On March 11, San José State University’s Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change (ISSSSC) hosted “Equitable Futures for Womxn in Sport,” an online dialogue about gender equity in sports with three industry thought leaders.
The event, moderated by ISSSSC Executive Director Akilah Carter-Francique and Assistant Director Amy August, featured Dawna Callahan, ’02 MS Recreation Management, CEO and founder of All In Sport Consulting; Jenny Lim, program manager at Canadian Women & Sport and Danielle Slaton, director of external relations at Santa Clara University.
Carter-Francique kicked off the webinar by sharing a video from the International Women’s Day #ChoosetoChallenge campaign, which invites women and girls to challenge gender norms.
The video, which compared gender to a “pre-written book,” served as a conversation starter for the panelists, who were asked to reflect on leadership and hiring, and methods for sustaining the movement toward gender equity in sport. “We have a long way to go in terms of gender equity and representation in media,” said Lim, who develops gender equity solutions for Canadian sport organizations such as the Gender Equity LENS E-module, the Gender Equity in Sport Assessment, the Gender Equity Action Plan, Equity in Coaching and Same Game.
Lim mentioned that only four percent of the 35,000 hours dedicated to traditional sport coverage on television was devoted to women sports.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” she added.
All three panelists reflected on the importance of intersectional diversity and inclusion in sports. Callahan has played a vital role in developing the Paralympic movement in the United States over the past 20 years. The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been how employers have had to adjust to their employees’ needs, especially with regards to accessibility, said Callahan.
“Everyone has had to be more adaptive—and there is no one better at adapting than a person with disabilities,” she added.
“Disability is diversity, and there is diversity within disability. Think of an amputee who is starting their career. Did they lose their leg on the battlefield or to cancer in high school? People with disabilities have diverse perspectives to share in the work world.”
Slaton, a silver medalist soccer player, former member of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer team and soccer television analyst, agreed that the narrative of women playing sports and working in sport-adjacent careers needs to change. She mentioned how rare it was to see a woman of color like herself commentating in professional sports.
“Not only do we need to have more women and girls who look like me on TV, but we need to recognize that our opinions matter as much as those of the athletes on the field,” said Slaton.
“My thoughts, my perspective and how I give a voice to the game of soccer is important. The challenge comes from changing the minds of people in the highest echelons of media. What games do we get to cover? We need to have diversity at the decision-making table.”
The webinar offered opportunities for panelists to share educational and academic resources with their audience, as well as with each other. While discussing intersectionality, Slaton suggested to Callahan that they connect when Slaton covers the Tokyo Olympics later this year, with the hope of increasing coverage of Paralympic sports.
When Carter-Francique asked how female leaders and allies can shift the narrative of women in sports, Slaton reiterated that they simply “choose to challenge.”
“I may not have the platform of Megan Rapinoe, but I have a voice in my community,” said Slaton as the conversation concluded. “I have a voice here today. We all must take one step forward in service.”
This presentation was part of the ISSSSC’s Sport Conversations for Change speaker series. Their next event is scheduled for April 8. To learn more, visit sjsuwordstoaction.com.