The current narrative surrounding women’s sport is all about the enormous potential it holds.

There’s a swell in conversation about the potential for better engaging girls and women at all levels of sport.

There’s meaningful discourse about the need for sport organizations to step up in their commitments to gender equity and safe sport.

And there are valuable discussions happening about the potential for businesses, media, governments and corporations to invest in professional women’s sports.

And while it’s important to celebrate and champion this potential—it’s time to move beyond talk and take bold action in support of girls and women in sport. In fact, it’s past time.

The good news is we are seeing progress. Everyday we see the efforts of women and their allies as they create change on the frontlines of sport. Some of it is highly visible, like sold out crowds at Canada’s first WNBA exhibition game, bold corporate commitments to gender equity, or equal representation of men and women at the Olympics.

Change is also happening through thousands of little steps in communities and sport organizations across Canada. As gender equity knowledge grows and mindsets shift, competencies develop and changes to behaviour follow.

To love sport is to celebrate its strengths and value for society while also working every day to make it better by challenging the status quo and correcting the shortcomings.

Canadian Women & Sport was founded more than 40 years ago to address the rampant sexism in sport and physical activity. While inequity may look different than it did four decades ago, it still rings true throughout our sport system and society at large. Layer on intersectionalities of race, ability, socio-economic or newcomer status and more, and you have a large portion of our population sitting on the sidelines of sport or dropping out too early.

Gender bias is deeply embedded in sport. It is so normalized that many accept it without question. Others don’t see it at all.

Changing the course of history—and make no mistake, that is what we’re talking about here—is hard work.

Mobilizing support for solutions requires changing the way things have always been done. It requires financial investments and other resources. It also requires people to give up their privilege. This is nuanced, long-term work. And it’s desperately needed.

In Rally Report 2022, a research report in partnership with Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, Canadian girls told us how much they value sport for their physical health, mental health, and social connections. Girls don’t leave sport because they devalue it. They leave sport because it stops serving them—because it hasn’t been designed for them.

If we’re going to be successful in building a better, safer sport system at all levels and reaping the benefits of gender equity, it’s time to put girls, women and gender-diverse people at the centre of our plans and stop making them an afterthought.

This spring we released a report in partnership with Canadian Tire and Boston Consulting Group that outlines the business case for a thriving professional women’s sport market in Canada. The findings are clear: it’s time to accelerate professional women’s sport. The market is ripe. The fans are ready. The research affirms that it’s a good investment for business and society.

The momentum we are seeing right now has the power to carry us forward. But without bold action, it can only take us so far. From grassroots to podium to professional – it’s time to invest in girls and women in sport.

Allison Sandmeyer-Graves is CEO of Canadian Women & Sport, working extensively with organizations, governments and leaders to build knowledge, change attitudes, and develop capacity to create an equitable and inclusive Canadian sport and physical activity system.