#LevelTheField Ambassador: Karin Lofstrom

Feb 11, 2016

For each week of the #LevelTheField campaign, viaSport will introduce a new ambassador, and share why gender equity is important to them. This week, Karin Lofstrom, Executive Director for the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) shares her story.

When I look at my sport career I always say I’m a generalist. I played lots of sports growing up in Saskatchewan and being from a smaller populated province, I got to Nationals in many of them, but was not National Team material in any of them. I often joke that I played ice hockey before many women told people they played hockey. I had great role models in my high school and university coaches and in my mother who was and is still is an athlete at 80 encouraging me to play sports. Initially I thought that I wanted to be a physical education teacher and coach but after my student teaching and first coaching gig I realized my passion was in organizing sport events. 

Karin Lofstrom speaking at the IOC World Conference Women and Sport 5th EditionI applied for a seven month internship for women run by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) to get more women working in entry level sport administration jobs with National Sport Organizations in Ottawa. Each sport had to provide a female mentor for the interns to work with. I was hired to work at Basketball Canada (as it was known then). This opportunity opened the door to an amazing career in sport administration, it also introduced the seven interns to some of the leading women and sport advocates. Besides our daily work we had monthly professional development sessions where we were given a crash course in gender equity by the likes of Maude Barlow, who was advisor on the Status of Women to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Dorothy Strachan, an expert in leadership development and others. The discussion we had really opened my eyes to the inequities that existed in the sport system for girls and women, as participants and leaders and created a desire to try to change them. 

After the internship I continued working with Basketball Canada before moving on to Skate Canada and Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) until I ended up working for CAAWS as the Operations Manager in 1997, initially, and then as Executive Director since 2002. At that point I was again working under the leadership of some great women, Marg McGregor, Marion Lay, and Bryna Kopelow. Their passion for gender equity was contagious and it inspired me to work in this area for the next 19 years. 

Sport has been slower to change than some sectors. We have seen more women having success at the high performance level and girls getting an opportunity to participate in a variety of sports, but we are still struggling to get more women in leadership positions at all levels in the sport system as coaches, paid staff, or volunteer leaders and officials. I think it will take a concentrated effort by both women and men to see these changes happen. We want board of directors of sport clubs, organizations, and associations to be representative of their memberships. We do know from business research that the more diverse the board is the better decisions get made and better results are achieved. We also want all girls and women, no matter their background, to be able to participate in sport and physical activity and reap all the benefits we know are possible. We need women to step up when opportunities exist and we need men to invite, encourage, and support women to get involved. We will all benefit from this engagement.

I challenge you to join me and take the pledge to #LevelTheField. See how you can create opportunities for girls and women to participate and lead in sport at viasport.ca/levelthefield.

#LevelTheField is a province-wide movement that will work to create a more inclusive sport culture in BC. PRESS PLAY to watch and share our video and pledge to #LevelTheField at viasport.ca/levelthefield.

Visit our Ambassadors page to learn more about the #LevelTheField ambassadors.