Kearns: Women have much to contribute

Paula Kearns of New Zealand speaks exclusively to FIFA.com as part of a series of interviews with the four candidates vying to become the first woman to be elected onto FIFA’s Executive Committee.

FIFA.com: Can you introduce yourself?
Paula Kearns: Football is my sport and although I never played at school (it wasn’t offered as a sport for girls back then) I still play and have played socially for the last ten years. I have three children and live in Auckland, New Zealand.

I have been involved at nearly every level of the game – as a player, a coach of my daughter’s team, occasional referee, club president, at regional board level, as acting CEO of NZ Football in 2008 and since then as a NZ Football board member.

I am a qualified chartered accountant and have been for 20 years. My experience includes working for two of the big four firms, PWC and Deloitte, as well as establishing my own successful accountancy practice. In 2010, I made a career shift into sport management and I have been the CEO of Canoe Racing NZ for the last three years until recently. Canoeing is a small but very successful sport in New Zealand and I was delighted for the sport and for the country when Lisa Carrington brought home Olympic gold in the K1 200m event.

Following my board appointment to NZ Football I took an active interest in board roles and I am a member of the Institute of Directors of NZ and have completed substantial formal board training.

What importance do you attach to being nominated by your confederation?
It is a real honour to be nominated by the Oceania Football Confederation – a small but progressive confederation that has recognised the development of women’s football as a priority. This nomination is an opportunity to make a real difference internationally to the progress and growth of women’s football.

How did you react to the FIFA President’s proposal in 2011 to have a woman on the Executive Committee?
When I heard the proposal in 2011 to have a woman on the Executive Committee I was very pleased that FIFA recognised the importance of the women’s game by creating the role. Women have much to contribute at all levels of the game and it shows great leadership by FIFA to recognise this at the very top.

If you were elected, how would you see your role?
If I were elected I would see my role as being the global advocate for women’s football and the voice for women’s football on the Executive Committee. I would make myself fully available to support confederations and national federations to drive the growth of women’s football and overcome challenges. I would work closely with FIFA staff to ensure there is a clear strategy for the growth of women’s football that is being achieved. Additionally I would expect to fully contribute and add value as a member of the Executive Committee to football board matters.

What is your vision for women’s football?
My vision for women’s football is that the opportunity to learn and play football is offered to every girl in the world and that women’s football continues to grow and strengthens our sport and our communities.

We’d like to ask you some personal questions based on the ‘Proust Questionnaire’ so that we can find out more about you. What is your favourite motto?
Life is what you make of it.

Who is your favourite heroine of all time?
Kate Sheppard, who led the campaign that saw New Zealand become the first country to give women the vote in 1893.

And in football?
New Zealand captain Rebecca Smith

Which match will you always remember?
The opening game of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup when New Zealand played Canada. I was so proud that New Zealand was hosting the inaugural tournament and that I was able to participate in the opening ceremony.

What is your favourite word?
Passion.

The word that you hate the most?
Apathy.

This interview will be published to coincide with International Women’s Day on 8 March. Is this day important to you?
International Women’s Day is an important day for me and for all women. It globally raises the profile of gender equality and the importance of women. It is a day to reflect on the progress women have made towards equality, but also to consider that there is still some way to go.