Talking Point

How Equity has Evolved for Girls & Women

Karin Lofstrom - participant, volunteer, leader, mentor and advocate for girls and women in sport and physical activity both in Canada and internationally.
Karin Lofstrom

Lisa Ingarfield and Karin Lofstrom discuss the evolution of gender parity for girls and women and what is needed for the future to achieve equality

Talking Point is hosted by Dr. Lisa Ingarfield

Podcast length: 1:01:24

Lisa Ingarfield is joined by Karen Lofstrom who for 30 years has advocated for women and girls in sport in Canada and internationally. We will hear about the trends Karen has seen changes and improvements but also where she thinks we still need to go for more than 30 years. Karen Lofstrom has been an active participant volunteer, leader, mentor and advocate for girls and women in sport and physical activity both in Canada and internationally. After stepping down from her role as the executive director of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity she has continued to stay engaged in sport as a consultant. Karen’s commitment to achieving gender equity in the Canadian sports system is shed through her collaborative approach. She works with organizations to develop gender equity initiatives focusing on getting more girls and women engaged as participants and leaders from physical activity to high performance sport participation to women as board members professional staff and coaching positions. Karen also provides expertise working with organizations that want to create a more inclusive safe welcoming environment for all girls and women including the LGBT community, Aboriginal, ethnic minorities and newcomers.

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[00:00:00] Welcome to episode 8 of Talking Point on WiSP Sports Radio where we delve more deeply into the systemic barriers facing women in sport. I’m your host Lisa Ingarfield and Talking Point is co-produced by myself and whisp sports at whisp sports. We believe women in sport deserve equal coverage. Last month in episode seven we talked to Dr. Nikki Brown about her research into the effects of breast development and breast pain on girls and womens participation in sport this month. We are extremely lucky to be joined by Karen Lofstrom who for 30 years has advocated for women and girls in sport in Canada and internationally. We will hear about the trends Karen has seen changes and improvements but also where she thinks we still need to go for more than 30 years. Karen lifestream has been an active participant volunteer leader mentor and advocate for girls and women in sport and physical activity both in Canada and internationally. After stepping down from her role as the executive director of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity she has continued to stay engaged in sport as a consultant. Karen’s commitment to achieving gender equity in the Canadian sports system is shed through her collaborative approach. She works with organizations to develop gender equity initiatives focusing on getting more girls and women engaged as participants and leaders from physical activity to high performance sport participation to women as board members professional staff and coaching positions. Karen also provides expertise working with organizations that want to create a more inclusive safe welcoming environment for all girls and women including the LGBT community. Aboriginal ethnic minorities and newcomers.

[00:01:47] Welcome Karen to this month’s episode of Talking Point. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. Great thanks for the invitation. So I’m excited to talk to you because you have a long history of working on equity issues, gender equity issues for women and girls in sport. But I wanted to begin by hearing a little bit more about this new initiative that the Canadian government just announced. If I understand it correctly in their most recent budget plans and they committed 30 million dollars over the next three years to support girls and women in sport. And it sounds like you are right in the middle of this amazing opportunity. So I was wondering if you could share a little bit more about that with our listeners. Sure. Yeah I think it was quite a shock to all of us that have been for many years working in this area with limited funds have this government that’s been in office for three years what to come forward with this huge announcement and as a surprise to all of us it wasn’t like I don’t think we would be in Nebraska without much money. So it’s a great opportunity. So I’m the minister Kirstie Duncan is putting together a working group for gender equity in sport to actually figure out about ideas for spending this money. So luckily I’ve been invited to be part of this working group and they’re looking at this. We haven’t had our first meeting yet. But in their kind of terms of reference are the information that they’re looking at putting out to the public.

[00:03:14] They’re talking about programming specifics for girls and women addressing gender based violence and sexual harassment in sport and increase representation of women in sport leadership positions. So it’s very exciting to have actually a minister in government that is supporting gender equity and putting the resources behind it. Toxi. Our fingers crossed that implementation and the money actually flows for the next three years and hopefully for other than not but positive steps. What do you think the impetus was to this decision. I mean it sounds like from what you’re saying is that the that maybe the talk has been there for some time but not the resources and now this decision to put money to the initiative that has not previously been a priority. Well we had a change of government three years ago and this government under a peer or sorry just introduced this bill was a scholar who is also a former prime minister. There have been big focus when they came out with their cabinet. It was 50/50 men and women. And so they are trying to push gender equity in all areas of their work and also in their international platform. But so I think I mean we have been pushing for many years. Have no more tensioned paid on gender equity in sport but I think some of the staffers for the minister and we’ve actually had a change of minister too so the current one I think panel is about the byproduct of the budget was already there but she’s a huge supporter so it was a perfect timing. But I think it was just there were wanting to find deeper gender equity in all different departments and policy areas of the government affect.

[00:04:59] So luckily for us there women’s sport was an area that haven’t had much attention before. Now we’ve got some yeah that’s really great and for you having worked in the field for such a long time it must feel like just a long time coming right you’ve been advocating for this for over 30 years and finally in 20 18 or probably 2019 is when something or the money will start to come through that a sense of relief that people are actually listening. Yeah I mean it there was a few of us that were a couple of the women that were the Founding Mothers a cause which was the organization I work for for a few years and your association for the Advancement of Women in Sport and Physical Activity. And like you know one of the girls was like Mary and like she said I didn’t think I’d see this in my lifetime right to have this kind of resources put behind it I think. I mean you never know if people are actually listening or who’s listening to you because we’ve been talking about these issues for a long time. But I guess when it falls on the right ears and with the right climate in the country and you know having an interest in gender equity you know the kind of the stars aligned or whatever. So it’s remained so exciting. I mean everyone was literally shocked like we were like like how did this happen but obviously I mean the candidate has been you know over the years a leader in women in sport. But I would have said lately. I mean you know in the last eight years we haven’t been resourced to keep out the front.

