I'd like to call the meeting to order.
As you know, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), this committee is doing a study of Canadian women and girls in sport.
I would like to welcome the witnesses.
We have witnesses who are here as individuals, and some are with associations. Generally speaking, we give everyone 10 minutes to present. If you can do it in less than 10 minutes, that's great. Then we go to a question and answer interactive session.
We may have to cut the time to five minutes because there are so many of you.
We have some individuals starting in the first part, Dr. Diane Culver, associate professor, School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa; Dr. Guylaine Demers, professor, department of physical education, Université Laval; and Dr. Gretchen Kerr, professor and vice-dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto.
Each of you can have five minutes to present the salient points, and then we will open up to a question and answer session.
Let's start with Dr. Culver.
Good morning, everybody.
Thank you very much for inviting us to present on this topic, which is of course very important to us.
As a bit about my background, I was an athlete. I was on the Canadian National Ski Team many years ago, and then went on to be a coach at all levels, including at the national and Olympic level for Canada and then for New Zealand. I have about 20 years of experience. It was hard to keep a career as a high-performance Alpine ski coach and also have a family, so I decided to go back to university. I didn't think I was going to be there for 10 years, but I ended up in my position as an associate professor with a specialization in coach development.
You have a lot of stats, and so. I'm not going to speak very much to the stats because I think some of the other witnesses will. I am going to focus on women in coaching and particularly the theory that I have been working with for the last 15 years, which is social learning theory, that has to do with learning in safe social spaces, and I'll explain a little bit about what that is.
I'm going to talk to you about how we have some evidence that this is a useful approach to supporting women in coaching. I will also present some of the solutions we feel could easily be implemented.
Why is this important? It's because retention and recruitment are important for women coaches. You'll see that there is a low percentage of women coaches. Women have different ways of knowing, they work more collaboratively, and they have different communication styles. They have something different to contribute to the athletes and to the world of sport.
Also, if we have more women role models in coaching, then that means we can encourage more women and girls to get into both the sport and into leadership roles.
If we have mothers coaching more, particularly at the community level, that will encourage more girls to participate, which is also a problem.
Finally, if our female elite athletes, in whom we have invested so much, wish to go into coaching, then we would be able to support them to stay there.
I will give you some definitions related to social learning spaces. What is a social learning space? It can be anything from a one-on-one conversation to a group of people who are all working around the same practice. It can include your networks, conferences, workshops, etc.
I have some evidence from a recent study we did. We looked all over North America. We didn't find any examples of what we considered to be communities of practice in Canada in coaching, but we found in the NCAA, the American collegiate association, something that they call “loop groups”, which met the definition of communities of practice.
In the handout, you can see some of the quotations from this qualitative study exploring what this did for these women to participate in this supportive group, which met about once a month. It included all people coaching women in their respective universities. There actually was one man involved, but it was mostly women, and there were all different sports.
The first one talks about knowing that you're not alone and having a safe zone to realize that you have support if you want it whereas normally you'd just be working away in your office and with your athletes.
The other one is very important because the woman says she had thought about starting a family in the next few years, but thought that would be the end of her coaching career. Being in this group showed her that she could in fact be both a mother and a successful coach. Now she's not worried about that.
The last one is from a very experienced coach who was really surprised. She didn't realize how much support younger newer coaches coming in needed. She thought that it would come from personnel. In fact, these kinds of groups allow you to have some support from outside where you won't be judged and where it won't be thought that you're not able to do your job because you need advice on facing certain challenges.
Women coaches lack a network. This comes out of our meeting in Quebec City, Conversation 2015, which Dr. Demers organized.
What can we do to help this?
We can use communities of practice as a form of continuing development, which is required to remain certified as a coach. We have some examples already. There's one going on right now with wheelchair curling, which is not specifically with women coaches. We've also done one with Special Olympics. We can also leverage the existing Canada Games apprenticeship program and move that online. These are low-cost solutions. We just use existing platforms that we have. We can use these social learning spaces to spread great stories about women leadership in sport and help elite female athletes who want to go into coaching.
A second problem is to increase the number of coaches, which you'll probably hear about later on. Similarly, we need to support these female athletes when they want to go into coaching. We need to offer all-woman coaching clinics. We also need to offer clinics to the men who are in the coaching world about coaching women and about working with women coaches.
The third issue would be around making it a viable career for women. This speaks to that quotation of the woman in the NCAA study who thought she could not be a coach and a mother at the same time.
