In the dynamic world of sports governance, leadership isn’t just about making decisions; it’s about driving meaningful change and fostering inclusivity. Meet Louise Burke, the driving force behind some of Ireland’s most innovative initiatives in sports participation and governance.

Currently the Director of Participation at Sport Ireland, Louise’s journey to leadership didn’t begin there. With a rich background as the coordinator of the Galway Sports Partnership and serving in Non-Executive Board positions with Basketball Ireland and Badminton Ireland, Louise has been a trailblazer long before assuming her current role.

One of her most notable achievements? The ground-breaking Get Ireland Active initiative. Louise spearheaded its development and launch, revolutionising how Ireland approaches sports and recreation. This pioneering database aims to map every sports facility and club in the country, ensuring accessibility and opportunity for all. From recreational centres to niche sporting hubs, Get Ireland Active is a testament to Louise’s vision for an inclusive, active nation.

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

Within Sport Ireland, we have clear targets on how we engage and support the growth of female leaders in sport in Ireland. We recently launched our revised Women in Sport policy which identifies four key target areas which emerged as current gaps & future opportunities for women in sport. These were, Leadership and Governance, Active Participation, Coaching and Officiating, and Visibility. My role supports each pillar and the work I do within the LSP network, Dormant Accounts and Outdoor recreation focuses on supporting women and girls to engage more wherever possible. Sport Ireland overall has taken steps with the government to ensure gender balance on boards as well as providing leadership training and support for females 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?

Leadership and governance are the core foundations of how we establish a stronger and more balanced sports sector. A number of key actions will drive forward the agenda of more women in sport. From creating more female connections, advocates, and support structures to driving gender balance quotas at policy level to providing strong guidance on facility development suitable for women, the list is endless on how we as a sector and as a society can make changes to enable growth in Women in Sport. The wider diversity and inclusion agenda follows a similar approach, having Irish modern society represented in the decision making rooms, will support clubs and NGBs/LSPs to create environments that welcome people from all environments.

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

Find yourself a mentor. Having someone you can learn from, who can provide advice and support but also hold you to account is one of the most impactful things you can do, especially early in your career. The opportunities availability for career progression in sport has never been more exciting. The NGBs are always expanding and strengthening the structures within their sports. LSPs have cemented their place at the top table of sport and are rolling out over 120 jobs in the network in 2024-2025. The ways you can get involved are endless, I trained as an accountant, and I am now facilitating national and international policy development, participation and outdoor recreation for the country. You never know what can happen next, so say yes and back yourself!