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“I'm passionate about equality”

Women Onside Director Kieran Pender shares his values, insights and plans for the road ahead.

Kieran Pender is a writer, lawyer and director of Women Onside. He is an award-winning sports journalist, having covered the Men's World Cup, Women's World Cup and Olympics for The Guardian. Kieran is a former director of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations and a founding trustee of Football Rising. He is also an honorary lecturer at the Australian National University.

You’re passionate about women’s participation in sports – football in particular – why is this so important to you?

I'm passionate about equality. I've seen firsthand how football makes the world a better place, so I'm a big believer in the power of sport. But at the moment, we are not harnessing that potential because women and girls are not fully empowered, in some cases, outright excluded from sports, including football. We've come a long way, but we still have a long road ahead to achieve women in football, everywhere. I hope I can contribute, in my small way, to the achievement of gender equity and equality in football.

What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned in your leadership journey so far?

Staying true to your principles can be really hard. I was once involved in an unfortunate situation of deep interpersonal conflict within an organisation that I loved and was deeply invested in, and I had to walk away. It was the right decision, but it still hurts.

Biggest challenge you face today?

Time. There's never enough.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?

I was often told that I could be a writer or a lawyer, but it wasn't feasible to pursue careers in both. I didn't listen because I love my legal work, and I love writing, and I want to do both. So I do. I've been very fortunate to forge a career that lets me wear both hats.

Who’s your mentor?

I won't single anyone out here, but I've been immensely fortunate to benefit from the guidance and wisdom of many people during my career to date. I'm a big believer in paying that forward, and I try to mentor many emerging lawyers and writers today. And I think Women Onside's mentoring program, run by the incredible Heather Reid, is just fantastic.

What are some of your key goals for the next 12 months?

I want to contribute to the ongoing growth of Women Onside, capitalising on the opportunities presented by the 2023 Women's World Cup. I'm working with a fantastic group of people across Europe and Africa to set up a new football charity, Football Rising, to empower women and girls in the game in marginalised communities. And with the new federal government, there are plenty of opportunities for positive change and law reform in my other areas of work. Plus, I'm covering the cycling road world championships in Wollongong for The Guardian in September. So a busy year ahead!


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