Thank you for having me. I am going to speak in French, my mother tongue.
Ms. Culver referred to Conversation 2015. Last summer, in June 2015, I and two other colleagues you will hear this afternoon, Penny Werthner and Marion Lay, organized the fourth national Women and Sport conference. The previous conference had taken place in 1996, so that was a long time between the two conferences. The 2015 conference enabled us to identify a large number of solutions, some of which are not expensive, as Ms. Culver pointed out.
My part of the presentation relates mainly to women in leadership positions. There are coaches, of course, but I am going to speak, rather, about women who hold positions in administration, such as executive directors, technical directors, presidents, and so on.
In the documents I have distributed to you, you will find the latest statistics published by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Woman and Sport and Physical Activity. Those statistics show that the higher you go in the hierarchy, the fewer women there are. Only 10 or 12 or 13% of president positions are held by women, while 15 to 20% of executive director positions are held by women.
The problem is that those numbers seem to be set in stone. They do not budge. We know the numbers, we repeat them constantly, we bring them out, and there are studies: they do not budge.
I worked closely on writing the 2009 policy on sport for women and girls. By the way, a lot of people do not know that in Canada, we have a policy on sport for women. We believed it was very important that this policy have teeth, but it does not have any. As a result, there has been no follow-up on our lovely recommendations and all the work we did.
Marion Lay, who will be with you this afternoon, has been repeating the same message for 40 years. She is a woman of great perseverance. Let us hope that this time, her message will be heard.
I want to talk about three problems in particular. First, the policies do not include any accountability. They are there, but if someone does not abide by them, there are no consequences.
Second, there is no system that prepares women to achieve leadership roles. Often, there is just one woman, and we throw her into the arena and hope that everything will work out. This means there is a lot of pressure on her. We have to prepare these women to fill decision-making positions in the sports system, to be comfortable and to be able to stay there.
Third, we are very concerned about the pipeline. Where is the next generation? Where are the girls who will move into the sports system?
If I look around me here this morning, and not wanting to insult girls, I see only women aged 50 and over. Where is the next generation? This is one of the problems we are concerned about.
The first very concrete solution we have, as a number of people have told you today, is accountability. There has to be accountability if we are putting so much effort into developing policies or programs. If they are not adhered to, there have to be consequences, but if they are adhered to and progress is made, that will be recognized and assistance will be given.
The financial aspect is important, clearly. If my budget does not budge, whether or not I abide by the policy, there are no consequences. We observe that there is always some priority other than women, and we have the history to remind us. Whether we are talking about 1970, when we held the first conference of the 1970s, or 2002, when we hosted the international conference, the same message kept coming back: the policy has to have teeth; there has to be a commitment alongside it that comes from above and makes its way down. We need a top-down approach.
There also has to be oversight. We have to check whether progress is being made. You should have seen the network that was set in motion for today's exercise. Where are the numbers? How many women are there, precisely? Exactly where are they?
We have to search and dig to get the data. It is not reasonable not to be able to find statistics quickly. There absolutely has to be an oversight system so we know who is doing well, who is doing less well, whether our policies and actions are bearing fruit, and whether or not our efforts have had an impact. At present, we do not know.
What is also missing, in the system that prepares women, is networking. Women have to be able to help each other. We also have to look outside the world of sport. There are organizations doing good work to help women access leadership positions. I am thinking about the business world and health care. We have to look outside the world of sport precisely to take inspiration from best practices, and not have to reinvent the wheel. A lot of things are being done, but we do not even know it is being done.
Well, we're in good company, then.
I'll focus in this presentation on one sector of the Canadian sport system, which is the Canadian Interuniversity Sport system. This is otherwise known as the CIS, Canadian Interuniversity Sport. This is the national governing body for university sport. There are 55 universities participating. It's a highly competitive league that contributes members to our Olympic and world championship teams.
It's an important context to examine, because it's perhaps the only one that involves full-time, paid coaches. It's also important because sport is perhaps the only sector of society left that's sex-segregated, with male and female teams. This brings an additional responsibility to the sport world to achieve gender equity.
What's the current state of affairs? Across the university system, just to give you some context, females make up 56% of the general student population at universities. There is an equal number of teams for male and female sports, but for head coaching positions across the universities, only 17% are female. Perhaps more importantly, this number is a decrease from 2011, and another decrease from earlier in the 2000s. The basic message is that we're losing ground, and it wasn't great to start with.
