Disability and Gender Equity in Sport

Author: Canadian Heritage
Published: 2018/04/25 - Updated: 2018/09/23
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Canadian Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities Working Group on Gender Equity in Sport are leaders, innovators and influencers who are ready to advance the sport system in Canada.

Main Digest

All Canadians should have the opportunity to get involved and excel in sport, regardless of gender, age and ability. They should be able to do so in an environment free of discrimination or harassment.

In 2016, the Dairy Farmers of Canada and the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) released the report Women in Sport: Fueling a Lifetime of Participation. It highlighted several areas of gender inequality for Canadian women in sport. According to the research, most Canadian women are missing out on the benefits of sport-while 41 percent of girls aged 3-17 do not participate in sport, this jumps to 84 percent in adult women. Other key findings showed that only 24 percent of all athletic director positions and 17 percent of all head coaching spots in Canadian Interuniversity Sport are held by women, and only 38 percent of senior staff and 29 percent of board members at national and multi-sport organizations are female.

Today, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, announced a Working Group on Gender Equity in Sport to address the lack of equity. The working group will be chaired by Guylaine Demers, a renowned professor at Université Laval and president of Égale Action.

The 12 members of the working group are:

Woman playing wheelchair basketball at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.About This Image: Woman playing wheelchair basketball at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The members will share their experiences, perspectives and insights with Minister Duncan on how to achieve equity in sport by 2035 by discussing, among others, the following topics:

Members of the working group will review existing research and data, share personal experiences, discuss the challenges faced by women and girls in sport, examine issues that may affect participation, and propose ideas, approaches and strategies for eliminating barriers and increasing participation.

In Budget 2018, the Government of Canada announced a target to achieve gender equity in sport at every level by 2035. This included an initial commitment of $30 million over three years to support data and research into innovative practices to promote women and girls' participation in sport, and to support national sports organizations in promoting greater inclusion of women and girls in all facets of sport.

The work that will be accomplished by this working group will inform and complement other initiatives aiming to achieve gender equity in sport.


"I am pleased to announce the Working Group on Gender Equity in Sport, composed of 12 exceptional people ready to advance the Canadian sport system. Building on the work by female leaders that have come before us, the working group will be instrumental in guiding policy decisions that will ultimately better serve the needs of women and girls in sport. Thanks to the leadership, experience and knowledge of all the members, I know that together, we will contribute to our government's commitment to achieve gender equity in sport at every level by 2035." - The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities

"I am honoured and thrilled by this opportunity. I have spent most of my life working to improve the position of girls and women in the world of sport, and I can assure you that I have plenty of ideas for Minister Duncan. I adore challenges, and I am going to take this one on with all my heart and passion for women's sport." - Guylaine Demers, President of Égale Action and Chair of the Working Group on Gender Equity in Sport

"I am pleased to see the attention and focus on providing opportunities for women and girls through sport and sport leadership. What we need is action to make a difference, and I think this working group will do just that." - Hayley Wickenheiser

Quick Facts

Although many girls participate in sport in their early years, reports show significant declines in sport participation in the transition to adolescence, with a sharper decline in girls' participation rates than boys.

While women and girls make up half of Canada's population, females participate in sport at lower rates than males. Research by CAAWS shows that 79 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls participate in sport, but adolescent girls tend to drop out of sport at a much higher rate than boys. As girls enter adolescence, their overall participation rate falls 22 percent, and school sport participation drops by almost 26 percent.

Women make up only 26.3 percent and 38 percent, respectively, of board members in national sport organizations and multisport service organizations. The proportions are much lower when it comes to occupying board chair positions.

According to data from Sport Canada's Sport Funding and Accountability Framework, from 2012 to 2016, 30 percent of the 706 total major official positions of national sport organizations (NSOs) were held by women in both winter and summer sports. Mainstream sports reported that 30 percent of the major official positions were held by women out of a total of 598 positions. Athletes with a Disability (AWAD) sports reported that 37 percent of major official positions were held by women. Of the 33 major official positions reported by NSOs servicing both mainstream athletes and AWAD, none were held by women.

The working group will discuss the challenges faced by women and girls in coaching, as the percentage of female Olympic and Paralympic national team coaches has always been too low. Canada's Olympic and Paralympic national team coaches are overwhelmingly male. At the London 2012 Olympic Games, 20.43 percent of the national team coaches were female. This dropped to 9.20 percent for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games. Similarly, the percentage of female Paralympic national team coaches was low, at 11.76 percent in 2012 and 9.09 percent in 2018.

The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games were the most inclusive international games in history: the first such games to achieve gender equality by having the same number of medal events (133) for women and men.

Biographies of the Members of the Working Group

Guylaine Demers

Guylaine is a Full Professor at Laval University and the President of Égale Action, an organization dedicated to the equality of women through sport and physical activity. Her areas of expertise include women in sport, coach education, competency-based training and homophobia in sport.

