COVID-19 Impacts on Gender+ Equity in Canadian Sport: Understanding how sport can Address and Prevent Gender Inequity in Post-Pandemic Times

Pegoraro, Ann | $68,410

Ontario University of Guelph 2021 SSHRC

The impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic has been pervasive, and the Canadian sport sector is still grappling with the ongoing impact. The pandemic exacerbated longstanding inequities impacting women and girls disproportionally. Without immediate action, this impact is likely to persist, thereby contributing to the long tail of the COVID‑19 pandemic on girls’, women’s equity. The unprecedented stoppage of sport caused by the pandemic has also created a unique opportunity to address inequities of the « old normal » sport system to create a more equitable and fair system as we recover and move into the « new normal ». Therefore, the goal of this project is to assess the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on gender+ equity in Canadian Sport and identify opportunities to build back better. Gender+ equity is used to acknowledge the work still needed to ensure equity for women and girls in a binary sporting system, to ensure gender equity for all, including gender-expansive people with intersecting identities such as race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, sexuality, and disability.

An original approach, anchored in an integration of system justification theory and a feminist model of crisis management, will be employed at the theoretical and methodological levels to provide a solution-focused understanding of the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on gender+ equity in sport. Systems justification theory indicates that the status quo is often perpetuated and supported, even when the systems that constitute the status quo are flawed and disadvantageous to the individuals embedded in them. Applied to the sport sector, this suggests that individuals can come to accept certain inequities as « normal » or even fair and that inequity persists not only because of enforcement by the privileged or powerful groups but also because of active and passive forms of support provided by members of under-privileged groups. Most crisis management models have at their core a return to « normal » post crisis. The feminist crisis management model is focused on societal transformation through identifying opportunities within crises to « build back better ». Therefore, we utilize system justification theory together with the feminist crisis management model to develop theoretical insights, practical tools and to provide evidence-based policy recommendations and practical guidance to create action to prevent and mitigate inequities and build back a more gender+ equitable sport system.

Phase 1 of the project establishes baseline trends of the pandemic impact on gender+ equity in the sport system and identify the contextual layers that may play a role in supporting system justification processes. Phase 2 investigates the impact of the COVID‑19 sport shut-down and re-engagement process on gender+ equity through in-depth interviews and multi-wave online surveys. Phase 3 utilizes policy capturing methodology to design and implement an intervention focused on overcoming system justification tendencies to address gender+ inequities and work towards the goal of social transformation. Leveraging the results of the studies, the research team, in collaboration with stakeholders, will create evidence-based guidelines for gender+ equity in Canadian sport.

Importantly, we will mobilize knowledge to those who need it the most, drawing attention to the importance of gender+ equity and system justification for the sport system Given the impact of the pandemic on the Canadian sport system, a unique opportunity has been created to make significant changes rather than continuing to justify the « old » system. This research provides knowledge, tools, and interventions that can help transform sport to promote gender+ equity and its widespread benefits for Canadians, the sport system, and society in general.

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