It also bears mentioning that we have no shortage of data. There's a tremendous amount of data on the percentage of coaches across the Canadian sport system, so we've done that homework. Where do we go from here? First of all, we need a commitment, a commitment that comes with targets and measurable benchmarks, whether this is increasing the number of female coaches, decreasing the attrition from those who are within the field, or increasing their job satisfaction.
One solution that's been recommended is the NFL's Rooney rule, which you may have heard of. It was brought in to address the fact that there were so many black football athletes but no black coaches or sport administrators. The Rooney rule said that you must interview minority candidates. Over time, this expanded to a requirement to interview women for sport administration positions. This has made a significant impact on changing the culture of football.
There are other ways in which we can change this commitment into action. It includes everything from education about unconscious bias to appealing to highly competitive female athletes who at the moment, research indicates, do not perceive coaching to be a viable career option. We need to do something about that. We need to go beyond mentoring and sponsor women by opening doors for them, advocating for them to move up the sport system.
Very importantly, we have to do something about the accountability toward policies. The Canadian Interuniversity Sport system has a gender equity policy with various details laid out around athlete participation and coaching. This policy, like many others, has not been revisited in the past 12 years. There is little evidence that there is any data management or monitoring. Very importantly, there is a lack of accountability. There are currently some excellent programs and policies in place. It's the accountability piece that seems to be where things fall apart. One recommendation to deal with this is to link gender equity and the details of the policies to the funding received by sport organizations.
In conclusion, this CIS system, where we find the most full-time paid coaches, has fewer than 20% female coaches despite a 56% female university student population.
Thank you very much.
I'd like to start by thanking all of you for appearing and for all your work in this area. I'm very excited to start this study today.
I want to note that October is Women's History Month in Canada, so it's worth noting over the course of the study women who've done so much in sport. One name that comes to mind is that of Abby Hoffman, who did so much. I'm hoping that through this study we will get to highlight a whole bunch of other women who have been so important in this area.
I am a mother of two girls. I coached ball hockey for several years because a friend encouraged me, and I picked up ice hockey at the age of 40. I see how it's important, and I've seen a lot of the challenges along the way.
Today all of you focused a lot on women in leadership roles and on coaching, but can you talk about issues of participation? I see that the 2015 conference in Quebec included as a theme the poor participation of girls in sports, and also, I guess, limited media coverage, and some other issues. I was wondering if you could highlight some of those other issues.
The five issues were around media, girls' participation, homophobia in sport, women coaches, and women in leadership positions.
On girls' participation in particular, the numbers show that girls are dropping out of sport by the end of primary school, and in high school, that's dramatic. It's all about peer pressure and the media, and the images they get about what is a good girl and what you should look like. They drop out of sports because they feel they're not competent enough, or they feel that at that age it's time to look nice and beautiful, not too sporty, because we're not expecting that from them.
One of the problems that relates to this is those people who work with girls but don't know the girls. Who are the girls coming into their gym or into their pool? Girls have not been socialized in the same way as boys. They haven't had the same chances to develop their motor skills, so they don't feel competent, and they drop out of sport very early.
At the NCI in Montreal, at its birth, it was decided right up front in the bylaws to have on its board a 60/40 balance, either 60% female and 40% male, or vice versa.
When we talk about having quotas or having those numbers for equity in representation on boards, usually we hear the answer, “Well, we can't find any women; there are not enough women who are interested or there are not enough competent women.” To that I reply, “So all the men there are competent?” That's my answer.
We find those women. When it's there, you make the effort. Most of the time, if you don't have to, you don't make the effort. Then it's easy to say there are no women or they are not interested. In fact, when you have that in the bylaws, as we have had since 2008, it works. We have amazing women on the board now because it was right there, right up front at the beginning, and nobody questioned that. So we do have some examples like that and it's working. There are women out there who want to do that.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you all for coming today and for your very interesting presentation. I wish we could have more time.
I come from a kinesiology degree background from the University of Waterloo, probably one of the original kinesiology programs. It shows how old I am. I also have been a coach for many years and involved as a team doctor not only for the summer Canada Games and provincial summer games, but also coaching.