[00:06:32] We weren’t being as innovative or creative or making new steps. You know we had started earlier but I’d say we kind of plateaued. So it’s good to have this next level of kickstarter funding to be pushing and innovating and you know and hopefully setting the bar high for others to follow as well around the world.

Yeah. And I’m wondering given your perspective that you’ve been doing this for so long in Canada and internationally what are some of the big changes that you’ve seen. Albeit I realize many of those changes might have been slow to materialize but over the last 30 years regarding women and girls in sport what are some of the big things that you’ve seen positive changes in Canada or beyond. Well I mean I think there has been an increased opportunity for girls to play sport and not just the you know swimming gymnastics which is great for their case sports but having opportunity for girls have choice that that piece that they can and you know if they want to play football they want to box whatever it is that there is an opportunity and I think we need Canada. I think us and probably around the world they’re still in physical activity crazes like there are not enough kids being active. So in some cases often say that you know girls is the act of girls getting more opportunity to play more different sports. We haven’t got more you know as many different girls playing right but on a piece for sure.

[00:07:58] You know I’m always going to not change of getting opportunities for girls to play sports and fighting for those those chances you know similar I think you know Title 9 and soften the seeds that peace had might have been the easy step. It wasn’t easy but the idea is you know General Robert parents drive around if they see kids girls or boys playing you know whatever sport soccer football softball. But do they notice. Like who is officiating who’s coaching the team you know who are the club officials you know got next level is a hard one to get to I think you know there isn’t as many you know women that are in those roles so you know the first steps in me getting more opportunities is great the next you know the next steps are more more subtle and it’s not as easy to know the reasons why they aren’t being able to be participating. I mean we do it in in in Canada with the squirt administration is it National Sport Organisation systems. We saw a push you know in the mid 80s to get more women in of entry level sport admin jobs to get women in the system. And you know that was positive and there’s lots of women in the entry level that I think we also had success you know getting women in managers in the you know the executive director or the CEO. I mean not huge numbers not half of them but in quite a few sports. But the other gap still is in the high performance director or technical director areas so hardly any women in those areas. You know that also speaks to the issue of not a lot of women coaches because often those the high performance or technical roles those people come from a coaching background.

[00:09:47] So if you don’t have a lot of you know high performance women coaches then we’re also not having them as technical directors down the road. But I mean I think you know there’s the the the push is slow I mean we’re you know we’re seeing when there’s attention paid you know from organizations to try and get more women on their boards you know when they have a nominee treaty that has women involved and are reaching different networks of people to recruit people to serve on boards. Then we’re seeing some positive change and you know percentages of women on boards but it isn’t something you can take your foot off the gas the next year. You don’t do it. Will the numbers go back. We have a chronic over that hump where this is the norm. It’s still taking work. Right. So definitely. You know. That’s it. I mean that’s a huge area where I think we can have greater influence and hope for is run by having the leadership be more equal more diverse. Yeah I mean I think that when you have a diverse leadership group then they’re setting the policies they’re setting the tone. They’re also a role modeling for folks who are coming up through that particular sport or business right. And so there is so. So individuals are seeing leaders who look like them in those leadership positions and that’s very meaningful for women for folks of color for people with disabilities who are largely excluded from some of these leadership positions. And still to this day and I really liked your point about having to keep your foot in the gas right it’s not just as simple as OK.

[00:11:28] This year we have a gender equitable board for this particular organization and they’re all serving a two year term right. Great but in two years we kind of like roll back to how we were before. So it’s just there’s like a finishing line that you need to cross and if you cross it once then you’re good. I think that that mentality still perhaps permeates the world of sport. And I’m wondering if you could speak to beyond numbers right. So beyond getting women into leadership positions getting women onto boards getting more women coaches in hope high profile sports or high profile positions like what are some of the barriers that you’ve seen for women once they get there that they maybe they don’t stay. Right. We did talk with Shannon Miller a couple of episodes ago so we learned about her experience coaching hockey and I’m sure we’re I’m absolutely positive her experience is not unique. Right. So what are some of the things that you’ve seen around the way women are treated in those positions. Yeah I mean definitely I think that the environment that women come into can often be hostile. I mean I think it is really like you talked about you know the leadership and their role modeling and you know showing what we want it to be. Because you know women’s voices are heard around the board table. You know they’re always put in.

[00:12:46] You know the secretary role taking the minutes you know asking him coffee like you know where he’s appointed and you know be ignored and then you know two men later will say the same thing and you know them oh yeah that’s a good idea. You know it hopefully. I mean I think what I found with organizations that have a better board governance really makes a difference in kind of the experience of women coming in. You know how are they looking at the board members that come to the table you know are they wanting to have a cross-section. Like we’ve been certainly using it here in Canada a lot of the organizations a skill matrix. So all the different board members have to fill in what is their background and skills bold enough like the real technical skills like the New Yorker accounting lawyers all sexting and people skills you know their communication their networking their you know fundraising all these other pieces so that you’re not looking always so much on the gender as you’re you’re recruiting people with the skill set. Some maybe women some maybe men. The person of color disability whatever money that you’re having a cross-section of people that is just your buddies you know going asking you know you know enough we joke about the old boys club that you’re having it you know not just that. Also when the people come into the board there is an orientation you know and and sometimes I’ve seen a kind of joke that the person that’s you know sometimes the most you would think the one’s going to cause problems. You know they’re put in charge of the buddy system of orienting the new person.

