8 Tips to Promote Gender Equity in Sports (Even When Women's History Month is Over)
(Originally published on March 29, 2023)
Women's History Month is always a great time to honor women and girls in sports—especially the big names and game changers of the past and present. But what if we honored women and girls in sports year-round—through action?
Pushing for gender equity can have a profound impact on current and future generations of women athletes, coaches, administrators, and executives across athletics.
What is "gender equity"? It's the dismantling of unique inequalities that limit someone's ability to access opportunities based on their gender; a person's rights, ability to participate in society, health, lived experiences, and more do not depend on their gender. In athletics, this means increasing resources and investments, expanding opportunities, and ensuring safe spaces for all women and girls.
Here are 8 tips to start and/or continue promoting gender equity in your sports organization:
Know what it means. Start with a clear definition of gender equity in the context of your sport and your organization. Having a shared understanding of the term is critical for your team to establish goals and execute a plan.
Educate yourself and your team. Like any athlete, we all need practice to build muscle memory. In this case, practice means learning about—and discussing—gender equity often, to build it into your organizational principles and framework. Participate in trainings and other educational opportunities around gender equity to stay informed and to develop leadership skills that will help your team navigate this space.
Kim Barnes Arico coaches the Michigan Wolverines (Wikimedia Commons)
Recruit and retain more women employees. From executive office positions to head coaching roles, women are drastically underrepresented in the sports industry. Examine how your organization or community seeks out women candidates for jobs. Additionally, determine how your organization professionally develops women who are already employed. Those data points can inform future hiring practices and priorities, and help to better support existing members of your team.
Create policies that promote gender equity. These are the foundation of an inclusive environment. From a lack of non-discrimination language to uniform requirements, there are a myriad of policies that can unintentionally discriminate against women and girls. Conduct an audit of your policies to identify which should be added or adjusted to help women and girls thrive. These can include policies around language, accessibility, safety, resource distribution, and more.
Push back on gender policing and stereotypes about women’s athletics. Athletic spaces can perpetuate harmful myths that men are “superior” athletes or that there is a certain way women are supposed to look or behave as athletes. Confronting these biases and harmful attitudes is imperative to creating an equitable organizational culture.
Have mechanisms in place to report harassment and discrimination. Unfortunately, discrimination and harassment based on one’s gender is not uncommon in athletics. In addition to investing in education, training, and screening to minimize this risk, mechanisms should be in place to swiftly address any potential incidents.
Advocate for transgender-inclusive sporting policies. Recent legislative and policy efforts aim to prohibit transgender women and girls from participating in women’s sports. Research suggests that these policies harm all girls and women, and that having transgender-inclusive sporting policies actually increases participation for women and girls across the board in sports.
Invest in women’s sports at every level. From providing equal pay to equal media attention, investing in women’s sports is a crucial strategy to promote gender equity. With your team, brainstorm ways you can be investing more in women and girls, then set realistic short and long-term goals that account for your organizational capacity.