So I'm very interested, and I'm glad to hear you talk about coaching and participation. I've coached both male and female teams over the years and I've always found that as a coach, it's a totally different mindset when I'm coaching girls versus coaching boys. Part of the issue I see is that it's a question, especially at the young age, of getting girls participating in sport. It's not only the girls, because the girls have an interest in it, but it's really the parents and getting the parents to recognize that it's not only a health benefit but also a social benefit to have them involved, getting them to participate and the women to participate, not only the mothers participating in helping with the organization but also coaching and officiating. To start, I think those are important things that we need.
I wonder if all three of you could comment on where you see the parent's role in this process. I will start with Dr. Culver.
Good morning. Thank you for your presentation.
I also thank my colleague from Toronto—Danforth. We have not talked about this subject for 18 years, and I am very pleased to be taking part in the committee's meeting today. I want to thank it for its project.
I found your presentation very interesting. In fact, it reminded me of a colleague at my former job. She was a marathon runner who represented Canada. She sold tickets on the side of the road to fund her sports activity. She asked me whether I could do something to help her continue to practise her sport, which she had to combine with her career. This morning, that extraordinary woman has a very special place in my mind.
That brings me to my question. So far, we have talked at length about the presence of women on boards of directors and how to encourage them. Can you explain why women like the one I have just mentioned get fewer sponsorships than men? Do you see a striking difference?
Michael Messner is an American researcher whom I adore. He has written that if little boys have women sports coaches or female models in leadership positions, later, in their adult lives, they will consider it normal — not a word I like — for a woman to be in a leadership position. Having a woman boss is part of life. As well, young boys who are exposed very early to female leadership are going to exert influence as they grow up on the people around them concerning how women in leadership positions are perceived. So you are doing something extremely important for your boys.
Second, how can we help women? In order for it to be possible to have a career and train, obviously there have to be financial support and structures in place. Do women have babysitters?
When you are a coach and a young mother who has just given birth and is breastfeeding, can you get a babysitter paid for, for the baby you have to bring to the competition with you because you are breastfeeding?
There are things that could be done, but we have to keep in mind that in 2016, it is still women having babies. We sometimes see that as an obstacle, but if there were a support structure, some women would be able to pursue their career in sport for a very long time. Those are the facts of life for women in the world of sport.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you all for appearing.
We're very excited to be able to talk to you today. It's very timely, namely because I think that all of us around this table and almost all Canadians I know of were so excited by our performance in Rio. As somebody who used to be in the media, I think the amount of attention that our female athletes received, and beyond that, the fact that I know so many.... My nieces, for instance, and young girls of my friends jokingly, but not jokingly, said, “When are the men going to do their bit?”
It seemed to me to be an incredible turning point. As you mentioned in the report that you gave us on the status of female sport participation in Canada, media coverage is key, and it's key not only to ensuring that we have enough women participating as athletes and coaches, and as support, but also for endorsement and sponsorship, and sustaining female champions and female excellence in sport.
As you pointed out, it tempered my enthusiasm. It wasn't the turning point that I thought it was. Is that fair to say?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would also like to thank the witnesses for being here. I see that you write your titles, “Dr.”, with an “e” in French, and I recall that not so long ago, when I was in university, there was a big debate about that. I understand what my colleague opposite is saying, but there was still reluctance on women's part. I think this is really about an educational process and the situation cannot change overnight.
My question is for Ms. Demers. You say you had difficulty getting statistics for your study.
In your opinion, who should have responsibility for making good statistics available and providing easy access to the data?
I have proposed that we create an observatory on women and sport in Canada. That observatory could look after monitoring the statistics and the research. It could also promote best practices. In Quebec, there is an equivalent called the Observatoire québécois du loisir that does exactly that. It compiles the research and prepares simplified reports for the general public. You can always consult them and there are all sorts of resources.
The Conversation 2015 conference last summer enabled us to identify a lot of solutions, but also a lot of problems. At present, I am putting the final touches on a website that will be launched shortly at the Petro-Canada Sport Leadership sportif 2016 conference. That site will highlight best practices and will encourage people to participate. But I myself, Guylaine Demers, do not have an organization behind me to help me.
As well, if the Canadian government decided to consider the presence of women in sport to be an issue, because women make up 50% of our population, and created a Canadian observatory on women and sport, that would be an incredible tool, and, to my knowledge, it would be unique in the world, since I do not know of any others.
I will call the meeting to order.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), this committee is doing a study on Canadian Women and Girls in Sport. We have our witnesses here today.
We have four sets of witnesses. You each have five minutes to present and at the end of that time, we will go into a question and answer and an interaction with the committee.
