Creating Equitable Pathways for Girls in Sports

The LA Y’s Equity, Girls, & Sports Initiative aligns the Y's focus areas of healthy living, youth development, & social responsibility with the Y’s strategic priority to address gender equity in sports.

The initiative's purpose is to ensure the LA Y is increasing access and engaging more girls from ages 4-18 years old in character-building youth sports and athletic experiences. The initiative's goal is to reduce health disparities, increase health outcomes (physical and social-emotional), increase career readiness and mentorship support, and impact future lives overall physically, mentally, economically, and beyond.

Past successes of youth programs at the Y indicate that sports act as a gateway to engaging more teens. With the launch of the Y’s Equity & Inclusion Initiative in 2020, we identified the need to provide an equitable pathway for girls to access meaningful experiences and sports activities as through the following:

  • panel discussions to attract young females & connect stakeholders;
  • assessments to identify socio-economic access barriers preventing girls from participating at same rates as boys;
  • new evidenced-based and innovative strategies to target and create programs, services, & activities specifically to attract girls;
  • programs and services expanded to serve female youth & teens.

The Y aims to increase numbers of young women participating in relevant sports services that interest girls and teens by 10% by Fall 2022, as compared to baseline. The Equity, Girls and Sports Initiative was launched in early 2021 and began with a series of panel discussions. The next phase of the Initiative is already underway. Over the next year, PLAY, youth sports, and other programs will be reopening and will include specific activities to address gender equity goals. While the Y expects the Initiative to be multi-year, the first set of targeted milestones are in place that will align with the school year schedule.

Over the last decade and a half, the LA Y increasingly enrolled more and more youth, year after year, since 2009 with enrollments increasing from 1141, doubling in 2012, doubling again to 3953 in 2013, jumping even more to 15,826 (2014), 22,675 (2015), 27,730 (2018), with the highest annual enrollment in 2019 to 35,761 youth at Y facilities prior to the global pandemic, not including additional youth enrolled through programming at offsite and school sites. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the LA Y was still able to enroll at least 18,000 youth in programming during 2020 and 2021. Of the total number of youth reached in the last decade, nearly half of all enrollments were due to youth sports programming, inclusive of youth aquatics.

Relating to gender equity and inclusion, for the types of gender identifications that the LA Y tracks, the LA Y enrolls approximately an average of 40% of females each year. With the LA Y's new initiative for Girls, Equity, and Sports, there is an opportunity to provide targeted access to females to Y programming. Recruitment will involve leveraging the panel discussion attendees, outreach to Community Schools Initiative leads, particularly female staff ambassadors and school principals, leveraging existing and building new partnerships to promote the Y’s programming for girls, peer-to-peer engagement, and more. Together, we make gender equity and sports possible!

Watch past panel discussions - Equity, Girls & Sports

Produced by

Khathy Hoang, MPH
Senior Director of Data, Evaluation, and Development

YMCA LA New American Welcome Center Department of Justice Accredited Representative 
Asian Pacific Islander Employee Resource Group Co-Chair
YMCA OF METROPOLITAN LOS ANGELES