Toronto Argonauts senior vice president (business operations) and 2016 Grey Cup Festival COO Sara Moore spoke to 55-Yard Line about the upcoming Empowering Women and Community Through Sport Luncheon, which takes place Friday. (CFL.ca photo.)
The Grey Cup Festival has a wide variety of events, from team parties to bullying-prevention rallies to the fans’ state of the league to concerts to lunches with legends, but a particularly new and interesting idea this year is the first Grey Cup event focused on discussing women in sport. The Empowering Women and Community Through Sport Luncheon takes place Friday, and it features both an impressive keynote speaker (Stacey Allaster, Chief Executive, Professional Tennis for The United States Tennis Association, and former chairman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association) and a solid panel (including Canada Basketball President and CEO Michele O’Keefe, Olympian and activist Rosie Cossar, Olympian and Fast and Female ambassador Natalie Spooner and senior PepsiCo executive Susan Irving, plus moderator Tessa Bonhomme). Sara Moore, the former CFL vice-president (marketing) who’s now the Toronto Argonauts’ senior vice-president (business operations) and the COO of the 2016 Grey Cup Festival, spoke to 55-Yard Line recently about how this event came to be and how she hopes it will become a Grey Cup tradition.
“I think this league does a spectacular job of using its platform for social good,” Moore said. “The league has a great track record of having female leaders, both at the team and at the league level. Given the media attention and the attention of corporate Canada in Toronto for Grey Cup Festival Week, this was a really good event to bring in and change the conversation around women and around sport at an important time.”
Moore said having someone with Allaster’s credentials as the keynote speaker is a major opportunity, and that she’ll help this be not just a recap of the state of women in sports, but something that can be used to spur positive change.
“We want to make sure that this luncheon isn’t just a recount of what the situation is, but that it’s action-oriented,” Moore said. “And I think that’s what really sets Stacey and her legacy apart, the action she has taken around gender equality in sport and raising the profile of women’s sport and talking about how women and athletes are portrayed in sport.”
Moore said playing sports was crucial for her and she’s not alone in that. She cites a recent Ernst and Young study that found over half of women in senior executive jobs playing a varsity sport. That leads to this panel’s focus on keeping women involved in sport through the teenage years, where “there are really precipitous drop-offs of girls,” she said.
Moore said the panel’s composition reflects that, as their panelists have experience from both playing and being involved in sports leadership. She added they’re working closely with organizations already in the space, too, particularly the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS), and the hope is that collaboration may help this go beyond just a luncheon to a white paper or other ongoing efforts.
One of the sports that’s hardest to keep women involved in is football, given the scarcity of opportunities. There are adult leagues like the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, though, and there are girls involved in high school and youth football.
“We do a lot of work with high school football teams and youth football teams, and you always see a few girls on those teams, and I love seeing that and having them celebrated,” she said.
She said the overall focus is keeping women involved in whatever sport they prefer, though.
“More football would be great, but ultimately, more sport and letting women and girls choose whatever sport they want,” she said. “We won’t make this about football, personal bias aside. … Diversity of choice is important to keeping girls engaged.”
Moore said that the CFL and the Argonauts have been great organizations to work in, and both have also focused on attracting female fans.
“I have been nothing but welcomed, and my opinion when it comes to matters of football and not, brand, sales and everything else, has been respected and listened to,” she said. “I think we are incredibly inclusive. I think as an [Argonauts]’ organization, we know we need families involved, and moms are a good way to get families involved. I think we know that women love sport. … As a league, we need to think of them as a really important fan group.”
Moore said her goal for the luncheon is for it to produce action that helps women in sport going forward, from both men and women. “Ideally, what I would love to see is this continue as a legacy event at Grey Cups, that when we get together in Ottawa next year we look back as what we as a group, as a society, as an organization accomplished in the last year, and then put new commitments out for what we’ll be able to accomplish going forward.”
More information on the luncheon, as well as tickets for it, can be found here.