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Jennifer Thomas: England Netball

Name of project / organisation

Diversity in Sport Leadership programme

Sport / activity


As a former England 400m hurdler, sport has always been close to Jennifer Thomas’ heart.

Even while she forged a successful career in the private sector as a diversity and inclusion champion and communications leader, she could not escape the pull of the sporting world. 

"I always had the intention to get back to it," says Jennifer. "I spent my childhood competing as an athlete and it played such an important part of my career by developing me personally and professionally. I wanted to give some of that back.”

Jennifer realised a governance role with a sporting organisation could provide the best of both worlds and allow her to take her skills from the private sector and bring them into sport. 

She entered the Diversity in Sport Leadership programme with us and Perrett Laver to better understand the sporting industry and what a governance role would entail. 

"The programme really helped me understand the structure of sporting organisations and gave me valuable exposure in the inner workings of sports governance," says Jennifer.

"There are so many nuances and differences that would be difficult to navigate if you came straight into the role from a full-time private sector position, but the programme prepared me for that.” 

Jennifer says the programme also allowed her to best understand where she would best fit in a sports governance role: “The Sport England and Perrett Laver teams gave me a chance to bounce my skills around and work out how they might be best be used in a sporting governance role. It was great having those internal touch points and a guiding hand through the process.”

I have offered myself as a sounding board for diversity and inclusion, and hopefully given some insight that will help drive diversity throughout the organisation.

Jennifer Thomas

Non-executive director, England Netball

After completing the programme, Jennifer took on a board role with England Netball in January and has been able to leverage her different perspective on the board.

“You want a real mix of mindsets on a board in order to challenge processes and organisational thinking," she says. "Often a sporting board will have a whole table of sportspeople, so I have been able to bring a different perspective and mindset from a corporate background."

In her role with England Netball, Jennifer has also transferred her skills as a diversity champion and provided crucial expertise: “The board team really encourages a hands-on approach and there have been opportunities to work on some amazing projects.

"I have offered myself as a sounding board for diversity and inclusion, and hopefully given some insight that will help drive diversity throughout the organisation.” 

Jennifer sees this as an important role for her on the board going forward: “We really need to look at the demographics of our players and athletes and understand how we can create structures that encourage participation from all.” 

Despite taking on her role in January and helping England Netball through the pandemic, Jennifer says it has already been a rewarding challenge: "Sport is a passionate place. If you can hone into your passion and combine it with your skillset then is it is a hugely rewarding environment to be in."

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