Acadia athletics director Kevin Dickie is looking forward to a women in sport celebration this fall, but says gender equity and equality in his department is more than any single event.
“It’s part of who and what we are, every day,” he said.
“It’s not part of any mandate. It’s core to what we’re doing, not only here but throughout CIS.”
Dickie is in his 10th year as an athletic director, first at UNB and now going into his fourth year at Acadia.
“I can’t speak for all schools, but at the two I’ve been at, promotion and exposure of men’s and women’s sports has been the same,” he said.
Different returns for different sports
“The reality is, certain sports have different returns, from a marketing perspective,” Dickie said.
In Canada, football, hockey and basketball have been identified by CIS as “market-driven sports,” Dickie said, and promoted accordingly.
Basketball is one of those sports where the returns are often different depending on the gender of the team, even though at Acadia, “men’s and women’s basketball get promoted equally,” he said.
Acadia, like a lot of schools, has done its best to promote gender equality in its varsity sports teams. In an effort to make numbers more even, Acadia’s varsity women’s rugby, volleyball and cross-country teams have no male equivalents.
On the flip side, however, Acadia “is a football school,” one of only four in the Atlantic conference.
“(Football) is obviously a huge sport, country-wide,” both in terms of its impact and the sheer number of athletes on the roster,” he said. To maintain a balance, Acadia has three female-specific sports.
Promoting both genders
“We place a tremendous amount of value on promoting both genders equally,” Dickie said. “In terms of what we can control, we promote equity and equality – in operating budgets, scholarship funding, and in promoting the product.”
There are things Acadia can’t control, however.
“Here, the only sports we have that go ‘head-to-head’ are basketball and soccer. In those two sports, there’s not a whole lot of difference,” he said, in how the teams are supported.
Many Acadia soccer and basketball fans “stay and watch both games. We feel good about that. Our crowds for women’s basketball have been outstanding. This past fall, our women’s rugby team was as ‘front-and-centre’ and visible as any program we had.”
Often, the popularity of teams, of whichever gender, “isn’t necessarily based on success, but rather what sport is driving the interest of the community.”
Acadia men’s hockey, for example, has always been extremely well supported.
Gender differences aside, there are systemic fundraising challenges at times with some sports.
“That’s the reason for combining our women’s sports fundraising efforts into a single event that will benefit all female sport,” he explained.