[00:14:25] I mean after they had the formal orientation but you know checking in on meetings and do the understanding all the ins and outs and backgrounds and different things you know rather than being the critical one the one that you haven’t you know is if you know they’re going to a special job to help sometimes takes off the edge of them being critical of the person. For sure. I’ve seen boards that have term limits so you can’t stay on forever. Right. If you know if it’s you know of two your four year terms it’s two. Yet six years eight years is a maximum because if there’s never any turnover then it’s hard to get new people in. You know in the boards and it’s often harder for women to opt to run against the guy that’s been there for eight years. You know we’re 10 years. You know it’s it’s easier to potentially have an opportunity to fill space when it’s someone has left rather than have to defeat someone that they are what they aren’t. They’re definitely able to defeat people but not know how to do that. How do those turn overs in your in your processes. No I think it really has helped in some boards get openings to help. I mean not only women but all kinds of diversity in the mix. But pressure. You know there there’s talk around that the threshold point being 3 in 10 to really make a difference of women’s ability to feel comfortable to contribute to be valued. You know I mean when you’re when you’re there by yourself like that that’s just not a fun place to be. Right. I mean if it’s two you know.

[00:16:04] I mean it’s going in the right direction but they say in the research that over three and McKinley is pieces that that really makes a difference and there’s opportunity for positive change and such. I mean it is in a board setting or on you know committees are working even in an organization with not many women is Duffly you know needing to have thick skin and I often drop you people women sometimes. You know there are issues of confidence and such. And you know we talked their sweethearts out there and you know applying for jobs. You know what. Usually a job description or skills pieces like a shopping list. So you know be the perfect candidate but as a person hiring someone not really expecting everyone to help you know all those ten characteristics. But if met men can do two or three of them they’ll put their name and women out to do like eight or how before they put their name in. So we’re sometimes we’re too hard on ourselves. But they are you know they’re coming your own fake it till you make it. I mean I think you know we definitely need to put ourselves out there and take on those challenges because of you know the cars are not coming to us. You know you’re not usually so often are the women asked to be in you know. Which is another piece for sure in both in applications for you know for board positions or coaching. You know asking women because women are Arshile you see a poster on all the recruiting number she got you she going to run over and tried to reply. But if someone says you know I think you’d make a good board member that is like they’re giving you the confidence to do it.

[00:17:45] I mean I think that hopefully the the the setting of the you know the really uncomfortable board table. I mean I guess I shouldn’t say it is one way and we see that in that piece of CNN and you know we’ve seen it in China and lots of other cultures unfortunately that that you know really derogatory and negativity and not valuing women’s sport like devalue men’s. You know is we haven’t gotten over that kind of piece even in I’d say areas where there’s been great success in the women’s teams you know more than men’s. It is still then there’s a jealousy. I can’t just be positive reward is great you’re doing you know we hope we do well too. It is. I mean for sure sport is one of the last bastions of this really unbalanced you know threat of women doing well. But it’s definitely frustrating. Yeah I mean it is just listening to you talk about all the ways that it’s frustrating and I think that’s something that we need to constantly be aware of that it’s not just one thing right that there’s a self-confidence in young girls that they can play sport and they should be encouraged to simply play sport and then women in leadership roles and mentorship and coaching and women being encouraged or feeling encouraged to participate in the hile in high levels whatever that looks like. And so this kind of just there is like crisscrossing our intersecting network of all these issues that are working in concert with each other that continued to maintain a kind of at a systems level this disparity between genders and it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming.

[00:19:36] I think to know well how how exactly do I like start to chip into this monster. Right. So what. You mentioned your organization cause that you had helped establish what were some of the things that you did in that organization to try and chip away at this kind of this monster of competing or connecting issues. Yeah I mean there’s definitely some overarching kind of pieces that affect coal. The the the participant side as well as the leader and me one of the pieces was created a resource around the psychosocial factors of girls engagement sport I think and it’s not only like the IP but as the leader because I think for sure understanding that women not only means some generalizations here but think about different right that that social connection that feeling of being valued is really important for kind of the next steps of you know effort and success right. And and performance where you know feeling that you know you belong in you know women and young girls are sure that you’re talking about the you know the dropout rate and wanting to see if we can keep girls in sport and physical TV long enough so they reap the benefits of this confidence development. It really helps them later. You know if they want to take on volunteer or for roles or sport man or coaching but having male coaches softer female coaches have the lived experience so they understand this just innately. But for men to understand that having that conversation I have Lafite was talking with one of the former National Soccer Coaches in Canada. And he was talking about how he finally learned that if you brought that up it’s good practice for the first five minutes.

[00:21:31] He let them run around the track warming up talking to each other. And then they would come into to sit and listen to him what you know see what they were going to practice. But I do wanted to talk to them right away. You never get their attention and it was a sunset basically at any age young women that that social connection is so of course you know. So having them feel that that’s valued and that it’s you know will help girls and women stay longer. I mean I think we also talked a lot about in this kind of psychosocial factors as around the on and off ramps of young women and girls in their life of in school you know getting out of sport and having opportunities come back in you know going to university. You know how we lose but we don’t have as many of the people with sport experience. You know one chick on the coaching roles or board positions because we lose them a lot through their university experience because we’re working in family and potentially those type of thing. How do we keep track of them so that with this wealth of knowledge of you know female athletes that we could be using later. Right. You know keep that route that you and those types of things. One more recent piece that was what the work was created around a female coach mentorship program. And the piece there had been quite a few different types of mentorship programs happening in Canada. But this this time be part of the focus was on educating the mentor because we know often how a coach gets hired.

