It’s 2017! Persisting Gaps and New Opportunities to Actively Engage Girls and Young Women

PARC Speaker Series Recap

On March 2nd, 2017, PARC partnered with Sydney Millar to deliver a webinar on the 5 persisting gaps and 5 new opportunities to actively engage girls and young women in physical activity and sport.

An Interview with Sydney Millar

1.    What are the top three takeaways that you would like attendees to leave the webinar with?
I.    Gender equity is still an issue – Most Canadians would agree that girls and women should have equal access to sport and physical activity in Canada. However, that value has not been translated into practice.  Many girls and women are still getting a smaller piece of the pie – low quality programs, fewer resources (financial, facility, human), and low commitment from program and service providers. Only 6% of girls participate in the recommended 60 minutes of MVPA per day. Considering the benefits of sport and physical activity participation, and the economic burden of physical inactivity, achieving gender equity should be a priority for governments, sport organizations, health promoters, and parents (and many others!).

II.    To engage girls and young women we need to offer them a quality product – We need to better understand the diverse needs, interests and experiences of girls and young women, and design programs for them. Some programs may be similar to those offered to boys and young men; some will be completely different. If the goal is for all Canadians to experience the benefits available through sport and physical activity, a “one-size fits all” approach will not work. However, what all programs should have in common are intentional outcomes, quality instruction, and safe and welcoming environments.

III.    Women leaders and athletes are important leaders and role models for all Canadians – To improve the Canadian sport and physical activity system we need to engage women in staff and volunteer roles as leaders, board members, coaches and officials. Women have valuable skills and experiences to contribute to community and organizational performance, innovation, and governance. The media must provide better coverage to Canada’s female athletes – Canadians are demanding it. For example, the #CoverTheAthlete campaign  demands that the media focus coverage on the athlete and her accomplishments, rather than her physical appearance.

2.    How would you like the webinar attendees to use the information 6 months from now?
The webinar highlighted a number of practical takeaways - from speaking up to challenge gender inequities, to investing in program evaluation, to supporting girls to identify as “athletes” and embrace their competitive spirit. In 6 months, I’d like attendees to have used this information to improve their personal practice, make a suggestion to improve organizational practice or policy, and to have shared something they learned or that resonated with them to inspire a friend or colleague to take action.

3.    What excites you most about the world of physical activity right now? 
Collaboration is higher than ever - professionals and organizations in sport, physical activity, recreation, education, health, and social service agencies are working together to address disparities and improve access to quality sport and physical activity in communities across Canada. This has enormous potential to normalize regular participation and influence attitudinal and behavior change.

Organizations, campaigns and programs I’m excited about:

Please share any thoughts or questions you have with us on Twitter @PARCOntario using #PARCBlog.

To view the webinar recording, visit: