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game changer | caaws

In this edition of “Game Changer” we’re taking a look at CAAWS (Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity) and their efforts to achieve equity for women in society through the power of sport. With the recent announcement in the 2018 Canadian Federal Budget that will see $30M injected into women and sport initiatives over the next three years and a long term target of gender equity in sports by 2035, CAAWS got right to work.

Within a week of the budget announcement, CAAWS wasted no time in unveiling an ambitious three-year strategic plan to lead the charge for women and girls in sport. The plan focuses the organization’s efforts and investment in two key pillars: retaining girls in sport and physical activity and advancing female leaders in sport. CAAWS will also seize opportunities to influence governments, media and private-sector actors to affect positive change. Sounds like no small task.

To be honest, we haven’t quite figured out how CAAWS CEO Allison Sandmeyer-Graves does it. Resources are limited, expectations are high, possibilities are endless, and this country is very large. Sandmeyer-Graves says that a culture of innovation informs this bold strategic plan. “We set out to challenge our own status quo at CAAWS. We started by clarifying our intended impact, which forced us to take a hard look at everything we do. This impact-led process resulted in a strategy that reflects an appetite for new approaches and emphasizes synergy and alignment across all business lines and activities.”

This emphasis on impact led to the identification of four strategic priorities for the organization: brand and communications, revenue generation, programs and operations. With a clear direction, CAAWS seeks to leverage its position as the leading authority and voice on women and sport to help sport and physical activity organizations make tangible strides towards full equity and inclusion for girls and women.

The strategic plan – aptly named Advancing Equity for Women in Sport and Society – drills down to the heart of the issue, focusing on three priority areas:

1. Retain girls (aged 12-16) in sport

Sport organizations and sport leaders are creating safe, welcoming and supportive environments for girls

2. Increase female leadership in sport

Organizations and boards are creating supportive environments and intentional inclusion and advancement of women in sport leadership

3. Influence the influencers

Influencers are creating more favourable policies, practices, funding, and narrative to accelerate the retention and advancement of women in sport

Additional highlights from the strategic plan include:

  • Only 24% of women in Canada participate in sport, compared to 45% of men

  • 40% of senior staff and 33% of board members in national and multi-sport organizations are comprised of women

  • In collegiate sports, women make up only 24% of athletic directors and 17% of head coaches

  • Girls who play sports are more likely to graduate from college, find a job and be employed in male-dominated industries

  • Of the girls who take part in sport, the overall participation rate drops by 22% as they enter adolescence and the school sport participation drops by almost 26%

So what’s in store for Canada if CAAWS has anything to do with it? Their strategic plan highlights it perfectly: building a legacy of change - gender equity is an opportunity to increase the value and impact of sport and physical activity in Canada’s future. It is also an opportunity to shape the culture of excellence in future leaders of Canada across all sectors.

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