We have present as an individual, Dr. Penny Werthner, Professor, Dean, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary. Dr. Werthner is on screen via video conferencing. We also have the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity. We have two witnesses, Karin Lofstrom and Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, and you can decide how you're going to split up your five minutes. From Égale Action, Élaine Lauzon, the chief executive officer, is also here by video conference. Then we have from Think Sport Ltd., Marion Lay, the president, who is also here by video conference.
I will begin with Dr. Penny Werthner.
Thank you for this initiative and for providing us with an opportunity to share our knowledge and experiences. My topic, as requested, is women in sport at the competitive level, their experiences and their needs as athletes and para-athletes, as coaches, as sport science professionals, and as women leaders in the sport system.
I've been involved in competitive sport for most of my life and it's certainly shaped who I am, hopefully for the better. I've competed for Canada. I've worked in the field of sport psychology with many of our Olympic athletes and coaches through many Olympics and Paralympic Games. I've researched and published in the area of women in coaching. Before I started my graduate program, in the early eighties I led what I think was an excellent internship mentorship program for women athletes that enabled them to move into administrative positions. That program created some of our strong women leaders who are currently in the system.
On athlete participation levels, we know that women athletes are doing very well from a numbers standpoint. In 2012, we had more than 4,000 women athletes, which comprised 44% of our Olympic teams across numerous countries. At the Paralympic Games, the increase went from 44 women and 91 men in 1960, to roughly 1,500 women and 2,700 men in 2012. That's excellent news.
However, when we look at women coaches, we're still in the 11% range across all countries. In 2012, it varies from 10% to about 16%. Certainly at the high performance competitive level, the sport science professional, so exercise physiologists, sport psychologists, medical personnel, the numbers are still incredibly low. That's what is part of the environment that high performance women athletes compete and train in.
Why should we care about this? I'm hopeful that everyone around the table does care or we wouldn't be doing this. I think there are two primary reasons from my perspective. One is the significant benefits of moving and playing, and I think we all know that. I use the example of Chantal Petitclerc who had an accident at the age of 13 and ended up in a wheelchair.
What changed her life—and she would say this—was her first coach, her high school swim coach, who got her into swimming and really changed who she was, allowed her to become a very independent, and physically and psychologically strong woman, in sport and in life in general.
However, the other reason I would argue we should care is that the environment of competitive sport is still very male dominated. While our participation rates are approaching 50%, the other categories are not. I would say it's often not a comfortable environment for our women athletes, and, at worst, it's an environment of subtle ridicule. Sometimes, as I'm sure you heard from Gretchen Kerr, it's abusive, because male skills are still seen, and the physique is still seen, as the norm in women's sport, or in sport in general.
What can we do about this? Again, from Guylaine, I think you probably heard that we discussed issues and developed many solutions around Conversation 2015, which was held in Quebec City. We had six themes there. One was around women and coaching, girls' participation, and women as decision-makers.
Briefly, to think about a couple of solutions, I would suggest, increasing the number of women in leadership positions, as coaches, as leaders in our system. If we were to create mentoring programs, and we know this works—I gave a simple example a few minutes ago—we have a prototype.
Creating learning environments, etc., that would help create a supportive environment.
I will stop there.
Good afternoon, Madam Chair and members of the committee.
My name is Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, and I am the CEO of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, commonly known as CAAWS. I will be using that acronym going forward. I'm joined by Karin Lofstrom, the former executive director of CAAWS, and an internationally recognized expert on women in sports today.
CAAWS's vision is a Canadian sports system that is equal and fair for girls and women, in which they are actively engaged as participants and leaders. Since its founding in 1981, CAAWS has been the leading voice for girls and women in sport in Canada.
We must start by applauding the committee for initiating this study. It's a topic that we are very passionate about. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of 30 years of leading thinkers and practitioners across Canada, there is still much work to be done.
As Mr. O'Regan commented, we all celebrated the success of the women in Rio. However, it would be a mistake to take that as an indication that equality has been achieved, and we hope that it won't in fact be a distraction from that.
Unfortunately, as you can see in the report that we circulated in advance, women's participation is not improving and remains lower than men's across all measures.
As a few examples, female sport participation, en masse participation, has been falling since the 1990s. Adolescent girls in particular drop out of sports at a very high rate, which is a huge issue in fact. Their sport participation at that age is a primary indicator of their participation on a lifelong basis. Female representation, as we've heard, on boards of directors, in paid leadership roles, and in technical roles, remains stubbornly low.
