Women in Sport Leadership Snapshots
Research indicates that diverse boards more innovative, more accountable, and manage risk more effectively.
Working towards gender balance in sport leadership has the potential to help mitigate critical risks sport organizations face today, whether in terms of safe sport, financial sustainability, or effective governance.
In order to achieve this gender balance, data is required to track progress and hold the system accountable.
Canadian Women & Sport releases a yearly “Snapshot” of gender diversity in sport leadership, reflecting gender composition at the board and senior staff level. This Snapshot is based on a survey of Canadian National Sport Organizations (NSOs) and Multisport Service Organizations (MSOs).
Our goal? To review and reflect on the Canadian sport system’s progress toward advancing gender equity, to create conversation and to spark action.
Encouragingly, the most recent survey of nationally funded sport organizations in Canada shows that this public attention, and dedicated funding from Sport Canada, is driving change for the national sport system. Compared to 2019, after the government commitment was announced, the percentage of women holding board seats has jumped by 5 points. That means 45 more women are at the table than three years ago. Canadian Women & Sport celebrates the momentum in the sector. But, we also must acknowledge that this progress has been the result of years of organizations laying the foundation for change, which can easily be upset if we lose attention and energy. And, we must continue to push for improved representation beyond gender so that ALL women and girls benefit from the power of sport.
For the last five years, Canadian Women & Sport has tracked board representation at the national level of sport, where women have increased their number of seats from 36% in 2019 to 41% in 2022.
More women on boards may help make sport safer by altering organizational norms, limiting tolerance of gender inequitable practices and increasing awareness of gender-based violence. For the first time Canadian Women & Sport has rolled up board data from provinces and territories. This data is important as provincial and territorial sport organizations (PTSO) have significant influence in grassroots sport, which makes them leaders in the sport system in Canada.
In a year where COVID-19 unfortunately sparked a “she-cession” that threatened to roll back economic progress of women, it is encouraging to see key sport leadership roles held by women either hold steady versus one year ago or move slightly up. But, while progress is exciting, at the current pace, the national level of sport will not reach gender parity on boards until 2037 – 12 years past the Government of Canada’s target date of 2024 for achieving gender-balanced boards. Intentional and sustained action is required.
The 2019-2020 report summarizes the composition of decision-making at National Sport Organizations (NSOs), Multisport Service Organizations (MSOs) and, new this year, Canadian Sport Institutes (CSIs). The good news: Sport in Canada is making steady progress in including perspectives from women. The challenge: We still have work to do. Let’s create conversation and spark action.
The 2018-2019 snapshot reflects a promising trend, with the number of women on boards up 2 per cent from 2018. In January of 2019, sport organizations reported an overwhelming intention to make a formal commitment to gender equity in their governance documents; however, only 47 per cent reported that they had a documented commitment already in place at the board level. Only 17 per cent reported a similar commitment at the senior staff level.
Our 2017-2018 inaugural snapshot demonstrated that while there is progress being made, women are still underrepresented in sport leadership. In January of 2018, 45 per cent of sport organizations had fewer than 30 per cent women on their boards. This thirty percent threshold is a critical mass required to ensure that diverse voices are well considered.