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The Canadian women’s professional sport market is estimated to be worth $150-200 million currently, and is significantly underdeveloped. Meanwhile, fan interest in women’s pro sports has never been higher. New research from Canadian Women & Sport presents an exciting roadmap for investing in women’s professional sport in Canada.

Despite the past year being significant for women’s sport, evidence demonstrates that athlete research is still heavily skewed towards male. This imbalance leaves large gaps in knowledge about women’s sport, sports-related injuries and in particular, training and the menstrual cycle.

Female endurance athletes have an increased risk of relative energy deficiency syndrome (REDs). Female cross-country runners have the highest incidence of stress fractures of all collegiate sports. Research regarding athlete, coach, and athletic trainer awareness of REDs showed that while athletic trainers have the most knowledge of the syndrome, athletes have the least. This suggests that athlete-directed education is needed.

The Canadian Women & Sport Rally Report showcases how women and girls in Canada are experiencing sport. The report found that girls’ participation rates remain low, girls and their parents view low quality programming as a barrier, and that sport leaders are not equipped to address the needs of girls.

Did you know that over 90% of Canada’s sport media coverage is focused on men’s sport? While many Canadians want to watch women’s sports, finding channels that cover them can be difficult. Increasing media coverage of women athletes is essential for promoting gender equity in Canadian sport.

The Government of Canada has committed to reaching gender equity in sport (at all levels) by 2035. Right now, we have a long way to go. Over 90% of Canadian sport media coverage is focused solely on men’s sport (Pegoraro and Moore, 2022). Women and girls have lower sport participation rates and higher dropout rates than boys and men, a reality that was further exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic. Women are underrepresented in sport administration, coaching, match officiating and other positions of power within the Canadian sport system. 

At the same time, Canadian women athletes are performing better than ever, and are also more activist than ever, pushing for gender equity with regard to equal pay and treatment and shedding light on abuse within sport. More women than ever are returning to high performance sport after giving birth. The menstrual cycle and reproductive health are receiving more research attention as a factor in women’s training and performance. 

In honour of International Women’s Day, SIRC has gathered our recent blogs focused on women in Canadian sport. They fall generally within the categories of gender equity, athlete wellness, and reproductive health in sport.

Gender equity

Athlete wellness

Motherhood and reproductive health in sport

Check out our Mom’s Got Game resource hub for more stories!

Engaging women and girls in sport

Finally, check out our engaging women and girls in sport webinar series, created in collaboration with Canadian Women & Sport, covering topics including return to play post-pandemic, data collection with an eye towards gender equity, engaging Black community coaches, and supporting mental health in sport.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is violence that is committed against someone based on their gender identity or expression. Canadian Women & Sport offers 6 ways in which gender equity in sport can help reduce gender-based violence, including clear policies, education, men’s allyship, and mentorship and sponsorship of women.

Digital storytelling is a research tool that packs a powerful punch. Explore how this study used the unique tool to demonstrate the important role women coaches have in providing quality sport participation and positive development to youth athletes.

“Just having the ponytail come out of your helmet, the players, the people watching, people are going to notice and keep an eye on you to see if you’re holding your own, ‘Can the girl keep up, or does she fit the stereotype of not being as good as the boys?’”. Learn more about the experiences of girls playing on boys’ sport teams and how coaches can enhance the sport environment for ‘lone girls’ in the SIRC blog.

Many women avoid gyms and pools because they feel intimidated, judged, or uncomfortable in their swimwear. A report from Sport England presents women’s suggestions for making more inclusive and judgement-free exercise spaces. Recommendations include reducing the number of full-length mirrors in gyms, having codes of conduct in weight rooms and offering more women’s only spaces and swim times.