This literature review on “Participation” was conducted for the Gender+ Equity in Sport in Canada Research Hub to serve as a foundational report for strategic research priorities development.
The review took place from May 2020 to August 2021.
Results (yield of N = 332) were limited by year (2000-2020) and English language. Findings were included (n= 305 (academic)+ 27 (grey)) when determined relevant after initial abstract review and scanned for commentary on gender/sex related to sport participation. Specifically, articles were excluded when not specific to gender, not focused on participation, duplicate articles, and/or were leisure or physical activity focused (e.g. walking, gardening) and outside of the definition of sport for this analysis. The search was divided into three phases. During the initial phase search terms such as “gender”, “girls”, “women”, “female”, “femin*”, “transgender”, “non-binary”, “cis-gender”, and “youth” were used alongside database filters of “North America” and “English language”. Through analysis of our exhaustive search term results (N=57 (28 ProQuest, 29 SPORTDiscus)), we came to realize that the search term “participation” was limiting and was not explicitly used throughout the sport literature. In other words, the concept of “participation” may be inherent in research related to gender+ equity but was not explicitlyidentified in the title, keyword search, or abstract. For the second phase, more results were found (N= 28 (13 ProQuest, 15 SPORTDiscus)) when the term was reduced to “Participa*” or other search terms such as “inclusion”, “athlete” or “Title IX”, “mother”, “participant”, “athletic”, “university”, “varsity”, and “policy”. The lead researchers also provided Canadian author names (from diverse fields of study in sport) to include in search terms (e.g., Caldwell, Giles, Hayhurst, Hoeber, Paraschak, Van Ingen, and Young), with the same inclusion/exclusion criteria as above. Through this search strategy N=5 additional articles were added to the collection. In the third phase, “English language” and “North America” were unselected in the database filters and an additional N=215 academic journal articles were included in the results with the same inclusion/exclusion criteria as phases one and two.
The grey literature (N=27) was limited to Canada through databases used in the academic review (i.e. SPORTDiscusand ProQuest– Sociology Collection) as well as a systematic search conducted on three major Canadian organizational websites (i.e. Sport Canada, Sport Information Research Centre (SIRC), Candian Women & Sport). We searched the databases and browsed the websites using our search terms adopted in the academic review and reflected on the work of our contacts in this space. It is important to recognize that the initiatives and resources that are outlined represent a perspective from three dominant organizations in Canadian sport culture. We challenge future searches to move into grey literature spaces that intersect with other marginalized communities (e.g., Indigenous communities, New-comer populations) who most certainly engage with other literature to inform their practices.
· Research emphasizes that socialization into sport participation includes the performance of femininity within the cultural narrative of heteronormativity (e.g. Berlin & Klenosky, 2014; Byczkowska-Owczarek, 2018; Krane et al., 2004; Shea, 2001).
· Many scholars focus on the benefits of sport for girls and women and the need to focus on retention of participation for girls and women (e.g. Bowker et al., 2003; Clark, 2012; Shakib, 2003) that may require diverse strategies and program designs (Drake et al., 2015; Park & Lee, 2008; Reina et al., 2017; Warner & Dixon, 2015).
· The structure of sport programs and barriers to access have been a focus of previous research (e.g. Giles, 2008; James & Embrey, 2001; Jin-Hyung et al., 2001; Moreno-Black & Vallianatos, 2005).
· A review (and critique) of sport policy that enhances equity and equality has been identified (e.g. Atteberry-Ash & Woodford, 2018; Brown & Connolly, 2010; Giles, 2002; Kennedy, 2010; Pickett et al., 2012).
· An acknowledgement of differing social identities such as class, race, sexual orientation and gender identity have an impact on and relation to sport participation for girls and women (e.g., Atteberry-Ash & Woodford, 2018; Berlin & Klenosky, 2014; Carter-Francique & Richardson, 2016; Channon et al., 2016; Iwasaki & Ristock, 2004; Juniu, 2002; Kuppinger, 2015; Pickett et al., 2012; Sartore, 2009)
Top Research Gaps
· Lack of literature on gender and sport participation that is interdisciplinary.
· A large body of research exists where gender/sex is a variable of interest (e.g., control variable); however, the meanings and experiences of women, girls, and gender diverse identities remains a growing, yet limited, focus of study.
· Limited intersectional understanding of gender with other social identities.
· The term ‘participation’ is difficult to locate within databases with a complex, interconnected family of terms, concepts, and assumptions that surround the concept.
Application: Priority Questions or Next Steps
· Establish a line of research that focuses on sport participation that recognizes the intersectionality (gender, race, sexuality, ability, ethnicity, class or caste) of experiences for girls, women, and gender diverse identities.
· Remove fragmented exploration of participation to understand and respect a broad array of sport participation experiences for girls, women, and gender diverse identities.
Draw from disciplinary perspectives and theoretical frameworks to form transformational understanding of sport participation experiences for girls, women, and gender diverse identities in Canada in relation to deconstructing previously established masculine sport structures (e.g., programming, governance).