[00:23:03] Oh and by the way we mentioned this up and coming you know younger coach and you know that given the opportunity to see you know that they have to do it and they may not have had much experience in you know what’s the best way to do that kind of stuff. So having the opportunity to actually train mentors in advance of them working with their their mentees really was a positive piece. And this material that was created a resource for mentors mentees and for sports organizations that want to look at developing more female coaches. It’s all available online. Cozart CA and coach Straat CA is in partnership with the coaching Association PANDA. It’s a great resource in all kinds of different tools for planning and 360 degree evaluations. So small clubs if they want to do. Part of it is you know there’s tools that they can take their news in it was great because it was two of the lead mentors who were Mel Davidson who was an Olympic hockey coach for Canada and worked with the coaching hockey association or Hockey Canada and Alison McNeill to coach charwomen Tiraspol team in the London Olympics. So golf has lots of experience in coaching and developing more coaches so very positive. Interesting enough. We talked earlier about how female leadership changes the decisions that get made when we were looking for some part organizations to work on this. The ones that stepped up were wrestling basketball tennis and hockey and the first three are all have CEOs that are women. And then Mel Davidson is the director for the women’s program at hockey.

[00:24:48] So we didn’t go out looking for women CEOs to ask to be in the program. They just came to thinking this was important. So you know just by having that leadership you know day that yes we should. You know they had to staff that were involved in the program but it was interesting to see you know kind of only halfway through the program to realize oh we’ve ended up with you know sports that were led by women. But those things are very positive on that end of it. And another resource that was created and these are all that like I said available. The resources are we must be are we that we create have been funded by the government so they are available for free on our websites have I still say we even though I’ve been gone about a year and half. But I was around women on board resources and there just webinars and there you can listen to them online or you could kind of know you could have actually your association. You could also have done for your staff or your aunt here’s one looking at the women themselves. And what kind of skill development do they need in confidence building and developing their own personal leadership plan to actually have a plan on how you want to work your way and develop things you need to do to actually get on board. And another one is actually for the ports.

[00:26:10] So boards out how you are looking at this other than some that needs maybe need to be convinced that they should be doing this for others that are are keen to do it but then they need help with you know what are the recruiting strategies and how do we actually go about this była change is what you need to do to actually make this happen in your association. So it’s been very positive and I think hopefully given this new money from the government you know the more pushing in this direction to actually have these kinds of changes happen. And you know in my hand I’ll be pushing for you know having policies sat around these areas because I know you know right now we have a government that’s interested and willing to put resources in but they probably you know as we know governments change and so it also is our legacy from this. Then after you know if a government changes or their direction changes those pieces will still be in place. I mean this happened needs to happen at the sport level too. You know if you how your sport is governed and has policies in place you know because of a key leader at the time when they go he so want to have that legacy continue. You know all the positive steps for gender equity that can be taking place so having that kind of peace through me will be you know this is something I’ve always been pushing for. And you know how the you know that won’t last. The person that’s leading the program at the time. Yeah making policy changes or legal changes are really important and it’s one step right because I think about Title 9 here in the United States and that was initiated in 1972 prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions and obviously a big effect of that was in college sports and it’s broader than that.

[00:27:55] That’s where a lot of people kind of think that Title 9 center is but we still in 2018 about 40 years later are struggling around gender equity broadly in education. But that sex discrimination and sexual abuse within the context of sport that’s happening. Right. So you the law and the policy is important that a kind of compact that climate issue that you had talked about before that that’s how we can put 15 different policies in place but if we don’t have people in the leadership positions that buy into those policies and are committed to shifting our culture and actually proactively working to change the narrative then like kind of substantively nothing really changes. Absolutely right. We’ve had a couple of examples this past year where we’ve we’ve you know having conversations with this type of thing and had Bruce Robinson who’s the CEO of freestyle skiing Canada’s stood up with the Canadian Olympic Committee meeting and said You know I want to have 50/50 on my board. I’m looking for more women. Let me know if you’re interested or if you know anybody like so he reached for him from all the CEOs of all the sports he said That’s right. So those kind of thing leading by example I mean in the last couple weeks we’ve seen rugby. Canada has changed their policies to be at least 46 seats that either men or women on their boards similar some diversity rules around in golf Canada I mean for sure. You know I think that you know. The culture is changing and hopefully you we will see you know that I always find in sport.

[00:29:36] I’m sure it’s same and they have you know in the U.S. and other parts of the world in Canada they’re competitors. So if one sport made to change and it actually helps them. And they talk about it then others oh well maybe I better try to. You know it could have been in high performance techniques or whatever but you know if they’re having success some way. I mean there was an example of the London 2012 Olympics Sebastian Coe who was the leader of the organizing committee. You know he said he wanted to have equal men and women on staff organizing for anything including the managers and all the sport technical areas. And when they will be hiring people and they would come to him with the list of you know potential markets and there would be no women he’d send the selection committee back and say you know there is women out there you’re not to have good enough job looking for them. So again leadership driven. And they ended up in the games having that equal style. But it is it has to be you know it doesn’t it isn’t the easy way for sure. It has to be. You know having a broader reach. One of the things also in Canada the law change on our not for profit acts which are where our national organizations are not for profit corporations. And they you. How are you. We used to have one person primary like one a representation Pravy brought a problem to charity. Often was who was on the board. So you couldn’t you know the province would vote that’s who you get on your board. We’re now it’s you.

