International Women’s Day with Robyn Butler: From Blades to Boards – Advancing Inclusive Welcoming Sport Opportunities for Girls and Women

Feb 27, 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 equality on boards and amplifying the voices of incredible women in the sport community. This story features Robyn Butler, a viaSport Girls and Women Advisory Group and viaSport Gender Equity Community of Practice member.

As young Robyn Butler practiced spins and toe jumps on her homemade ice rink in her Northern BC backyard, she knew that sport would be a big part of her life.

Hockey was a family affair: her dad coached Minor Hockey and both of her brothers played the sport. She quickly found herself immersed in the figure skating world, competing adamantly for 11 years. As Robyn began her Communications career, she volunteered for various national and world figure skating competitions in media relations.

“The atmosphere at that level of competition was electric,” recalls Robyn. “It was then that I recognized the value of these athletes having encouragement and collective support. I knew I wanted to get involved and provide accessible and affordable physical activity opportunities for communities in BC.”

When Robyn had her daughter, she began getting involved in sport in a different capacity: as a parent. As her daughter followed in her mother’s footsteps in competitive sport, Robyn found herself volunteering and cheering her daughter on at her swim meets. Witnessing the dedication and commitment of athletes, coaches, and officials inspired her to not only pursue her Level 3 Official Designation with Swim BC, but to also get involved in boards.

Robyn’s passion is community work, specifically advocating for healthy living. Her work with Active Communities allowed for collaborative efforts among both private and public sectors to reduce barriers in sport participation. In partnership with her team, Robyn was able to fund Seniors Nordic walking groups, support fitness events for First Nations communities, and implement a fitness equipment lending library for families.

“The newly-developed social interactions also made a huge improvement to some of the participants’ daily lives,” says Robyn. “Adopting these habits helped them gain confidence to participate in organized sport activities too.”

Her experiences working with Active Communities led her to join the viaSport Girls and Women Advisory Group (GWAG). She strives to be a part of the bigger picture to shape fundamental changes to how sport is delivered. She wants BC to be a leader in providing participation opportunities for girls and women in amateur sport. Robyn is proud to be a voice from the community recreation level.

“Many milestones have been achieved to build knowledge and capacity within sport organizations and the community to successfully engage girls and women – both as participants and leaders,” says Robyn. “It’s been promising to know that every voice is heard. The strategic vision, with support from the Province, has allowed for even more sport and physical activity experiences that are safe, inclusive, and welcoming.”

Robyn has gained so much from being involved with GWAG, even beyond the community-level impacts she sees first-hand. She has learned from the impactful work the other advisory group members are leading in various levels.

“My advice to other women is to find an organization that aligns with your values and interests – and where you can not only make a contribution, but also learn a new skill set,” says Robyn. “Many organizations are supportive of empowering their members to learn and grow.”