Only days after World Rugby announced sweeping reform of its Council in November with an ambition of one-third women’s representation from 2018, the first female member was appointed by Asia Rugby in Ada Milby.

Milby is a member of the Asia Rugby Executive Committee and Secretary General of the Philippine Rugby Football Union (PRFU) and one of two women – the other being Dr Deb Robinson of New Zealand – so far announced to take one of the 17 additional places created on Council to be filled by women.

While feeling “humbled and truly honoured to be the first” female appointed, Milby is looking forward to bringing to Council her experience as a current player, coach and administrator, including her role as the PRFU chair for grassroots and development.

“I’m still in shock I think around the appointment,” admitted Milby, who captained the Philippines’ national women’s sevens and 15s teams having been introduced to the sport during her first year of university.

“Asia Rugby has been extremely supportive of gender inclusion and for them to appoint me so soon after the announcement of the governance reform really speaks well for Asia Rugby’s support for this change.

Role models

“I’m humbled and truly honoured to be the first but very happy that I won’t be the last.

“The governance reform shows the commitment World Rugby has to gender inclusion. Instead of a gradual approach to the governance reform, they took a huge leap forward by creating a paradigm shift that exponentially accelerated the game.

“I think it is imperative to have women in positions of authority in unions and regional associations because there is now substantial evidence to show that diverse teams are more productive and have better quality outputs than teams that lack diversity.

“It also sets an example within the union and association that there are pathways for women should they choose to transition to administration of the game after their playing years.

“Just as athletes need heroes they can look up to and relate with, so do those aspiring to do great things on the administration side. Simply by seeing and hearing from women that are in these roles creates the space for more women and girls to say ‘hey, I can do that too’.”

Inspiring Symposium 

That theme was very much in evidence last weekend when Milby helped lead the #PressforProgress International Women’s Day Sports Symposium in Makati City, the only officially recognised #IWD2018 event in the Philippines.

More than 70 participants from a number of sports, schools and universities took part in the Symposium (main picture), including mainly female athletes, coaches or those with a direct stake in women’s sports in the Philippines.

“We invited current athletes or those who have recently transitioned from life as an athlete to non-athlete to meet, share and collaborate on the challenges of being a female athlete in the Philippines and thinking about ways to tackle them,” explained Milby, who is one of seven inaugural World Rugby Leadership Development Scholarship recipients announced on International Women's Day.

“We also had notable Philippine athletes come and speak about their struggles as both an athlete and the transition to non-athlete life and how the skills like teamwork and time-management help them to succeed in their corporate life now.

“The participants were inspired, but more importantly they walked away with solutions they created which is ultimately more powerful than anything we could tell them.”