Gender Equity in Sport: Answering your frequently asked questions

I was recently having a good trawl of the internet looking for interesting and useful documents to support my work. I came across the ‘Montreal Toolkit’, published by the International Working Group for Women in Sport. It had a really great section which gave answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about gender equity in sport, and ones that I am often asked. I thought I would share the questions, and more importantly the answers…

‘Q: What is gender equity all about?’
‘A: Equity is concerned with correcting inequitable situations that stem from past practices. Equity means allocating resources and providing opportunities fairly and without bias or discrimination.’

‘Q: Don’t girls and women choose to participate less in sport? Aren’t they less interested?’
‘A: Female athletes and coaches do not prefer less recognition, less power, less money, and fewer choices than their male counterparts. The combination of cultural norms, discriminatory practice and women’s position in society results in girls and women participating less in sport, although not usually by choice.’

‘Q: Isn’t the whole issue of gender equity irrelevant to many sports, in particular the single gender sports?’
‘A: Whether a sport has only female or male players, persons of the opposite gender may want to become coaches, administrators, and officials. That is why the principles of equal opportunity are relevant to all sports. A sport can maximise its human resources by recruiting from 100% of the population.’

‘Q: Don’t special measures and equity programs promote girls and women based on gender rather than on individual merit?’
‘A: Because of the discriminatory nature of the sport system, it is not always possible for girls and women to succeed on their own merit. Without special measures, qualified women seldom get the chance to contribute. When selecting individuals for certain positions and tasks, research has shown that we tend to select those most like ourselves. In the case of sport, the tendency has been for men to select men.’

‘Q: Aren’t gender equity programs reverse discrimination?’
‘A: Removal of barriers and traditions that deter the full participation of girls and women is necessary to give them a reasonable chance in the system. Introducing actions designed specifically for girls and women is necessary to level the playing field. Supporting the diverse needs of females in the short-term may create the possibility of equity in the long-term.’

I hope you found this information useful and clarified some of the questions that you wanted to ask but felt maybe a little uncomfortable doing so. Without asking these questions, and more importantly listening to the answers and doing something about it, things won’t change. Currently there is a lack of gender diversity in sports coaching with two thirds of all sports coaches being men and only 17% of qualified coaches being women. These questions and answers were written in a document produced in 2002 – and they are still as relevant today as they were back then.

It’s time to start doing something to make a difference for women in sport and physical activity, and coaching is only a part of it. But, it’s an important part. That’s why I am so passionate about Reach. Brought to you by UK Coaching, Reach is raising the profile of women in coaching through sharing women in coaching stories, news and top tips. And through the creation and sharing of useful resources to help our partners understand how they can bring about greater diversity in the coaching workforce.

Sarah Milner, Development Lead Officer: Inclusion, UK Coaching

Follow: @smilner_leeds

NB The above FAQs were taken from the ‘Montreal Toolkit’, published by the International Working Group for Women in Sport (IWG). There appearance in this blog is not an attempt to plagerise the work of the IWG or its partners, merely to illustate a point.

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