CF Montréal wants to increase female representation in its organization

International Women’s Day often reminds us how much work remains to be done when it comes to gender equity, but CF Montreal is trying to move the discussions forward day by day.

Professional sports was run exclusively by men for decades, until some women managed to break through the glass ceiling to obtain management positions. The Bleu-Blanc-Noir has taken this path recently, both in its offices and on the ground, and it has continued to take steps forward in terms of female involvement.

Over the years, MLS has increased its female representation, standing out among the professional leagues in North America. As of today, it has four female majority owners and six female minority owners as well as 18 women serving as vice presidents. Additionally, 41 percent of its employees are women.

In order to strengthen its diversity and inclusion missions, CF Montreal has increased its female representation within the management team from 13 to 26 percent since 2021 (from two to five members), and it has experienced a growth of 81 percent overall in this regard within his organization. Two of the five women are on the board of directors.

“It’s a source of pride. I would not have joined the club if that had not been the case, said Samia Chebeir, who was hired in 2022 as vice-president and chief marketing and communications officer at CF Montreal. We have leaders who believe in this vision, in this complementarity, and we also have corporate partners who help us. It’s 2023, women should no longer be fighting for fairness. We need women who are not afraid to break these conventions and change current paradigms. »

After the success of its first “Women in Sports” panel, in 2022, the Montreal team carried out a series of actions which increased its involvement in women’s soccer.

CF Montreal officially hired former Canadian player Amy Walsh as a women’s soccer collaborator in September 2022, and he accompanied Soccer Québec’s Excel Women’s Program (PEF) on a trip to France in April. He then confirmed the repatriation of the PEF to the club’s Academy in May, and held a week of women’s soccer for the first time in July.

Like International Women’s Day, Women’s Soccer Week was a way to fuel discussions on the status of women in several spheres of society. However, the goal remains to talk about it throughout the year, and not just at specific times.

“It’s important to talk about it. The majority of the objectives are qualitative and not quantitative, but we see that there are more female registrations in sport, that the questions are different during the panels. I saw more diversity in the room this year,” Chebeir said. It’s important to give a platform to female role models[e]s so that they express themselves and inspire people. The more discussions there are, the more open-mindedness and consideration for women there is. I am convinced that we are more open than a year ago because we have had these conversations within the club. »

The hiring of Walsh, who represented Canada at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has been a member of the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame since 2017, added credibility on the field and on the Academy side. Walsh was also part of the trip that took the PEF to France, and she does not hesitate to emphasize the importance that CF Montreal can have in giving visibility to women and young girls.

“I love participating in this type of activity, and we also created a “Move with CF Montreal” day, which allowed 80 young girls from disadvantaged backgrounds to jump on their field with the PEF. It’s important that events like this are established. CF Montreal is a sporting leader in our province and it is important that this is highlighted. You see in the eyes of leaders that they want to advance the equity mandate and that it is a priority. I find that encouraging,” she said.

Also a man’s business

One name in particular came up in discussions when it came to increasing the female presence within the Bleu-Blanc-Noir: that of president and CEO Gabriel Gervais.

Officially in office since April 2022, Gervais had his work cut out for him upon his return to Montreal. One of his visions was to reaffirm the mission and values ​​of the club, and to achieve this, he undoubtedly had to make more room for women.

“The club’s mission was to give back to the community through the development of soccer, from the grassroots to the professional level. When we talk about the development of soccer, it is on both the men’s and women’s side. It’s important for us to be inclusive,” explained Gervais.

“Gabriel always alluded to the importance of women and the presence they should have in the organization,” Chebeir added.

It’s not an exact science, but we often get the impression that women in leadership positions show more empathy and understanding than men regarding certain issues. Gervais somewhat agreed with this, noting that it is good to have different points of view within the same team.

“Women have a different way of thinking, whether it’s culturally, about gender equality, etc. It brings a different angle, and it’s good to have diversity and inclusiveness when making decisions,” said Gervais.

As is the case in several spheres of society, CF Montreal is aware that it must continue to do more on the women’s issue. His efforts are already laudable, but in a men’s professional sports context, they don’t seem enough until equity is achieved.

“We still have work to do. We said that we wanted to reach a third of women among the organization’s employees within the next few years. There has already been a lot of progress on the management side. There is Samia and Amélie [Vaillancourt, la vice-présidente et cheffe de la direction des ressources humaines]. Women bring a lot to our organization, but I think we can also improve the technical side. By hiring women as coaches, in medical positions or on the sports operations side,” listed Gervais.

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