry who will help them develop their careers.
FIFPRO spoke to Collins and Laura Sigal, who has agreed to be her mentor.
Collins has worked major negotiations for the PFA, including the 2019 landmark agreement that has given the women’s national team the same pay and conditions as their male counterparts.
Sigal began her legal career working for Major League Baseball’s player association in New York. In Australia, she has worked for several player unions since 2007 and is now deputy general secretary of the Australian Athletes Association.
We first spoke to Collins, who met Sigal at an industry event several years ago.
What was it like asking Laura to mentor you?
Laura worked at the PFA before I joined, and I have known her for quite a long time but it was really daunting. It was a bit like asking a guy out for a date – you think to yourself: what happens if she says no?
She said she would be honored. It’s humbling that she has agreed to give up her time.
What do you expect to learn from her?
I have really admired how she has sustained her career in such a high-pressure environment and I want to know how she has managed to keep going. My job is incredibly demanding. You never quite switch off.
The 'Ready to Board' program gives you the chance to set professional goals and this is what I will be looking at with Laura.
There was one quote from the first part of the program that really stood out for me: the trouble with not having an objective in your career is you can find yourself running up and down the field without scoring a goal.
Do you find there are barriers in football for women?
The barriers still exist but I don’t have the same barriers as some of my colleagues on the ‘Ready to Board’ program in other parts of the world. We have been quite progressive, from administrators to players, in Australia.
We are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement for the men’s and women’s leagues in Australia. Typically there are three or four women to eight men in the negotiations. The PFA’s co-chief executive is a woman, Kate Gill.
So it’s come on leaps and bounds. I don’t feel isolated as a woman in football.
Sigal began working for the PFA in 2007, and has also worked for the Australian Football League Players Association. We asked her about mentoring Collins.
Why did you agree to be a mentor?
I am happy to help Angela because I know what it’s like in the player movement. The resources don’t always match the needs. You are working on a shoestring trying to help as many people as possible.
Sometimes you have to take the time for yourself and realize that things can’t be perfect. You only have so much time.
What is your opinion of 'Ready to Board'?
A lot of the mentoring I have done – sometimes with university students – has been a lot more informal and looser. The ‘Ready to Board’ program is really interesting because there is a goal strategy.
How do you expect to be able to help Angela?
Angela hasn't set her goals yet but I have a lot of contacts with sports organizations.
I hope I will be able to draw up a plan for Angela so that we can find her what she is looking for and maybe find her a boardroom position.
“I have been in a lot of negotiations when I was the only woman. It has changed but I am not sure the actions have quite matched the rhetoric”
Are most sports boardrooms still dominated by men?
I’ve been in a lot of negotiations when I was the only female. It has changed for the better a bit over the years but I am not sure the actions on women’s rights and equality have quite matched the rhetoric.
A lot of the old dudes say we need people with experience when someone with different skills is probably the best person for the job, not someone with the same viewpoints as everyone else in the room. So, because of that, women weren’t getting the jobs.
What was it like being the only woman in the room?
After a while you kind of don’t notice it. You have to kind of ignore the nonsense. If you stopped to call it out, the sexism, you would never be able to advance, you would be devoting all your time to that.
The ‘Ready to Board’ program is a good way of helping to get more women into boardrooms.