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Women’s participation in sports: Inspire the future

Women in Sport –

By: Clarissa Andersen

Sports seem to be the lifeblood of Canadians from sea to shining sea. We love our hockey and we wildly cheer on our national teams, sporting red, white and the iconic maple leaf.

While we may believe we support and encourage our male and female athletes equally, recent research suggests a major divide.

Between the ages of three and 17, 41 percent of Canadian girls do not participate in sports. That number jumps to an astounding 84 percent as adults. If, by the age of 10, a girl has yet to play a sport, she only has a 10 percent chance of living a physically active life in her adult years.

These statistics, along with many others, are part of the findings released in the Women in Sport – Fuelling a Lifetime of Participation publication spearheaded by Canada’s dairy farmers, the Canadians Association for Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) and a sport leader advisory group.

“As champions of healthy living and playing an active role in their communities, Canada’s dairy farmers are addressing inequalities through the Fuelling Women Champions (FWC) initiative” says Caroline Emond, executive director, Dairy Farmers of Canada.

“Launching this research publication is not only a significant stride for addressing pertinent social issues, but it is step in the right direction to propose actionable solutions and get people thinking about what they can do to change the situation.”

A first of its kind, this research hopes to shed light on the severe gender inequalities for Canadian women in sport, and to encourage people nation-wide to work at closing that gap.

Aside from general participation details, another staggering statistic that emerged from the study was that women’s sports received a mere four percent of all televised sporting coverage. This number was found after 35,000 hours of programming from Canada’s primary sports networks was reviewed. Of the four percent, half of that number pertained to women’s tennis as well as the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

While these numbers may currently be low, and the balance of women and men participating in sports may be uneven, movements like Fuelling Women Champions are hoping to change the face of sports for women across the country; now and for future generations.

“Swimming is the most popular organized sport for females across the country. We hope that as an organization, and an important part of the national sporting community, we can create positive discussion and encourage our young girls to live a healthy and active lifestyle,” said Swimming Canada CEO  Ahmed El-Awadi.

To create change, we must change our approach and there are many ways we can all do our part both in the community and at the individual level.

Women in Sport – Fuelling a Lifetime of Participation suggests taking the following steps to promote a more equal environment for girls and women in sport:

  • Consult with girls and women at the community level to understand local realities that may hinder participation.
  • Develop programming that meets needs, interests and experiences identified by girls and women consulted
  • As individuals, we need to teach our young girls to schedule time for sport, recognizing the importance of participation for physical, mental and social health.
  • Focus on fun, pleasure and challenge of participation, considering the age and abilities of participants.
  • Encourage girls to join and continue to play, coach and officiate a variety of sports from youth into their teens and adulthood.
  • Support elite female athletes by attending and watching events, and following athletes on social media.
  • Promote and share female sport news stories that focus on athletic skills, healthy living champions, accomplishments and profiles of positive role models.
  • Encourage the “next generation” of female enthusiasts by supporting a sport environment that is diverse, welcoming and fun.
  • Read the full report and learn more about the Fuelling Women Champions at: