'There is a place for women on boards of directors'

Hong Kong Rugby Union Director of Women's, Kim Kan talks about life in her new role and what she hopes to achieve over the next three years.

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.”

US Women's Eagles player Tess Feury (centre)
Women's Feature News Women in Rugby
Women's Eagles star nursing the sick in New Jersey
We highlight more members of the rugby family working tirelessly to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic, including Women's Eagles player Tess Feury.
Guatemala v El Salvador
Women's Feature News Women in Rugby
Guatemala and El Salvador make history
The women's teams of Guatemala and El Salvador played their first international match earlier this month, breaking new ground in their respective countries.
Rugby Europe Trophy 2020: Germany v Switzerland
Men's Feature News Tournament News Women in Rugby
Swiss build for a sustainable future
Rugby Suisse CEO Veronika Muehlhofer says there is more to the success of rugby in the country than a record World Rugby Men’s Ranking of 28th.
Filoi Eneliko
Olympics Women's Feature News GIR Olympic Qualifying Tournament News Women in Rugby
Eneliko standing up for women in the Pacific
Former Samoa sevens player Filoi Eneliko discusses the reasons behind her decision to participate in the inaugural Women's Sport Leadership Academy for High Performance Coaches.
Nathalie Amiel - HOF 1
Women's Feature News Hall of Fame Tournament News Women in Rugby
Nathalie Amiel: The 'country girl' turned Hall of Fame inductee
Former France international and World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Nathalie Amiel, who won 56 caps and experienced five Rugby World Cups as a player and a coach, discusses her incredible career in the game.
World Rugby logo
Media release Women's News Women in Rugby
World Rugby extends Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarships programme after global success
Ahead of International Women’s Day, World Rugby has announced an extension of its Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship programme.
Aimee Barrett-Theron
Women's Feature News Tournament News Women in Rugby
Barrett-Theron 'excited for women's rugby' following Euro trip'
South African referee Aimee Barrett-Theron caught up with World Rugby following her recent experience in the Women's Six Nations.
Papua New Guinea v Tonga - RWC 2021 qualifier
Women's News Tournament News Women in Rugby
Tonga keep RWC 2021 dream alive
Tonga battled past Papua New Guinea to set up a play-off with Samoa for a place in the Rugby World Cup 2021 repechage.
Black Ferns Development XV v Papua New Guinea
Women's Feature News Tournament News Women in Rugby
Proud Cassowaries ready for historic test
Papua New Guinea are preparing to face Tonga in a Rugby World Cup 2021 qualifier – the first women's test to be played in the country – and they have a new nickname to mark the occasion.
Berta García coaching
Women's Feature News Women in Rugby
García using experience to grow Spanish rugby
Former Spain international Berta García talks to World Rugby about her coaching ambitions and hopes for the women's game in her homeland.