Our work focuses a lot on identifying what the barriers are to this. What we've discovered is that this is not a matter of girls and women not being interested or not being capable, but rather of them having no choice but to participate and to compete in a system that often fails to address their unique needs and interests, and in which they are at times made to feel unwelcome.
The barriers are complex, and Canadian Heritage and other departments have taken some important steps to help address them with us. We believe there is more that can and should be done, and, of course, CAAWS is here to help.
We would like to put forward a few recommendations that you, as a committee, ask Canadian Heritage to take action on as priorities that would help to bring about this equitable sports system we are all aiming for.
We recommend that sport organizations funded by Canadian Heritage receive clear criteria to meet and are held accountable. There is a commitment to gender equity through the women and sport policy of 2009. However, there are no targets, nor are there any consequences for failing to address persisting inequality. This ultimately conveys the impression that the Government of Canada is indifferent.
Sport organizations need a business case for change. Accountability introduces an effective motivation for finally taking action on this issue.
As a second measure, we recommend measuring and publicly reporting on the status of women and sport in Canada. The data we have is fragmented, unreliable, and inconsistent, which is an obstacle to establishing a benchmark against which progress can be measured. We recommend that Sport Canada require that all funded organizations provide their data on a gender basis so that we can see, for each measurement they are tracking, how many women and how many men there are. That then becomes the basis of a report that could be delivered on a recurring basis to help provide key insight to the sector and draw the necessary attention to this issue.
Finally, we recommend that there be increased support for sport organizations to rise to the occasion and successfully implement gender equity measures. We know, from our long experience working with sport organizations across the country, that they all need better access to education, training, and guidance to build their capacity to create quality sport experiences for all girls and women—including further under-represented groups—and to create conditions that will help foster the pipeline and the achievement of women in leadership roles.
First, I would like to thank you for the opportunity offered to me to discuss the question of the place for women and girls in sport with you. I am speaking to you today as the chief executive officer of Égale Action, which, since 2001, has provided provincial leadership in Quebec in relation to everything having to do with girls and women in the world of sport.
The information I will be providing to the committee relates exclusively to sport. I will also be happy to answer your questions about how Égale Action operates.
In the last 100 years, many breakthroughs have been made in terms of participation by girls and women, but they are still poorly represented in sport.
Why should we be concerned about girls and women? We know that before the transition from elementary to secondary school, there is a dramatic drop-out process that continues into adulthood, and this phenomenon is much greater among girls.
In 2006, a study was done in Quebec that showed that women represented barely 14% of coaches, 28% of officials — about 15% fewer than how things looked in Canada in 1998 — and 25% of board members in sport bodies, including 18% of presidents and vice-presidents.
Women hold paid decision-making positions in sports federations, but account for only about 25% of those positions. Access to decision-making positions in sport is still difficult in Quebec, but also in Canada.
In 2001, 63 woman out of 420 athletes and founders, or 15%, were inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, a very low percentage.
What are the determining factors for ensuring a presence for girls and women in sport? First, I think we have to support measures that promote women's participation, and this means understanding the issues surrounding their participation and raising awareness on the part of the largest possible number of decision-makers and actors. Expanding women's participation will call for political leadership, but that responsibility must be shared with the Canadian sports bodies and the roles of each entity in the equation must be clearly identified.
Second, we have to encourage participation by making decisions. The cultural and historical context, coupled with the Canadian model put in place for the sport system, has meant that we have tried to insert participation by women into a framework put in place by a male sports culture, one that is not suited to women, the result being the few results seen.
I think that to increase women's participation, we have to start by simply deciding to do it. We are not talking about robbing Peter to pay Pauline; we are talking about balancing everything, and that can mean practising positive discrimination, to get there.
We also have to think about developing favourable environments, in terms of both the social and physical and the administrative and financial aspects. In social terms, obviously, we are talking about attitudes and behaviours in the person's entourage, whether it be their spouse, parents, friends, coaches, decision-makers or peers, who have a strong influence on the practice of sport and involvement in sport. We are only just beginning to have a slightly better understanding of the major impact of social influences on girls' and women's participation in sports.
In terms of the physical and administrative environment, the limited number of facilities and adequate sports equipment makes practising sport difficult for all participants. If we add to that safety, accessibility and discriminatory management, we get bigger barriers to break down in order to encourage women to practise and get involved in sport.
