It's a reality: only a few women executives make it to the top of the male-dominated sports industry, whether in New Zealand or any part of the world. But Raelene Castle ONZM managed to get there, now as the Group Chief Executive of Sport New Zealand.
One of Australia’s most prominent female sport leaders, Raelene started in the commercial space, spending 15 years there and assuming different management roles across various companies, such as Fuji Xerox, Southern Cross Healthcare, the Bank of New Zealand, and Telecom New Zealand.
Being the child of two sports people, however, it was perhaps Raelene's fate to land, and eventually lead, in the sports industry, serving as CEO of Netball New Zealand from 2007 to 2013 before becoming CEO of the Bankstown Bulldogs Rugby League Club in 2017 – the first female CEO in the National Rugby League.
“My amazing parents taught my brother and I great family values and manners, but also treated us the same. We both had to learn to change a tyre, parallel park, cook dinner and do the washing! They showed me that girls could do anything,” she said in an interview.
The strong-willed Raelene did show that women can lead in sports, breaking barriers and making her mark as the Bulldogs' CEO until her resignation in April 2020. She joined Sport NZ in December of the same year.
What disappoints her, however, is the fact that no other woman has been able to join her at the top of the industry – a sign that women are facing obstacles in climbing the ranks not just in sports but also other industries.
Raelene believes that businesses across the continent need more diversity in gender, race and culture in order to progress. For her, sports should be leading the way in creating more inclusive spaces.
“Sports should be something that’s fundamentally inclusive. So disability, race, gender, rainbow – it doesn’t matter what it is – we need to provide sports in this country that are welcoming and non-judgmental to all of those different groups,” she said.