SaltWire E-Edition

Action Needed to Keep More Girls in Sport

By Ameeta Vohra

Barriers are still keeping many girls away from sport. A 2020 Rally Report exploring trends in sport participation showed that half of the girls surveyed said the quality of programming was an obstacle to their participating or remaining in sport. The report, released by Canadian Women & Sport, focused on girls from age six to 18.

“Sport not being appropriately designed for girls, having quality coaching, or positive role models to look up to are some reasons they gave as to why they leave,” says Mia Johnston, regional consultant for Canadian Women & Sport. “It’s important to look at women and girls’ experiences beyond gender, such as how race, age and sexual orientation can also impact their experience and create barriers to their participation.”

Johnston says one of the first steps leaders in sports organizations need to take is to embed gender equity into their programs and decision-making.

“Canadian Women & Sport is a great place to start in that we offer a variety of programs and customized solutions to work with leaders and organizations to do this,” Johnston says. “A great thing organizations and leaders can do on their own time would be to start to consult key stakeholders, experts in a certain area, and even women and girls in their programs that they’re executing to learn their specific needs.”

In Canada, girls have many intersecting identities, so information on those identities would benefit programs.

“If there is a specific community need and that leader or organization is not necessarily an expert in it, or they don’t have lived experience, it’s best to look to another organization or other experts to help guide them through the process,” Johnston says. “Talk to women and girls and figure out what those needs are and what (organizations) should consider in their program planning to keep them in sport.”

With the 2022 Rally Report set to be released imminently, Johnston says it’s a pivotal time for sport in Canada.

“People can expect to see that not only have these trends not improved with women and girls’ participation in sport, but girls or women are reporting with even greater clarity the need for better quality and safer sport,” she says. “We are calling on leaders, organizations and policymakers to embed gender equity into their resourcing and programming.

“Ultimately, we know there are tremendous benefits, not only individually but to society, when girls and women participate in all levels of sport.”





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