[00:31:03] You can’t come in representing anyone specifically to be coming from at large but that’s open the door to how you know trying to find more people that have corporate backgrounds and know different other kind of entities and working with other people that are backgrounds in being corporate director and seeing if they’re interested in working in a sport environment as well is often people play sport maybe at a university level or you know they didn’t go to the national team screen. They all went off to be you know a CEO of some corporation and then they can bring these skills back. So it’s really been interesting to see having you know and they’re used to you know we’re very there board meetings and their structure of organizations being very quite professional. So the Canet we need we’re bringing up the standard hopefully of governance and having you know looking at pieces we had an incident you know with harassment and such in our Olympic Committee and then that. I would say every sport organization look at their harassment policies hopefully they take off the shelf dusted them off and are reviewing them to make sure they actually you know are being implemented. But I think sometimes we need you know the wakeup call that you know talking about factors keep women out you know that harassment and you know innuendoes and you know the chilly climate that’s sometimes you know drives women away that it’s everyone’s responsibility. Men and women to talk about God. And it’s not fair game and more say oh he’s just like oh he doesn’t mean like you know or male colleagues do as well call out each other you know on the inappropriate behaviors.

[00:32:49] And you know things that shouldn’t be happening. I mean I think that that piece of having you know more more male voices I think in the discussion. You know I mean it’s too bad that we just buy women’s voices. Things aren’t changing but we’re seeing that it’s not right. So we do need more male colleagues and you know that are willing to think this is the right way to go and be talking about you know what they can do in their in their reaches. Sometimes it’s Pisan. I’ve seen you know them having daughters. You know her sisters have said things about that because of how his aha moment. Oh like they’re not getting the same opportunities or they’re treated badly or you know that they will help in the in the push to have things more equitable. Yeah and I struggle with that a little bit like I think it’s great. Right. So if that’s the motivation if that’s the impetus for you to have the aha moment you have a daughter or a sister and you mate. And you know in the process of being with them and observing their interactions you have this moment but then it shouldn’t take that right. It should. Yeah I should be like self-evident that there is this discrepancy. And I think years and years and years ago I went through like I helped facilitate a multicultural retreat. And my co-facilitator said this phrase that I’ve never forgotten. And he said smell the air even when it doesn’t smell for you. And I just thought that was brilliant right.

[00:34:16] So I think with men in sport they need men in leadership positions in particular in the sports industry need to smell the air even though it doesn’t smell for them right. So their experience of being a leader in the sports industry is very different from what it would be for a woman or I should probably be more specific and likely white men in the sports industry. Their experience is very different from women for men of color from women of color from folks with who have disabilities right. But they need to have some awareness or some a capacity for reflection that their day to day is not replicated through every other person. Right. And I think that that gets lost. OK. It is missing or isn’t taught or I’m not I’m not sure what happens and wife. Many men in particular can’t can’t make that kind of empathetic leap Yeah I mean I for sure. I mean we’re in this process with this new resources Finemore. I mean I think that’s a lot of that capacity needs to be built to understand. You know because at the outset I don’t know. It’s like they don’t see it. You know they don’t see that you know that much. I mean they existed one way of you know when you had a new person on a word OK you know I’ll get on my golfing buddies or whatever right. You know to come brother then the processes of theirs you know the best decision learning from the corporate world you know the best decisions are made when it’s a diverse group of not all thinking the same.

[00:35:41] You know the different ideas that have them educated to be raises awareness that you know of all those you know the different areas the I mean I think we are you know when I’ve seen that in some of the workshops I’ve done online or on the site of social software the coaching girls just watching the male coaches that you know coach the teenage girls when they get when they there’s there’s something to help that they’re already keen to help but they don’t know what to do. Like you don’t know how to change your coaching styles when they get this information the next month or they just love it right because it makes them a better coach to not have more success but not all of them coaches care that much. You know. You know I mean they might be caring about performance but they’re not. There’s another layer out there you know with girls and women on you know keeping them engaged in all those other factors that are going on especially in those younger ages. But definitely to how that awareness raised that they need to think differently maybe they need education on different differently. I mean these women do that are you know that also could use education not only only men but to do things differently to be you know having women get opportunities you know if it’s in coaching if it’s up you know in hiring processes you know horde recruitment all those types of pieces that you know that we have to open the door wider to get more people in the mix. No one knows any the like that is the Rooney Rule for African-American coaches in this and professional sports. We need something like that for the women’s hiring and coaches you know how it is in the mix.

[00:37:21] Yeah and I’m thinking about I’m just thinking about race and how that also intersects with this conversation because it’s not just about gender right. So when we think about bringing more women into sports whether that’s the playing of sports or the leadership of sports you have to be cognizant and thoughtful that it’s not just white women. Because I definitely see that in the United States that there is when we talk about gender equity ends up being unintentionally but again because those systems of privilege are at work that it ends up being white women. And I’m wondering what that’s like in Canada. What difference is that you’ve seen in terms of participation rates leadership rates if you look at race and gender together. Yeah for sure will be underrepresented in more. You know on Aboriginal girls and women. Same thing newcomers to Canada. I mean there are definitely more focus on with also with this government for Aboriginal inclusion and you know working on that. There’s there’s some great resources created by the was called the Aboriginal support circle which was around Khutor modules for a holistic learning of dealing with racism. So for coaches that are coaching in other communities that are Aboriginal and white mixed you know in the community or only first time coaching Aboriginal athletes as well. Quite a bit of work on more the participation level initially of newcomers to Canada is often families would come and put their boys in soccer because they know that but in their culture they’re in their country the culture wasn’t for girls to be involved in sport you know how to educate that definitely.

