“You Can’t Be What You Can’t See”
“You can’t be what you can’t see.”
This is a familiar phrase to anyone who understands the barriers women and girls face in sport. When it comes to inclusion of women in leadership, professional athletics, policy and decision-making, and other spaces – a lack of role models is a major hurdle. Particularly during Black History Month, it’s important to recognize that those barriers don’t look the same for all women and girls – in some cases, racism and other forms of discrimination mean that role models are fewer and further between.
This phrase is attributed to a Black American woman named Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). In the mid-1960s, Edelman was the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi bar. She carved a space for herself in a system that was designed to exclude her, and she made it her mission to advocate for others who faced systemic barriers to living healthy, fulfilling lives.
We know that sport is a powerful tool to empower girls and women, but also that there are a variety of invisible barriers that make it even harder for them to access sport. Our question is: How do we keep girls playing, and by extension, build the next generation of sport and community leaders? How can we encourage girls and women to see a place for themselves in sport, particularly those who are most vulnerable?
Using a girl-centered approach to program design means that coaches and activity leaders need to consider how to create sport environments that are safe and welcoming, encourage girls to value and stay in sport, and foster a sense of belonging.
Canadian Women & Sport and MLSE LaunchPad teamed up to bring the concept of girl-centered design to life – and to encourage girls to see value in sport leadership experiences. Visit our website to learn more about how Game On, a sport leadership pilot program, could help keep girls in the game.
Creating a positive social environment that intentionally fosters a sense of belonging is critical to keeping girls engaged in sport and physical activity. Read more about how to cultivate positive social connection in our new resource, She Belongs!
Join Canadian Women & Sport and other leaders in sport, equity, and social change on March 5 to reflect on what it means to play your part in the movement for gender equity. Register for our International Women’s Day event here!
Join our webinar on March 26 to learn how to better engage newcomer girls and women in healthy living, physical activity and sport programs.