In addition, the financial environment is an unavoidable issue. In order for there to be real improvement in women's participation and involvement, we have to invest financially and the money has to come from government, partners or collaborators, in addition to seeing a change in mindsets and responsibilities for granting budgets on the part of the organizations and groups that are directly involved with this clientele.
And last, we have to encourage excellence in coaching. I think this is the cornerstone that guarantees an excellent experience. It is entirely in the interests of the people doing the work on the ground to understand girls' behaviour and know how to communicate with them and act in dealing with them. To do that, we need massive investment in training all of these people and the decision-makers.
In conclusion, with the phenomenal results our women achieved at the last Olympic Games, in spite of the limited and deficient supports provided by the system, we have to realize the enormous potential of our women in sport. However, if we settle for the minimum, the results will continue to be sporadic and we will continue to deprive our girls and women of the opportunities for growth that sport offers.
Thank you for your attention.
I really am privileged to be here today and I appreciate the opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you.
My background briefly is that I am a past Olympic athlete, having competed in the 1964 and 1968 Olympics. I also coached an athlete to our 1976 Olympics and I'm a founding member of CAAWS. Actually, my whole career, not on necessarily the money side but on the commitment side, has been in the area of gender equity and benefits for girls and women in physical activity and sport, so thank you for asking for my thoughts.
I wanted to take a slightly different approach, because I think you'll hear from many of your witnesses about the statistics and a number of the problems. I wanted to look at a practical approach to how we might move our agenda forward from where are today.
We've had government involvement from the federal side—and I'd like to thank you for that—for over 50 years for women in sport. We've had policy papers and recommendations from not only the governments but also a number of conferences, whether provincial, national or international, on women in sport. I think it's fair to say we have a plethora of things we could do, but we've had a very difficult time even under the leadership of CAAWS to get the resources we need and to get an approach that helps us implement those recommendations in the area of girls and women in sport. I think that due to the number of associations that we have in our system as well as the different levels of government, it's often hard to get coordinated approaches. We've made significant progress and I think Rio is a place we could take as a launching block as we move forward here to try to bring about continued, sustainable, long-term change.
I'd like to talk about a couple of statistics. Some of them were mentioned, so I'll be very brief. One statistic from the Canadian mental health survey, which I think is really important, is that only 9% of children and youth as of 2012-13 spent 60 minutes in physical activity—not even rigorous sport, but physical activity. ParticipACTION is taking this on, and it's going to be part of what they do and really try promote for their 150th birthday. I think we need to realize that we have a very small base of people who believe that physical activity and sport are part of how we identify ourselves as Canadians and who understand how important they are for the health of our youth.
CAAWS, of course, has a number of stats—and you'll be able to read those, and Penny Werthner mentioned the numbers around the coaching. On the boards of PSOs and NSOs, and those that are delivering our sports systems, we have probably only 25% to 30% women.
I would like to see us really look at those opportunities where we feel we can really lever change. One of the best has been Canada Games. Canada Games has been funded on a long-term basis through commitments both by the federal government and by the provincial government, and we have seen change because of those commitments. They have a board that is totally committed, they have an affirmative action program called women in coaching, they have targets for what they're going to do, and they have to publicly report back their findings every year.
We need leadership; we need focus; and we need to be able to lever what's there to really measure whether we can, in a specific area, take a platform and bring about real change. I think we've seen the same things with Own the Podium. It was always considered that women were not as competitive as men. I think that myth was shattered in Rio. However, that takes an organization that puts the equity of women and men in sport right at the top of the agenda. If you perform, if you're on the pathway of performing, you will get funded. We need to have that kind of gender equity criterion in the things we do.
I would like to say it takes focus, it takes leadership, and it takes sustained funding. If we have those, I think we have the recommendations that we can pick and choose from. I would say we need three things that will start to bring about long-term change: gender equity at the governance level of NSOs, gender equity in our resource allocations—and we can do that by writing those things into our bylaws and having snap audits to make sure those amounts not only are in the budgets but actually are being spent on girls and women—and gender equity in our national coaching staff.
It's quite simple if you look at how Canada Games and how Own the Podium have gone about it. They have criteria. The criteria are very clear and very focused. If you don't meet the criteria, you cannot receive full funding. I think if we did the same things in those areas for gender equity, we would see real change.
I also would like to ask—
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to thank our witnesses. Your testimony is really useful for the study we have begun.