[00:39:12] There opportunities in teen culture we are trying to get girls active as well. You know and in all those years those roles. So definitely. I mean their numbers are low I would say you know in increased patient rates but efforts are being made to you know from different city parks and rec organisations and partnering with the host organizations that are there when they’re newcomers will come to Canada should welcome them and suchlike out and work with them helping them with language and getting jobs and those types of things and we’re trying to support lends into it because that’s also a way to meet others in your community through sports. If your kids are in sports you know the parents are always on the sidelines right. And it doesn’t matter the backgrounds of the you know if they all live in the same area you could have different you know a silverback in our classes on the sidelines right. So who knows I’ll give you your first job in Canton. Right. But all the different ways to sell it to get parents really to put their kids into Swartz and learning lots of stuff in that area because I think one of the first sessions I went to years ago around newcomers coming to Canada and there were different groups there that do programming for girls and they’re talking about you know the summer camp and the March rate camp and you know these these holidays like all the times when they really run camps for kids and they might have just come from a refugee camp.

[00:40:40] Why would parents think they’re going to put the kids back in camp you know because of this the language we use which is totally mainstream here is like oh my god never thought about you know how you know the kind of stuff that you know how we describe what’s supposed to be a fun opportunity. But you know they’ve just escape from one right. So you think just you know just all the nuances and having definitely. And all these situations both working with like Abergil support circle and Neukom organizations spend more time asking questions and listening you know rather than thinking that maybe we are the the or background in a gender lens but we want to we need to eat it. It needs to be partnered with the organizations of the population you’re trying to serve. To understand the needs and the differences and what needs to be addressed. I mean that kind of it’s long long developing relationships but I think definitely worth it. And and also the training the the young women you know to be the coaches of the younger ones you know those who have those opportunities for them to you know get those skill sets in Ontario where I live like high school students how to use so many volunteer hours so it can be in youth coaching. Right. So there they need to do it to graduate. So there’s different opportunities where you can encourage them to do things that they’re already passionate about and it helps for their school credits. Right. And then the question it sounds like is kind of maintaining that connection so they’re getting involved in school and then they head off to college and then kind of quote unquote life takes over. Right. And so creating persistence.

[00:42:30] It sounds like as an issue for girls and women in sport that’s different perhaps for men. So boys and men perhaps persist more regularly in sport compared to women and girls. Is that what I’m understanding from what you said. I mean I think that yeah I think there is like a lot of drop off after college for women’s participation. There is you know there’s been some push and we’ve had the resources over the previous on your own initiative called Mothers in motion. So it’s often time when women were having children. I was strong. There were less active. Right. And how can you actually continue their activity level and also be huge role models for their families. Right. That if they’re out to be active as well. But I think what we’ve seen more of our sport associations also try to continue now with technology I think it’s a bit easier but to keep alumni like keep lists of alumni. Once you’ve been on a national team or perennial team so that you can keep in contact with these people. So down the road you know when maybe their life has calmed down or they’re settled in their job or with family or whatever they can come back to their sport. I mean other playing it there’s a lot more master’s opportunities now for sure. But as well as in other volunteer roles sometimes they come back you know with their children as volunteering when they’re older. But just not to lose touch with these people and you know for sure you got a wealth of knowledge in a lot of these you know high performance outfits that could be helping your programs in lots of different areas. Yes.

[00:44:03] And I’m thinking about family and motherhood and stuff and how we still in North America or at least still exist but actually this is true for the United Kingdom to where women are the primary caregivers right. So it’s women who tend to give about their job it’s women who take on that primary caregiver role and so they said to the guy in a heterosexual relationship the man continues and network the man continues perhaps to participate in sport in some way but the woman takes on these additional roles. And so they’re giving up these kind of like extra family activities and extra time. Yeah like at higher rates. Right. And that kind of you take a step back and that is connected to this socialization around womanhood motherhood and who should or should not be the primary caretaker I think. Definitely. I live is out this morning I just wrote an article on the World Curling Championships were held in North Bay Ontario just a few weeks ago. The Canadian team that in the end won the event all had children there with them and they were just talking about the idea and they were I would say most of them were like under five or six and just the more positive there. Their husbands were there some are also like I love athletes as are more professionals on the field but they were having the child caring duties along with the grandparents but watching their moms compete at this high level one which would not be normal in most sports I would say that you know women are probably you know late 30s and 40s.

[00:45:36] But it was so positive to see on the ice after all these women have their children with them you know which is you know was it was not something you see very often. I mean being in your own country those kind of things are easy opportunities easier to travel and then go somewhere else in the world that probably wouldn’t be there. But you know for sure that we we have not I mean I’m sure there are some lots of some you know positive stories of that balance of caregiving and that type of thing and you know the term the oh my husband’s babysitting. Well no he’s just raising your own children. You know they’re like it’s their duty to it’s not something you call an outsider to the childcare baby. But if we aren’t we aren’t. You know I haven’t cracked out yet. I mean it is interesting because it is a lot of I don’t hear too much of him but the personal struggle they want to continue doing their sport with the struggle you know with being away from their children or you know if they’re also working and you know that type thing. But then at the same time they’re saying how you know they can I mean women I think are on so many levels are guilt driven. But the idea that you know their this so that they’ll be healthier to take care of the children and they’ll enjoy their time more with their children because they have their release and their exercise and that type of thing. But yeah it’s definitely our society hasn’t totally figured out how more equal balance on you know raising children and that kind of stuff and who gets opportunities through things outside right.

