Inspiring Inclusion: Central to viaSport Board Governance

Mar 06, 2024

March 8 is International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year, the global theme is #InspireInclusion. The theme centers around inspiring others to understand and value women’s inclusion to create a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment.

Leading up to March 8, we will #InspireInclusion by raising awareness of the importance of gender equity on boards and amplifying the voices of incredible individuals in the sport community. In this story, Kacey Dalzell and Sam Punzo from the viaSport Board of Directors, share their perspectives on the changes made to the viaSport Board to make it more inclusive and diverse.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in sport encourages increased participation, enhanced fairness, and promotes innovation and teamwork to make sport better for everyone. Creating a more inclusive sport culture results not only by creating equitable opportunities for sport participants on the field of play. It materializes by creating DEI opportunities throughout the sport system, including in coaching and officiating, and within sport organizations – their policies, operational approaches and on their boards. viaSport BC’s board shares the belief that by promoting DEI, more British Columbians can experience the benefits of sport.

In 2021, the viaSport Board of Directors recognized it was not as diverse as it was hoping to be. The Board enlisted Inclusion Incorporated to help them properly identify the diversity gaps and advise on what to do to bridge them. “The recommendations from Inclusion Inc. helped us build a board evaluation skills matrix,” says Kacey Dalzell, viaSport Board Member. “The skills matrix helped us to identify where we had some gaps in our diversity more broadly. This included trying to make joining the board more accessible and looking to develop alternatives ways of joining.” 

Kacey has over twenty years of experience working in mental health in BC, most recently as Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the Ministry of Health. As an athlete, Kacey was the first female athlete to play three varsity sports simultaneously at SFU: field hockey, swimming and softball. Kacey comments, “We have a great Board culture and we are being proactive in our approach to add more diversity to the table. The Board has created a DEI committee which is our guide to help ensure that DEI stays at the forefront of our Governance.”

In its efforts to expand diversity and be more inclusive, the Board reached out to Sam Punzo. Sam identifies as a Trans-man. He struggled in his early life to find a safe and inclusive space to play the sport he loves – hockey. “Even before I joined, the viaSport Board was acknowledging that in order to make sport safe and inclusive, all voices and views need a seat at the table. By diversifying our board as much as we can, we can help ensure that as many people feel represented in sport,” says Sam. “I was brought onto the Board as a part of the diversity initiative. I am the youngest board member providing a youth perspective, but also a Trans/Queer perspective. I am now also co-chair of our DEI committee.”

“It is reassuring to know that as stewards of sport in BC, the viaSport Board acknowledged the lack of diversity and the importance of bringing new perspectives,” adds Sam. “The Board wanted to bring in meaningful and lasting changes.”

“My athletic experience has shaped who I am. I would like others to have the same or better experiences than I had. I’d also like to change the world for the better, and this is one little piece that I can take on to improve the lives of others,” states Kacey. “We still have work to do, but this is something very important to all the members, and reflects our values as an organization.”