Media releases

  • Brock teams up with Biathlon Canada to improve gender equity in sport

    MEDIA RELEASE: November 23 2023 – R0113

    A collaboration between Biathlon Canada and Brock University is leading to impactful change in gender equity within the national sports organization (NSO).

    Through Brock’s Centre for Sport Capacity, Assistant Professor of Sport Management Michele Donnelly has been working with Biathlon Canada to conduct a gender equity audit focused on all aspects of the organization, including its membership and governance.

    The project is related to the federal government’s goal to achieve gender equity in Canadian sport by 2035. The government’s 2018 budget allocated funds to Sport Canada to support gender equity projects, which filtered down to NSOs such as Biathlon Canada.

    “Decisions are being made and policies and practices are being implemented, but a lot of organizations don’t have baseline data, so they can’t accurately or effectively assess whether or not their efforts are affecting positive change,” said Donnelly. “Biathlon Canada is truly a leader in this space; I am not aware of any other NSOs that have undertaken a gender audit in this form.”

    Biathlon Canada CEO Heather Ambery said it was important to her and others to hire a third party to examine the organization with a “gentle yet critical lens.”

    “We wanted a professional with expertise in analyzing data and a deep knowledge of gender equity in sport to help us evaluate if we’re doing a good job in this space and to offer recommendations for what we can do better,” she said.

    By analyzing nine years of Biathlon Canada’s membership data, which includes athletes, officials, coaches and volunteers from provincial and territorial clubs, Donnelly identified trends and Biathlon Canada’s starting point for measuring future success.

    According to her assessment, Biathlon Canada’s athletes have consistently been 40 per cent women across all age groups.

    “That is quite strong for a NSO and is reflective of an organization that has made some real commitments to increasing women’s participation,” she said.

    Donnelly supplemented the quantitative data with interviews with athletes, officials and coaches about their experiences with biathlon and their understanding of Biathlon Canada’s commitment to gender equity. She also reviewed the organization’s website and policies.

    She has since made several evidence-based recommendations to Biathlon Canada, which have already led to improvements in gender equity. One recommendation was to formalize quotas for gender representation on the Board of Directors.

    “Studies have shown gender equity commitments are more successful when institutionalized into policy,” said Donnelly. “A policy means that progress toward gender equity is more intentional and conscious.”

    Prior to the audit, Biathlon Canada’s board was comprised of about 35 per cent women. Now, women make up 60 per cent.

    “Our members unanimously voted on a policy change that states no more than 60 per cent of one gender identity can make up the board composition,” said Ambery.

    Biathlon Canada is also focused on changing the public-facing perception of women in biathlon. More than a dozen new profiles on women athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and fans share how and why they got involved with biathlon, and new photography challenges gender stereotypes.

    “We often see photos of men exhibiting strength and endurance, while women are hugging each other or patting each other on the back,” said Ambery. “We want to intentionally photograph women in all roles in biathlon participating in sport in ways that are equivalent to their men counterparts.”

    Next steps for Biathlon Canada include collaborating with provincial and territorial biathlon organizations to implement their own gender equity-focused practices and procedures, and continuing to use the gender equity audit to inform decisions at national and local levels.

    “The work in this space is never truly done,” said Ambery. “We are dedicated to maintaining and improving gender equity in our programs and initiatives, and thank Dr. Donnelly and Brock University’s Centre for Sport Capacity for starting us off on the right foot.”

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Maryanne St. Denis, Manager, Content and Communications, Brock University or 905-246-0256

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    Categories: Media releases

  • How to select video games mindfully this holiday season

    EXPERT ADVISORY: November 22 2023 – R0112

    As Black Friday nears, Brock University Digital Humanities Assistant Professor Sarah Stang is encouraging consumers to think critically about the video games they add to their cart this holiday season.

    A lifelong gamer, Stang says there is much work to be done to flip the script on problematic gender representations in video games.

    “If you know anything about video games, you know they have been a fraught media when it comes to representation of diverse identities, especially gender,” says the feminist media scholar, who through her research hopes to create change in the industry she is so passionate about.

    So, how can shoppers think critically about their game choices?

    For new gamers who are just getting started and looking to purchase a progressive video game, Stang recommends looking beyond big-budget options produced by publishing studios, known as ‘AAA’ games, and seeking out independent self-published games.

    “Indie games are often more creative, and you will find more diverse characters,” she says. “These independent games are a very good sign that the medium is maturing and evolving.”

    Stang says independent games can also be more accessible as they are less difficult to navigate, especially if the player is younger, not tech-savvy or might have difficulty holding and operating a controller.

    Stang still encourages people to play the games they love — including popular ‘AAA’ options — but urges gamers to be active consumers.

    “Don’t ever feel ashamed about what you love to play. After all, video games are entertainment, but I suggest asking questions about character design, dialogue choice, who the hero is and who the villain is, and how women and people of colour are portrayed,” she says.

    Stang recently shared insight into gender representation in the Japanese video game The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo), one of the longest-running and most commercially successful series of games ever produced.

    Gender in Zelda has always been a hot-button issue for gamers, and Stang’s research explores how “Nintendo is toeing the line in terms of gender representation in the Zelda instalment.”

    “They were willing to be risky with changing the mechanics of play, but they weren’t willing to be risky with the gender question,” she says.

    Stang explores these critical questions with prospective game designers in the joint GAME program, facilitated by Brock’s Departments of Digital Humanities and Computer Science, and Niagara College.

    “I am so encouraged by our Brock GAME students as future game developers,” she says. “It is key that Digital Humanities has its home in the Faculty of Humanities; humanistic critical thinking must always be a part of the discussion.”

    Brock University Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities Sarah Stang is available for media interviews on the topic.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

    * Doug Hunt, Communications and Media Relations Specialist, Brock University or 905-941-6209

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    Categories: Media releases