Victoria’s Pacific FC, a leading Canadian Premier League team, has continued to take steps in promoting gender equity in sports, hosting their second Women & Girls in Sport Match in August. The match drew an impressive crowd of 3,400 fans, reflecting the growing significance of creating spaces where young girls can hear about the accomplishments of female athletes and leaders across various sports.
Inspiring moments beyond soccer
The timing couldn’t have been better, aligning with the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Pacific FC’s gender equity game extended its reach beyond soccer, aiming to underscore the importance of women and girls in sports.
The event showcased a diverse array of athletes, extending a warm welcome to Olympians, Paralympians, and local women in sports from various disciplines, including rugby, triathlon, basketball, rowing, and swimming, for a meet and greet before the match, and for introductions and a half-time ceremony from centre field. Interactions with fans included signing autographs and taking photos.
“Probably my favourite moment was at halftime when we brought all the athletes out to centrefield, and Katie [Hamilton] from Her Love of Sports did a little intro for all of them. You could tell that when she started talking, everyone stopped where they were; she would introduce someone, and everyone was clapping and cheering for them,” Madeline Mittelsteadt, Pacific FC account executive and lead on the gender equity event, said. Mittelsteadt, a University of Victoria field hockey player, joined Pacific FC this summer for a co-op term.
Partnering for impact
Pacific FC’s collaboration with Her Love of Sports is just one example of how the organization connected with other experts in the space to create an impactful matchday program. Pacific FC also put together a resources and giveaways package for attendees as part of the event. The package included a flyer from Sport for Life, which shared links to valuable resources from various organizations that highlight the importance of sport for women and girls, and how to ensure their engagement in programming.
“People can take that into their own organizations . . . it’s a really good chance for people to have access to what they might not have previously,” Mittelsteadt explained.
“Promoting women and girls in sport means promoting opportunities for participants to build confidence, competence and motivation in one’s self. When we were contacted to support this event, the next question was ‘how can we support?’ not, ‘why should we support?’ or, ‘what is the ROI to support this event?’ This growth and collaborative mindset to do good work eliminates at least one of the many barriers to promoting women and girls in sport,” Billie Tes, Manager of People and Culture, said. “We were glad we also could share our resources to a wider audience and we hope that audience members consider what their organization, company or agency can do to promote women and girls in sport.”
Sustainable commitment: Future goals and actions
The overwhelmingly positive response from the community indicates significant progress in Pacific FC’s dedication to gender equity. The team plans to make this an annual event, expanding its reach and impact, and building upon previous successes. For instance, they hosted the Canadian women’s national team in an exhibition game against Nigeria in 2022, showing their commitment to promoting women in sports.
Furthermore, they’re actively developing youth programs for girls (Trident for ages 6-12 and Wave for ages 13-18) that correspond with their existing boys’ programming. Internally, Pacific FC prioritizes gender equity in its staff and aims to support more women in their office team.
They also partnered with the Victoria Pride Society for their Pride Game on August 13 and are considering hosting a newcomers’ event in the upcoming season.
A small team of three with limited resources put together the women and girls in sports event. Mittelstaedt, who indicated an interest in supporting the initiative in her co-op term, organized the event alongside another Pacific FC team member and Katie from Her Love of Sports.
Here are six things your organizations can consider when looking to build similar initiatives that focus on equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility (EDIA) for existing programs:
- Start from the ground up: Begin within your community, supporting local initiatives, and create a strong foundation for future growth.
- Leverage partnerships: Collaborate with like-minded organizations to amplify your efforts and reach a wider audience.
- Empower action for those invested in initiatives: Like Mittelsteadt, you may have people in your organization who are already invested in supporting certain initiatives — empower them to lead events that fall into their EDIA interests!
- Promote awareness: Use various platforms to raise awareness about the importance of gender equity in sports, fostering a culture of inclusivity. Think about promoting on social media, spreading the word on local radio stations, etc.
- Create inspiring events: Organize events that showcase diverse athletes and participants from different sports, providing relatable role models for a variety of your youth participants.
- Make resources accessible: Provide resources to aspiring athletes, coaches, and leaders, breaking down barriers to entry. Think about flyers and quick content that shares more information on supporting equity-deserving groups in your community and shares the different avenues available for participation.
Pacific FC’s women and girls event demonstrates the positive impact that can be achieved through determination, collaboration, and a firm belief in equity. By following the above insights, organizations can create a more inclusive and equitable sporting landscape for everyone.
“People really care about women and girls in sport, and there is a market for it . . . consistently push that awareness, and then it will slowly build over time,” Mittelsteadt said.