Kim Kan admits she has felt the heat since being appointed Director of Women’s at the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU), but that does not mean she has curbed her ambition.

Kan, who represented Hong Kong at test level between 2005-12, joined the union on a three-year term in July and has some grand plans for her time on the Board.

Chief among them is to continue the impressive growth of the women’s game in Hong Kong, while also encouraging female participation in coaching, refereeing, management and executive roles.

“It’s a little bit of a trial by fire,” Kan said about her first few months in the role.

“In Hong Kong especially the scene is growing quite rapidly. In terms of numbers we’re growing more rapidly than the men’s and a lot of girls are getting more and more interested in the sport as well. So, it’s ensuring we keep this conduit going. 

“But one of the other things I want to focus on over the next few years is that it’s not just the entry point, there’s also the exit point because we’re trying to ensure that women do come up through the ranks but not just in the teams but what happens afterwards. 

“And I think there is a place for women on the board of directors, whether that’s in the rugby clubs or even again at the rugby union. There’s no reason why they should not be considered. 

“We will be launching a HKRU Leadership Development course in 2020 which features workshops specifically designed to help women develop the skills needed for these leadership roles. 

“It is a great way for them to stay involved in rugby, especially if they can’t play anymore.”

Building confidence

Kan knows the importance of that latter point well having been forced to hang up her boots due to a serious back injury.

The former Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC) prop believes her experiences on the field help her view the challenges presented at board level from a “player’s lens”. 

She discovered the game while studying at Cornell University in the USA and was drawn to it by the camaraderie between both team-mates and opponents.

Her subsequent experiences with HKFC and the national team came in 15s – “I’m not fast enough for sevens!” – but she is keen to champion the positive impact playing all formats of the game can have on self-esteem.

“A big thing, for me, is ensuring that all these women have confidence,” Kan said. 

“That’s one of the reasons why I love this sport as well, the fact that it does help a lot of women, and a lot of girls actually, have a very positive body image. 

“And for them to actually understand how much your body can accomplish or what your body can do and the belief that you are stronger than you look.”

On whether she sees herself as a role model for young girls and women in Hong Kong, Kan added: “I hope to be and I always aspire to be. 

“I do want to be able to inspire girls to take up the sport but also to help girls to build up confidence. 

“Even in the end if they start rugby [or] decide not to play it, that’s fine. I just want them to be able to understand, you know, [it teaches] a lot of life skills. 

“It’s about picking yourself up after you get beaten down, working with people that you might not necessarily like but you know that you have to work with them to win. There’s a lot of those things. 

“I just want to ensure girls develop that confidence. I think that’s the biggest thing for me.”

Turning point for women

Kan’s success will also be measured against the targets set out in the HKRU Strategic Plan 2020-23, which was published in November.

For those targets to be met, the Hong Kong women’s 15s team will need to qualify for the Rugby World Cup 2021 and 2025 repechage tournaments. 

Having made their RWC debut in Ireland in 2017, and bolstered by back-to-back test wins over the Netherlands in November, Kan is hopeful the squad can go one better than that.

“We’re a tiny, tiny city compared to places like the US or the UK but the want is there,” she said.

“Hopefully we’ll make it to the next World Cup but also hopefully our girls, somewhere down the line, will make it to the Olympics as well.”

Kan will combine her commitments at the HKRU with her day job as Director, Global Real Estate and Construction at KPMG.

The multinational professional services network has been a keen sponsor of the women’s game in Hong Kong, and has been very supportive of Kan’s elevation to the HKRU's Board.

In turn, she is confident of being able to juggle both roles and is enthused by the size of the task in front of her.

The Hong Kong native is happy to report that attitudes towards women and girls playing rugby are shifting and relays an anecdote in which a contact enquired about the possibility of sending HKRU coaches to their daughter’s school. It was a request Kan was keen to fulfil.

“I feel at this point there has been a turning point for women’s rugby, especially with the inclusion in the Olympics and how there is more of a spotlight on women’s sports and women’s rugby in general,” she explained. 

“It’s a case of making as much of [the role] as I want, and I know in Hong Kong especially the scene is growing quite rapidly.”