A aerial photo of 200 girls and women on a soccer pitch at the Live Your Goals Festival. Gender Equity in Sport. Spark Solutions.

Gender Equity in Sport – More Women and Girls in Play

Gender equity in sport has been and continues to be a hot topic of discussion in sport management. In 2018, the Canadian government announced the formation of a working group on gender equity in sport. This came after an announcement of the federal government’s commitment to achieve gender equity in sport at every level by 2035. This is a tall order, as a 2019 survey by Canadian Women & Sport found that only 38% of Canadian girls are participating in sport, with some sports having greater gender parity in participation than others. These numbers shrink when examining gender parity in coaching, officiating, and board and leadership roles.

Squash Canada's Strategy

Gender equity in sport has been in the news again this week. Squash Canada released an infographic regarding its National Gender Participation Survey which established a baseline for female participation. The survey also exposed areas needing improvement and work already in progress to promote gender equity in squash at all roles and at all levels in Canada. The survey found that only 25% of Canadian squash players and coaches and only 7% of provincial level singles squash officials are female, respectively.

Squash Canada has identified that their sport’s female participation is much lower than males’, and are taking steps to rectify this. In July, the organization announced a women in squash encouragement fund, and yesterday, the organization released a brand new female engagement and gender equity strategic plan and a new mentoring program meant to support, develop and grow female engagement in all roles and at levels in squash in Canada.

Hockey Canada's New Policy

Meanwhile, Hockey Canada received news coverage for recently instituting a change to policy as it relates to their board. The board of directors, moving forward, must now be comprised of a minimum of two women, as well as a minimum of two men. Social media reception of this new change was lukewarm, at best, with many comments stating that this change is far too little, much too late. In the organization’s 106 year history, it has only had one female director, who sat on the board from 2013 to 2015.

In comparison to Squash Canada, it appears that Hockey Canada is not going far enough in its efforts to strive for gender equity. However, Hockey Canada is making efforts in this area. At the end of July, an empowering and inspiring conversation was held with female Olympians. The organization recently introduced mandatory diversity and inclusion training for its close to 500 athletes and staff. It also employs several staff who are tasked with growing the game through various targeted initiatives, including initiatives meant to increase female participation in the sport.

Targeted Action

These are two examples of sport organizations who have targeted initiatives meant to improve gender equity within their spheres. This is what it takes- targeted strategy, specific initiatives, and intention, to move the needle on gender equity in sport. There is academic research to show this as well.

Next, I will be discussing the under-representation of women on sport boards more specifically. I will also offer some suggestions that I have, from my research on this topic, and from my experience, of ways that I believe sport organizations could work to greater gender equity.

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