Being appointed chairperson for the governance panel of the Pan American Hockey Federation (PAHF) holds some significance for Jamaican Michelle Thomas. But she is less concerned about whether or not she has broken the proverbial glass ceiling and more focused on fulfilling the task at hand.
Thomas, 31, is not only the first governance panel chairperson, but also the youngest member and one of only a few women of colour on the panel, which is purposed to provide recommendations and guidance to the board of directors concerning issues of governance, statutory and contractual obligations.
The decision around Thomas's appointment was made during a planning committee meeting last month, where it was suggested that an external person be appointed for the purposes of secretary. It was also suggested that this person be preferably young for succession basis.
While the attorney-at-law views her appointment as another great stride for women in a male-dominated arena, her main goal for her two-year tenure is to bolster the Caribbean presence in the international sporting body to uplift the image of Jamaican hockey.
"To head PAHF's governance panel as a woman of colour underscores the reality that society is evolving and women are being accepted in spaces often dominated by men, especially in the sporting arena," Thomas told the Jamaica Observer from Miami where the planning committee had convened.
Interestingly, Jamaica's Hockey Federation (JHF) president Fabian Stewart is also a part of the panel as director for the Caribbean on PAHF, and this for Thomas goes well with her mandate to drive the sport locally and in the region. The other members are Roger St Rose, Anna Dogget, Maureen Craig-Rouseaau and Laura Macchiotti.
"My personal mandate is to use my legal skills to activate change in the sporting arena. It is my intention to modernise all statutes of PAHF to ensure conformity with FIH (International Hockey Federation)," Thomas said.
Few would be as grounded and seemingly unchanged after such a meteoric rise, but Thomas's path may have always been lined given her unwavering love and passion for sport which first came to light during her time at the St Andrew High School where she played centre forward.
"My love for hockey started there and then I joined the St Andrew Hockey Club where I played for a number of years," she shared.
Thomas even performed the great balancing act while pursuing her law degree at The University of the West Indies.
"I studied law in Barbados at UWI, Cave Hill for two years and at UWI, Mona for one year. During my tenure at both institutions, I played for the school teams in inter-campus competitions and I also served on the Jamaica Hockey Federation board as a director for two years from 2016," she explained.
Finally, as the committee acknowledged the considerable body of work already completed in the area of governance, under the guidance of St Rose, Thomas is eager to build on that foundation to achieve a formidable governance structure.
This as the committee felt that the transformation of the governance framework is necessary to improve conditions affecting the board.
"My expectations are to provide recommendations and guidance to the PAHF board of directors regarding issues of governance with an intention to bolster the Caribbean presence on the international sporting body," Thomas ended.
— Sherdon Cowan