I am going to get straight to the point. With the first group, we spoke very quickly about the role of education when it comes to sport and women's choices to engage in sport. Ms. Lauzon, you also talked about that earlier.
I have questions about the balance between the male and female models for girls. All children, so that means all girls, go to school. Girls have male role models as physical education teachers, teachers who take on the role of coach at noon and after school for extracurricular sports activities. At least, that was 100% the case for my daughter. The teachers and coaches who were her role models were all male role models. In a more competitive context, in swimming, she had only male coaches. I wonder about this balance, and about the role of schools and sports education programs.
In your opinion, what is the school's role in this?
In the Quebec school system and the federated sport system, our biggest problem is working in silos. We are desperately trying to break down those silos, but there are sort of unwritten rules. This means it is very difficult to penetrate the system in order to train school coaches. Getting access to those coaches gets very complicated.
At Égale Action, we are trying to get into the school system. We have established a training program that specifically addresses coaches who coach girls, whether at school or in the general public. We will be putting on a training program in one of the school systems in Montérégie. We think we are managing to make a chink in the wall.
In the schools, there are many more women teaching children in regular classes, but it is the complete opposite for physical education courses. There is a much higher number of men there. You are correct to say that female role models are not as numerous in the schools.
On the subject of male role models, however, I think the teachers or coaches who get adequate training for interacting with these girls are going to be just as good at getting them to achieve the level of development they aspire to. Yes, female role models are the priority, but I think our male role models need help in how to work with our girls and make sure they make adequate progress. We have a way to go yet and there are silos to break down and mindsets to change in the systems, but it is doable. We have started to do it, gradually, and it is working quite well.
We've seen some good examples of male coaches who understand that it's different to coach females, and sometimes they bring in a graduated player, a female player, to serve as a role model, as an assistant coach.
The Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association has a female coach mentorship program. Graduated players come back and work with the program. Again, a lot of head coaches are male, but it's a training ground and it also gives that female experience.
I think Élaine is right in the sense that we need to educate as we're trying to get more women coaches. In the meantime, it's men who are coaching the daughters and the female athletes. Getting them that education for the psychosocial factors would make a difference.
In terms of the physiology, the tactical kind of training piece is quite similar. It's really on that whole psychosocial side of girls and women as athletes, as coaches, and as leaders where the difference is that male coaches need to work on addressing.
There are a couple of things.
In B.C., in Coquitlam, we had a human rights case that went forward to say that the facility usage was dominated by young boys and boys' teams, and young girls were not allowed to play on the fields or in the various facilities. On that ruling, Coquitlam now has the most robust participation of girls and women in sport. They also have one of the largest number of women coaching at the lower level around their sport.
At some point, I think we need to do some audits around the country to look at the uses of facility and what some of the tools are, legal or otherwise, to bring about change to allow gender equity in our facilities.
I think we also need to look at some of the best practices. In the elementary schools in Alberta we have the Ever Active Schools model, and in B.C. we have Action Schools. They are working with elementary school teachers to put physical activity into the daily routine of their students. They have ten-minute breaks where they get up and are physically active during subject time. They also design their playgrounds so they have facilities or active spaces like running over rocks, getting their proprioception developed, and things that allow them to start to be able to move and be part of sport.
The other thing we found is that teachers on the women's side don't wear high heels to elementary school in B.C. anymore, and their back problems have decreased. They also have to get up and participate with the kids. These little ten-minute episodic breaks make a difference.
I think you have to build...that's what I"m trying to get us to look at. What are some of our successes, and how do we build on those successes? If we have elementary school and that's happening, then can we get those teachers who are doing activity into coaching? How do we approach that?
I think we can find the solutions if we focus in on what it is we want to achieve.
In Quebec, at present, there are no official programs for retaining our athletes or our best role models. This is an atrocious oversight. These athletes do it very spontaneously when they see an existing role model, for example, a woman who is a coach or an official.
Most of them become speakers. They also become role models to encourage girls to get moving, but we lose them when it comes to being coaches, officials or administrators on various committees. Something needs to be developed so we do not lose them. We must not simply wait for an existing role model to take them under her wing, even though that does happen. That may answer Mr. Breton's question about coaches in the schools. Often, it is young people who play at the college or early university level who coach girls or boys in the schools. They have not been trained and they have no idea what they are going to do there. Often, they are beginners.
We really have to put a structure in place that is not complex, that will give them good training for their new role, whether as an official, a coach or an administrator.