Funding for York projects advancing gender+ equity in sport

Girl tying shoe sports active woman

Three York University projects will work to change the landscape of sport in Canada with seed funding from E-Alliance, a central resource hub that supports research on advancing gender+ equity in sport.

E-Alliance works to fund innovative research and build a sustainable pan-Canadian network of researchers who are working to advance gender+ equity in sport. As part of its mission, E-Alliance aims to share research and work with partners in sport to put ideas into practice.

This year, the organization provided approximately $150,000 funding to Canadian academics through the 2020 request for proposals that support its research priorities: program evaluation, the nature of experiences (in sport) and transforming to a gender+ equitable sport culture.

A total of 10 projects in three different categories were selected, representing “a breadth of outstanding projects that foster collaborations, mentorship and intersectional approaches, with the E-Alliance’s framework as a guide.”

Three York University projects were among those selected, with recipients from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

York University PhD student Gobi Sriranganathan’s project, “Sport leadership in the Greater Toronto Area Tamil diaspora: Exploring the lived experiences of sport leaders in Tamil grassroots sport organizations,” was noted for being “especially strong” in a statement from E-Alliance.

“The grassroots nature of Sriranganathan’s project and its intersectional approach is very exciting,” says E-Alliance Co-Director, Professor Gretchen Kerr. “We are delighted to support all of these colleagues from across Canada who can help E-Alliance to fulfill our research priorities.”

Girl tying shoe sports active woman
Three York University projects will work to advance gender+ equity in sport

The York University projects are:

Sport leadership in the Greater Toronto Area Tamil diaspora: Exploring the lived experiences of sport leaders in Tamil grassroots sport organizations

Researchers: Gobi Sriranganathan (PhD student, Kinesiology & Health Science, York University) and Yuka Nakamura (York University)

This study investigates how members of the Tamil diaspora in the GTA became sport leaders within their community by: documenting the experiences of those who serve as sport leaders in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Tamil community, paying particular attention to factors that led to their involvement with Tamil sport leagues; understanding what sport leadership means and looks like in the GTA Tamil sport community; understanding the gendered and gendering nature of sport leadership; and identifying potential barriers that Tamils, in particular Tamil women, experience in sport leadership and strategies to negotiate them.

“To do this, I am employing a multiple case study approach informed by postcolonial feminist theory and using an intersectional approach,” said Sriranganathan. “Self-identified Tamil sport leaders in the GTA participate in two semi-structured interviews each and are also asked to complete a sociodemographic survey. For each of the Tamil grassroots sports organizations identified, document review (e.g. league rules, player codes of conduct etc.) and social media analysis will also be conducted.”

This study will contribute to significant gaps in knowledge by exploring and documenting the voices of Tamils, especially women, that are largely missing from sport and leadership literature. This seed grant of $10,000 will also be used to develop a leadership mentoring program for Tamil girls and women who are interested in becoming sport leaders.

“Gobi’s project examines how sport leadership may be gendered and racialized and thus has the potential to offer an alternative to Eurocentric models of leadership both in and beyond sport,” said Nakamura.

Exploring the sport-work-gender nexus in Canadian High-Performance Sport Coaching

Researchers: Parissa Safai (York University); Michele K. Donnelly (Brock University); Alix Krahn (PhD student, Kinesiology & Health Science, York University)

Funding of $18,000 was provided for this project that considers ample evidence to demonstrate that women across all levels of sport are consistently less likely to continue as athletes, coaches, officials and board members. These inequities are particularly pronounced in high-performance sport and are amplified as gender intersects with other categories of marginalization such as race, sexuality and ability. Canadian sport institutions have publicly committed to address gender inequity, and while there has been a rise in opportunities for high-performance female athletes, the same cannot be said for female high-performance sport coaches.

The data on high-performance female coaches confirm the underrepresentation of women in these positions, and further highlight a troubling trend – women are continuing to vanish from the high-performance sport coaching ranks.

“Although attention has been paid to a range of issues influencing women’s lack of advancement into high-level sport coaching, our understanding of the sport coaching-work-gender nexus remains relatively underexamined,” said Safai. “The vast majority of research has assumed that sport coaching is a job, occupation, career and/or profession in which coaches are engaged in the work of sport coaching. Yet little critical attention has been paid to the nature of sport coaching as work, and even less attention has been paid to women’s experiences of sport coaching as work.”

As such, attention has not been paid to the ways in which the social, political, economic, and institutional systems of sport as work intersect to produce and maintain gender inequity in the sport coaching workforce broadly, and in high-performance sport coaching specifically.

This study aims to develop a deeper understanding of the individual, relational and political economic dynamics that underpin the gender gap in high-performance sport coaching as work. This requires consideration of the ways in which gender intersects with other social identities to differently shape experiences of the gender gap. The study is guided by the following research questions: how do women’s experiences of sport coaching contribute to notions of coach work as precarious work; and what are the implications for women in sport coaching?

Safai says Krahn is “routinely called upon provincially and nationally to share her expertise around equity for women in sport coaching” and is “the driving force behind this project.”

Project: Exploring the Utility of Virtual Trauma- and Violence-Informed Sport for Development (TVISFD) Programs with Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment’s LaunchPad in Moss Park, Toronto: A community-based participatory approach

Researchers: Lyndsay Hayhurst (York University); Francine Darroch (Carleton University); Marika Warner (Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment LaunchPad)

A seed grant of $18,500 will fund this project, which proposes to leverage trauma- and violence-informed sport for development (TVISFD) to support women and girls who experience(d) gender-based violence (GBV) through community-based participatory projects and research in Moss Park, Toronto by designing, developing, pilot testing and evaluating novel virtual resources and intervention modules. Increasing sport for development (SFD) and accessibility to programs through a TVISFD approach, the study aims to: improve the quality of life of individuals who have experience(d) GBV; and measure the impact of community-developed SFD on individuals who have experienced GBV in the Moss Park community.

SFD positions sport as a valuable tool to address a number of development objectives, particularly those related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The proposed research program focuses on the utility of SFD for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal No. 5, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” The use of sport to support gender-related development goals, policy and practices with a focus on self-identified women and girls (cis and trans) has grown exponentially in the past 15 years, says Hayhurst.

“We are extremely grateful for the support of E-Alliance on this project, especially as we see how the COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled gender-based violence and restricted face-to-face or in-person sport for development programming opportunities across Canada and globally,” said Hayhurst. “This study builds on two separately held funded Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council Insight Grants that explore the interrelationships among sport for development, gender equity, trauma- and violence-informed approaches to sport and physical activity, and gender-based violence reduction and prevention.”

Alongside these issues has been the rise of trauma- and violence-informed physical activity (TVIPA) – research led by Darroch. TVIPA is a person-centred approach that considers intersecting effects of systemic, structural and interpersonal violence in the development, implementation and delivery of physical activity programs.

For more on E-Alliance and the projects it will fund to advance gender+ equity in sport, visit