New research hub, based at University, to study gender equity in Canadian sport

Photo of varsity football players on the pitch
The proposed research hub, which will bring together researchers and sport organizations across the country and internationally, will seek to advance gender equity in sport with a special emphasis on participation and leadership (photo by Seyran Mammadov)

Gretchen Kerr wants to close the gender equity gap in sport.

The professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, says sport has not kept pace with the advances in gender equity seen in other domains in Canada. Girls and women in sport have lower participation rates, report significantly higher experiences of violence than their male counterparts and the number of women in coaching positions is on the decline, according to Kerr.

Now Kerr and her colleagues – Professors Guylaine Demers of Laval University and Ann Pegoraro from the University of Guelph – will have the opportunity to develop an internationally recognized research and innovation centre that will collect, generate and disseminate research on gender equity in sport. The researchers were awarded the national Gender Equity in Sport Research Hub by the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Sport Canada branch.

“Extensive survey data and qualitative analyses demonstrate that gender inequities in sport remain persistent and pervasive,” says Kerr. “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.”

The proposed research hub will comprise a unique network of researchers from the academic community, representatives from the sport community, government and NGO bodies, as well as gender equity experts from outside sport and universities. Together, they will seek to advance gender equity in sport with a special emphasis on participation and leadership.

“With respect to participation, we are referring to the engagement of girls and women as participants in all levels of sport – from recreational or local club levels, to provincial and national level sport,” says Kerr. “Leadership refers to women in positions such as coaching, officiating and sport administration at local, provincial and national levels of Canadian sport.”

The research hub will build databases of research associated with the two main themes of participation and leadership, and commission, deliver and support research projects that attempt to answer questions associated with these themes. Two other priorities – inadequate media coverage and gender-based violence – will be examined as barriers under the two main themes.

“We have unparalleled support for this proposed hub, as evidenced by the expressed interest from researchers from 10 universities across Canada, as well as letters of support from six key organizations in the sport sector at national and international levels,” says Kerr. “We also have unmatched research support and infrastructure at the University of Toronto, Canada’s top research intensive university.”

Luc Tremblay, an associate professor and associate dean of research at KPE, says he is thrilled for KPE to lead such an important research endeavour.

“Given KPE’s long history of fighting for the rights of participants in physical activity and sport, this hub will advance the faculty’s mission and research strengths.”

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