[00:47:05] Yeah and I think that guilt driven thing is also like a huge socialization around you’re a bad mother if you don’t dedicate 100 percent of your time to your children right. Like Eva like I feel like that just still permeates recalled as playing in the background all the time and so and men are men are generally not faced with those same choices. And so it’s you know again it’s just the complexity of issues that are really affecting obviously young girls in the motherhood pieces and affecting young girls. But as young girls become adults and have want to have children or have a family then we do start to see that that how that has a profound effect on participation and leadership in sport. I think it’s fascinating. Yeah I think I’ve seen some really good examples of university coaches that you know there were a successful program. You know maybe it wouldn’t be the case if they weren’t so successful about that they actually did a wholesale change and when the practice times were for the athletes the practice they practice I don’t know two or four or one in three or five to seven. So the women could be home after practice with their own children. Right. No not at all.

[00:48:14] And also having some board meetings where you know it was totally fine for you know in all these cases it was the woman but the woman to raise her children like with their babies to the meeting and instead breastfeed or those type of things or they had daycare you know like having those opportunities sometimes to with some of our we have a national games called the Canada games it’s for youth and it’s winter and summer kind of mimics the idea of the Olympic Games. And people coaches the children have been given no ability to bring a you know a caregiver or it could be their partner and their mother or whatever along so that they could still coach the team and have the children with them. So they are getting you know I mean that’s not the bike across the board but there’s always a few each year that mean more likely because the woman is you know taking extra stress so try of doing it all right. Because not as well. This is so this is just too much you know. But you know it’s good that some role our role modeling and are able to manage and you know are showing that it is possible. You know I’m an also forcing the system to change because hey you know hey I’m I’m coming. And I’m bringing my child and I need somebody to take care of my child. So you know I need an extra occultation or hotel room or I mean maybe they’re still paying for it but they’re at least they could do it. It’s not I know if they find ways around it to actually make it happen. That’s the thing isn’t it. It’s putting pressure points on the system so that the system buckles and changes because so often the response from when I say the system I’m also thinking like kind of the leadership within the system is the mouthpiece of the system is like no we can’t do that. And then the response really needs to be well why can’t we do that right.

[00:50:08] Well we’ve never done it before. Well that doesn’t mean we can’t do it now. You know so having those conversations around like kind of calling into question the the exclusionary and kind of ridiculousness of some of these practices and traditions if you will that have a task that it continue to exclude women in particular. Right like they there is not like a legitimate reason other than these roles were created by and for men. Right. So they weren’t thinking about these other elements that are really relevant to women’s lives. No it’s not. No it is. It is those pressure points. It is you know the people who we’ve talked about that are you know had you know fighting for them for the injustices that had put upon them. They need that because otherwise people oh we can we can get away with this. You know we continue to treat women badly and oh they just leave right. You know. I mean it isn’t everyone that you know in their career has the willingness or the potential or you know can we’ll take on this battle. But I mean having those things hopefully there are some change that comes out of it that you know that people realize like especially when you’re hot like someone’s hiring a coach they’re working for you like you used to be a team. You’re not supposed to hire them and then treat them badly. Like what. What what got missed. No it isn’t the enemy this is who you hired to work for you up success for you. Right. So it isn’t.

[00:51:31] It does sometimes it baffles me on how like it is in the opposition you’re treating badly. This is your own people you know it’s just for those kind of things as like you know it doesn’t make a lot of sense if you start thinking about it. No it doesn’t. It really does. And I think that kind of having those conversations and asking more pointed questions and kind of raising the nonsensical nature of some of these practices and processes I think is really important for all of us to do rather than just accept. I think we’re apt to just accept Oh that’s just the way it is right. So I’m not going to I’m just going to leave. And so I know many women who have left environments rather than ask questions and that’s an individual choice and I totally get it and respect because every situation is different. Right. And together collectively if we start to apply more pressure I think that slowly things can change and that’s certainly what you’ve done with your organization and hopefully with this influx of funding that you’re getting from the Canadian government would allow that pressure to be firm a stronger and kind of more persistent. Because you need resources right. You can’t just do this with air. It’s true. I mean having that accountability. You know I think God is going to be that you know to support the change and accountability and monitoring like we have out for 20 years I’ve met with many different foreign ministers and always said hey we are in the process with a reward. We’re doing it for you know the character of the state.

[00:53:03] Are you getting in trouble for not doing one or the other. If you do nothing no one does anything you know. So I think we’re definitely at a point where there’s you know if this can be implemented. And there’s education goes along so local sports will just learn a lot more on what they need to be doing and if there’s some money to do it we can’t because usually the answer is we have no money. And often these issues they’re not all about money. It’s attitudinal change you know to a woman on a board that costs any more and bringing them out on the board you know maybe a few more phone call find them in the nominating process. But it’s not usually so dollars that’s the problem. It’s attitude. Yeah it is attitude to think thinking about that. Ayna wrapping up this conversation what solutions or advice can you offer some of our listeners around and helping to change some of those attitudes. Well what can they do kind of on a on a small local level. Or perhaps you know for folks who are working at a more macro kind of community level. Do you have any advice for folks about what they can do. Well I’m sure when we talk word with this idea of asking questions and don’t take. Don’t take that. This is the way we’ve always done it. It has a good enough answer. You know I mean sometimes it’s sharing best practices that you see in some other organization do something very you know very well you know bring that to your own organization show those examples of of success.

