WomenSport International (WSI) Advisory Board member, Dr. Gretchen Kerr, provides more insights about the recently announced Canadian Initiative on Gender Equity in Sport Research. 

Canadian Gender Equity in Sport Research Hub

June 2020

Sport Canada has recently awarded a national Gender Equity in Sport Research Hub to Professors Gretchen Kerr (University of Toronto), Guylaine Demers (Laval University) and Ann Pegoraro (Guelph University). The mandate of the Hub is to develop an internationally recognized research and innovation centre for the collation, generation, and dissemination of research on gender equity in sport.  The establishment of a research hub on gender equity in sport is a unique opportunity for the Canadian scientific community, along with key partners in the sport sector, to advance an egalitarian and equitable Canadian sport system.

Despite decades of research, policy initiatives, education and advocacy, girls and women continue to be under-represented in participation rates and in leadership position within sport. For girls and women with intersectional identities, the situation is worse. The Hub will present unique opportunities for collaboration between researchers, representatives from the sport community, government and NGO bodies, and gender equity experts from outside sport and universities. The Research Hub is guided by the following commitments: (i) an Intersectional Approach; (ii) Partnerships with Research Collaborators across Canada; (iii) Engagement by Members of Sport Community; (iv) Partnerships with Key Stakeholders; (v) Innovation; and (vi) Systematic Use and Application of the Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) Framework.

The Hub’s work will be organized conceptually into two themes: participation and leadership. Two additional priorities, inadequate media coverage and gender-based violence, will cross-cut the two main themes.

Theme 1: Girls’ & Women’s Sport Participation

The Hub will explore participation or the engagement of girls and women as participants in high quality programmes at all levels of sport – from recreational or local club levels, to provincial and national level sport.  Current data consistently show lower rates of participation in sport by girls and women, and a much higher and earlier drop-out rate from sport participation by girls.

Some of the key research questions to be explored include: How many girls and women participate in sport?              Who participates, and who does not participate? What are the demographic determinants of participation? How do they intersect? What are the barriers and facilitators to participation? What role does media play in sport participation rates for girls/women? What is the current level of media coverage of women’s sport in Canada? What is the prevalence of gender-based violence experienced at all levels of sport? To what extent do experiences of discrimination, bullying, abuse, neglect and hazing prohibit sport engagement and continued sport participation?


Theme 2: Women’s Participation in Sport Leadership

Leadership refers to women in positions such as coaching, officiating, and sport administration at local, provincial and national levels of Canadian sport. Current data consistently show lower percentages of women in leadership positions in sport— coaching, officiating, management & administration.

Some of the key research questions to be explored include: What are the current data for women’s leadership in sport in the areas of coaching, officiating, management and administration? Who are the current women, in terms of their demographic characteristics in leadership positions in sport in Canada? Are they representative of the team/organization they lead, both in terms of gender and other demographic characteristics? Are they representative of the Canadian population? What are the barriers that prevent women from becoming involved/remaining involved in leadership positions? What facilitates women obtaining and retaining leadership positions? How does media cover women leaders in sport? How are women coaches represented? How do sport organizations represent women leaders in owned media channels? To what extent does gender-based violence affect entry to sport leadership positions, retention within sport leadership, and the quality of experiences?

The Hub will build databases of research associated with these two main themes and commission, carry out and/or support, research projects that attempt to answer the perplexing questions associated with these themes. A key role of the Hub will be to mobilize and disseminate these research findings with various sport stakeholders thus strengthening the research-practice nexus.

Article contributed by

Dr. Gretchen Kerr, WSI Advisory Board


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