IN THE day and age where women’s football is growing by the month, equality and inclusion has never been more important in football clubs.
Patty Kinnersly has sat on the Carlton board since 2018 and has seen a remarkable shift in the culture at the Blues since they integrated their AFLW team into regular planning at the Club.
Despite being one of the only female board members at the time, Kinnersly remarks that the board is all for shifting the ‘boys club’ mentality and creating an inclusive environment for both men and women.
“Personally I think the AFLW is a breath of fresh air through the AFL, that’s just the way I see it,” Kinnersly said.
“I can see that in a single Club at Carlton, where we are making decisions about the Club and our football teams, including our AFLW and our VFLW.”
A Carlton supporter since she was young, Kinnersly has always loved football, but seeing the impact that AFLW has made on the landscape has taken her love, commitment and drive to a whole new level.
“I had done a little bit of professional work with Carlton [through Our Watch] and could see they were deliberately changing their culture and what they were committed to,” she said.
“We all know that if we’re going to change an organisation’s culture, that it needs commitment from the top, so from the board, the CEO, from its senior leadership and so forth.”
Kinnersly was directly involved with the initiation of the Carlton Respects program and was approached to join the board after her involvement with the campaign.
Abbie McKay provides a rundown of all things AFLW, as the Game Changers get set to return to the training track when pre-season begins. ?????— Carlton Women's (@carltonfc_w) September 21, 2021
One of Kinnersly’s main priorities is the women's football program noting that it has been treated as importantly as the men's program, especially when it comes to the complete overhaul of IKON Park’s facilities.
“The masterplan to build a new stadium there had so much centred around, not how can we make it equal for women and men but how can we integrate, genuinely integrate,” she said.
“When you now go into our new change rooms, there is no difference between the mens and the women's and they are extraordinary and you can see and feel [the change].”
The influence a football club has can’t be understated and Kinnersly has attributed this to the support the AFLW has received in its first five seasons, with Clubs allowing people to view football in a whole different light.
“The sporting clubs have tens of thousands of members and more supporters, and when they do something, when they show leadership and commitment, it brings that whole group along,” she said.
“If you’re a Carlton person, you’re supporting that Carlton women’s team, and then accidentally without you even knowing, you fall in love with the players and you fall in love with the stories and then you get committed to the game.
“What we’re doing is breaking down the rigid stereotype, football is just a sport, and we’ve associated these male attributes to it.”
Kinnersly was able to break down her thinking and encourage others to attempt a mindset shift, going against ‘how things have always been done’ just for the sake of it.
“It’s sometimes just looking at what we think is normal and unpicking it, saying that actually doesn’t make sense,” she said.
“We live in a world with women and men, we work with women and men, we’ve got partners, we’re all in it together, so why would we segregate it that way?”
When asked when the AFL could see the first female CEO, Kinnersly remarked that she believed they were getting very close to seeing females in every capacity around football clubs in the very near future.
“I sit around the Carlton board table and I think it’s not far away, in terms of the thinking, not a gendered conversation, it’s about the skill set we need and what we’re trying to achieve,” she said.
“Talent, work ethic, intelligence, they are equally distributed between men and women, what’s not equally distributed is the opportunity, and how ridiculous is it that we lose so much talent just because we have ideas about what women and men should do.”