[00:54:29] One of the other tools that was created at cause is gender equity self-assessment tool and it can be found online. It is for a community organization or a higher level org or provincial like you know state level or whatever organization. And it just has a framework for you as a non-threatening way to say you’re on your board or your staff wherever you look at questions on the quality of programs you’re doing. What kind of policies do you have in place around gender equity. You know what are the leadership opportunities. You know Inbal staff board volunteers and coaching. And what is your environment like on the boat the social and the physical. You know and just so and then it gives you a score like the answers are never thought about it. You know we do this you know we need more improvement in this area. So then you can kind of look at your assessment of your own organization that you’re working with. And then there’s a place a starting point to see you know what changes could be made. It’s been we’ve actually had organizations fill it in and they saw the idea wasn’t to send them in to us it was a thumbs up but you know they were so proud that they were been doing things right. You know if you don’t get the bad ones you only get to get one. So but but that type of thing you know just because you need conversation starters you know around this. You know yes sometimes it’s fights that actually make change but sometimes it’s the cooler heads talking about it.

[00:55:58] You know that actually no it’s not you’re not feeling so defensive you know how having those kind of starting points for discussion. So we’ve seen that be you know Pazos you know conversations started and now there’s got going to be you know some support. Often I find two poor women having these conversations about these issues don’t always solve them. But you don’t feel so alone right it often it’s isolation right. So networking women’s organizations you know opportunities to have discussions like around these issues. You know you kind of get power in numbers and you’re not in the same organization but you realize you’re not the only one fight the battle. Sometimes it gives you the strength you know to continue to challenge. You know the systems that we need to make change. Yeah that’s huge I think feeling that you’re not alone. Because sometimes it can feel like you’re an island but there are multiple people. And you know pushing for a change and so connecting with those folks I think is really a critical piece of all this. What about for down on the local level for families who maybe have young children who up to spading in sports. Is there anything that they can do kind of to set the scene and to shift some of those perceptions really early on. I mean I think you know it’s sense of is really basic Procrastinates going to watch your kids. It’s celebrating their successes. I mean we talk about putting the you know the girls for picture on the fridge just like you have boys walking her you know with a baseball card like having things be nice you know or it could be in gymnastics it could be whatever sport they’re doing.

[00:57:33] But having that interest in it you know and raising the whole family to it. So the girls sports is just as valuable you know as the boys sports. You know sometimes it’s bringing your daughters to the next level so they’re in high school and you bring them to a university game you know is there opportunities for you to see where the path is because often if they don’t know that they could know that older girls who they think are you know the cool factor or whatever. You know if they see them doing it. OK there is a place for me to go. You know I could continue with this in this role. Definitely. I mean I’ve seen you know it’s the you know having fathers taking as much interest in the girls sports as their sons for you know those types of things. Sometimes it’s them you know the mom coming up playing you know the practicing for or the or the down you know the case but we see the role modeling has stronger between the mother and daughter. You know the mothers acted more chance that the daughter will be active. Is still the mail piece also helps but for sure stronger correlation if the mom is active that the girls will be active. So rolling hills type type of thing you know harming sport be something you do as a family.

[00:58:45] And I’m not saying all the girls can’t do this all the boys are going to do this and the girls are going to do something you know suppose the less risky or whatever but having everyone have the opportunities and for sure at younger ages having the girls opportunity for preschool development because we know sometimes that is that area that keeps girls out of it just because they don’t feel they have the you know the necessary skills and the confidence to do it. So having the chance to build you know young women’s skills and never you know saying that they can’t do something that are you know the male call the Rymill siblings are doing you know is positive for families. He absolutely it isn’t really great concrete tips there that I think a lot of this kind of exclusion or limiting happens unconsciously. I don’t think a lot of folks think about it and then but there are perhaps long term consequences of kind of not not honoring girls participation in activity in sport in the same way that you my honor boys. So that’s a really important tip. Thank you so much Karen for sharing your perspective today it’s been really great talking with you. You have such a wealth of knowledge from the work that you’ve been doing over the last 30 years and I think that our listeners have likely learned a lot and you’ve given us a lot to think about. Great. Happy to share. Thanks again to Karen for joining us today and for sharing cups spectators on the persistent barriers facing women and girls in sport and the work she has done over the years to eradicate those barriers in Canada and internationally. For show notes including related links and a full transcript of the episode please visit You can also find hundreds of additional podcasts on WiSP Sports Radio Subscribe using your preferred podcast player.

[01:00:33] And don’t forget to leave us a review on iTunes from our conversations from the world of women’s sport including blogs articles and videos. Visit wist Post your comments questions and suggestions on our Facebook page or email us at and follow share and like at WiSP Sports on social media. You can reach meLisa Ingarfield @tritodefi on Twitter and Instagram. Thank you for listening and supporting women in sport everywhere. We’ll be back next month with another in-depth thought provoking conversation.



  1. Brian Ingarfield

    June 3, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Just spent a worthwhile hour listening to the interview with Karin Lofstrom. There is no doubt that with women like Karin and Lisa out there, working on behalf of women in sport, that the situation will continue to improve and that more women will come to the fore in coaching and management positions, not least because they have so much to offer. Women now have a real freedom of choice as to which sport they take up, so much so that women’s boxing is now popular over here in the UK, as is women’s football (soccer). There is no shortage of women competitors, with athletics leading the way. In my lifetime I have witnessed huge changes with the integration of women in sport, and that is as it should be. Long may it continue.

    • WiSP Sports Editor

      June 6, 2018 at 1:16 pm

      Thank you for your remarks Brian – we will pass them along and we’re glad you enjoyed the show.

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