Chelsey Gotell

As Chairperson of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletes' Council, Chelsey serves on the IPC Board of Governors and the IOC Athlete Commission. She has served as the Athlete Services Officer for the Canadian Paralympic Team Mission Staff for Rio 2016, Toronto 2015, Sochi 2014, and London 2012. She worked for the Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee from 2010 to 2014. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Chelsey is a passionate athlete advocate for sport and the Paralympic movement, and a motivational speaker who believes in what the power of sport can do to positively change lives.

John Herdman

John is the current head coach of Canada's Men's National Soccer Team. Previously, he was head coach for Canada's Women's National Soccer Team from 2011 to 2017 and led the squad to two Olympic bronze medals at Rio 2016 and London 2012. John was also head coach for the New Zealand Women's National Football Team from 2006 to 2011.

Waneek Horn-Miller

Waneek is currently working with the Assembly of First Nations as the IndigenACTION Ambassador to develop a National Indigenous Sport, Fitness and Wellness Strategy, with an aim to attract Indigenous youth to higher education by building self-esteem and emphasizing a balance between education and sport. In 2015, she was named one of Canada's most influential women in sport by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS). In 1999, she won the national Tom Longboat Award that recognizes Aboriginal athletes for their outstanding contributions to sport in Canada.

Bruce Kidd

Bruce is an Olympian and former track and field athlete who is now the Co-Chair of the Ontario Minister's Advisory Panel on Ontario's Sport Plan. He is an honorary member of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and an Officer of the Order of Canada (2004). A renowned author and academic, Bruce is currently Vice-President, University of Toronto, and Principal at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus.

Lorraine Lafreniere

Lorraine is known as a strategic thinker, and has been a strong and well-respected leader in the sport community for many years. Her passion for sports goes back decades. She provides strong leadership around ethics in coaching, and is an advocate for the promotion of coaching programs specifically targeting and tailored to women. Lorraine is currently the Chief Executive Officer at the Coaching Association of Canada.

Nancy Lee

Nancy worked as a CBC reporter, producer and management executive at 4 Commonwealth Games, 2 Pan American Games and 15 Summer and Winter Olympic Games. As Head of CBC Sports, her role was to oversee the production and lead the negotiations for the Corporation's sports programming. She is the only woman in the world to have held such a position. Last year she coordinated the Gender Equality Review project for the International Olympic Committee; the project's recommendations and call-to-action require gender equality in all facets of the Olympic Movement.

Karin Lofstrom

Karin has over 30 years of experience working with national, provincial, territorial and multi-sport organizations in Canada and around the world. She was Executive Director of CAAWS for 14 years, providing leadership for a wide range of initiatives. She developed the Women and Sport Policy Recommendations and examples for CAAWS to present to the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities in November 2017, and worked with Sport Canada on the revision of their Women in Sport Policy and Action Plan released in summer 2009. Karin also volunteered as Secretary Treasurer for eight years on the International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women (IAPESGW) and was a member of the COC's Women and Sport Committee for nine years (2008 to 2017).

Allison Sandmeyer-Graves

Allison is an experienced non-profit leader with a passion for social innovation that advances equity and opportunity. She has diverse experiences leading innovative partnerships, programs, fundraising and operations. She brings a holistic perspective and ability to align activities for maximum social impact. Allison believes that sport and physical activity offer powerful opportunities for people to realize their full potential, a conviction that stems from her own experiences with competitive and recreational sports throughout her life. As CEO of CAAWS, Allison seeks to ensure that more women, girls and marginalized Canadians enjoy these myriad benefits, improving the sports system and Canadian society in the process.

Carolyn Trono

Carolyn has worked in the Canadian sport system for over 30 years with a variety of national and provincial sport organizations, and is currently working at the Sport for Life Society. In her current role, she has worked with many national sport organizations in the development of their Long-Term Athlete Development Plan (LTADP) frameworks and Competition Review and Restructuring Plans to ensure that LTADP are embedded into their culture and programs. She also started the Winnipeg Newcomer Soccer and Multi-Sport Academy, working extensively with various immigration organizations to address challenges faced by girls, including enriching sport opportunities for young women in the hope of improving self-confidence.

Adam van Koeverden

Adam is one of Canada's most celebrated athletes and has four Olympic medals-the most by a Canadian paddler. He sees his opportunity to affect positive change in Canada's youth as his most rewarding obligation as a Canadian Olympian and public speaker. He also plays a key role in giving athletes a voice at the Canadian Olympic Committee executive level and providing recommendations to the COC on a wide range of issues that affect high-performance athletes.

Hayley Wickenheiser

Hayley is the longest-serving member of Canada's National Hockey Women's Team. She has won four gold medals and one silver medal, making her one of Canada's most decorated Olympians. She is the founder of the Canadian Tire Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival (WickFest), where over 2,000 players compete and connect while building positive female hockey experiences across all levels. In addition, she is active with such charities as Spread the Net, Clean Air Champions and Right to Play, and is Chair of the Athletes' Advisory Group at Highmark Interactive. Hayley was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in June 2011.


This quality-reviewed publication pertaining to our LGBT and Disability section was selected for circulation by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Disability and Gender Equity in Sport" was originally written by Canadian Heritage, and submitted for publishing on 2018/04/25 (Edit Update: 2018/09/23). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.

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