White and pink words on a navy background. The words say "Happy International Women's Day 2021! #IWD2021". International Women's Day. Spark Solutions.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day (on Monday)! It’s funny, I didn’t understand the importance of International Women’s Day until 2014, when I was in Russia for the Sochi Paralympics. The men bought flowers for all of the females in their lives. Someone gave me a flower, although I don’t remember who. I remember being touched, but I didn’t think it was a big enough holiday to warrant flowers. A fellow volunteer, from Vancouver, informed me that International Women’s Day was a big deal in Russia, and other places worldwide, because women are still fighting for gender equity and women’s rights. At the time, I thought Canada had women’s rights all figured out. I’ve come to learn that this isn’t actually the case, and sport, too, has a lot of work to do.

When it comes to girls and women participating in sport, there are plenty of startling statistics. Such as:

The statistics are no better for women.

In order for us to change these statistics, we must change how we deliver sport to girls and women. We currently, for the most part, deliver a sport model that works for boys. That is to say, we focus on effort. Effort results in performance, which results in social acceptance, which then results in a social experience. For girl participants, the opposite is true. For girls, social acceptance results in effort. Effort results in performance, which then results in a positive social experience. Until we change our approach; until we centre girls’ sport experiences around the social atmosphere and build a safe and welcome atmosphere to take risks, we will continue to see dissatisfying statistics about the sport participation of girls and women.

Canadian Women and Sport

Canadian Women and Sport is an organization that I have long held in high regard for their work in creating gender equity in sport. Their vision: to achieve equity for women in society through the power of sport. Their mission: to create an equitable and inclusive Canadian sport and physical activity system that empowers women and girls – as active participants and leaders – within and through sport. With a focus on systematic change, they partner with governments, organizations and leaders to challenge the status quo and to advance solutions that result in measurable change. Canadian Women & Sport is dedicated to gender equity, and all of the intersections that intersect with gender equity, like sexual orientation, ability, economic status, and race.

Canadian Women and Sport has a whole library of resources- publications, research and insights, tools, case studies and a photo gallery. The resources offer actionable, evidence-based resources that address gender equity challenges in sport at the ground level. The resources help understand how to prioritize inclusion on a day-to-day basis.

The organization also offers a series of workshops focused on women and leadership. There are 6 workshops: Effective Communication, Conflict Resolution, Influencing Change, Creating Work-Life Balance, Effective Networking, and Leading with Confidence. The workshops are 90 minutes and include tangible tips and skills for the related topic and plenty of opportunities to interact with others and practice skills. I have been a facilitator with the organization since November 2019 and have delivered workshops for Volleyball Canada, Skate Canada, Hockey Canada, Rivers West District for Sport, Culture & Recreation, many others. It’s always a pleasure to talk with sport organizers about advancing gender equity in sport.

Imagine the Possibilities

Gender equity in sport, and in larger society, is possible if we all work together. We require gender equity allies to will lead the charge. In the meantime, we will continue to celebrate the progress that was made so far. Happy International Women’s Day, one and all!

#IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge

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