In the intricate landscape of sports governance, leadership isn’t just about making decisions; it’s about fostering innovation and shaping the future. Dr. Una May embodies this ethos as she steers Sport Ireland into new horizons.

Appointed as CEO in January 2022, Dr. Una May wasted no time in making her mark. Since then, she has orchestrated the publication of a new strategic plan for the organisation, setting a bold course for its future. Additionally, under her guidance, the Masterplan for the 20-year development of the Sport Ireland Campus has taken shape, laying the groundwork for a transformative journey ahead.

But Dr. Una May’s leadership journey didn’t start at the top. Before assuming the role of CEO, she served as Sport Ireland’s Director of Participation and Ethics. Here, she left an indelible mark by spearheading the creation of a world-class Anti-Doping Programme, earning global recognition for its excellence. Moreover, she championed grassroots sports delivery through the National Network of Local Sports Partnerships, significantly expanding access to sports across communities.

In your role, how do you actively promote and support the growth of female leaders and decision-makers in the sports industry?

The creation of the Sport Ireland Women in Sport Policy was an important milestone, but more important was the ability to support the creation and development of leadership programmes through Women in Sport investment within the NGBs and LSPs. We hope that through the investment, women and girls across the country are benefiting from these programmes as they are the future leaders in our sport. I’m lucky to have some incredible female staff in Sport Ireland and so I hope they feel supported to lead within the sport industry. I also always welcome the opportunity to host Women in Sport events for the current female leaders in the sport sector. We have some fantastic female CEOs, LSP Coordinators, Presidents, Chairpersons, and board members, all of whom are making an impact in sport.

How do you envision the future of leadership and governance in women’s sports, and what steps can be taken to further enhance diversity and inclusivity at the decision-making level?

Over the past four years we have seen a steady growth in the percentage of women on the boards of National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships. At present, this number stands at 44% overall across the entire sport sector. An increase from 24% in 2019. It is well documented that more diverse boards can lead to better business and so we will continue to ensure gender equality at board level is a key focus. Diversity beyond gender, however, is also extremely important. As sports look to grow their membership and service the entire community, ensuring that everyone’s voice is included and heard in how their sport is run is important. The development of the Sport Ireland Diversity and Inclusion Policy was an important first step and the follow up implementation of these objectives and actions is central to our work.  

What advice would you give to young aspiring female professionals aspiring to climb the ladder in the Irish Sporting Industry?

There is an abundance of opportunities and careers paths that exist in the sports industry now and so gaining experience as you climb the ladder is important. Widening your network and meeting new people working in sport is helpful so try and attend as many events when you can. I would also encourage people to volunteer in sport also as it gives you important knowledge and appreciation of how vital volunteers are to sport in Ireland.