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Gender equity and sports: GXSLab and She’s4Sports collaborate

Influential panel including the first female coach in NFL and the youngest assistant coach at the Toronto Raptors
January 21, 2020
Panelists stand with directors of GXSLab and She's4Sports

The panelists pose for a photograph with GXSLab Founder and Director, Laurel Walzak, and She's4Sports Founder Ainka Jess. From left to right: Laurel Walzak, the director of the GXSLab, Shireen Ahmed, Brittni Donaldson, Jen Welter, Kayla Alexander, and Ainka Jess

The Global Experiential Sports Lab (GXSLab) at FCAD kicks off the new year with a panel to address gender equity issues in sport. The panel is the first of the Be Bold 2020 event series, launched jointly with She’s4Sports,  to give voice to bold women in sport who are fighting to increase gender diversity throughout the industry -- both on and off the field. 

On January 16, the She Can Coach panel highlighted the underrepresentation of women in coaching positions across the sport industry. The event featured a panel of industry professionals who discussed existing barriers as well as actions to mobilize meaningful change. The panelists  included Jen Welter, the first female coach in the National Football League (NFL), Kayla Alexander, a player for the Chicago Sky in Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), Brittni Donaldson, the assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors and Shireen Ahmed, an athlete, coach and sports activist. The discussion was moderated by Ainka Jess, Founder of She’s4Sports. 

GXS Event

Ainka Jess, founder of, introduces panelists: (going left) Dr. Jen Welter, Kayla Alexander, Brittni Donaldson and Shireen Ahmed. Source: Laurel Walzak on Twitter (@laurelwalzak)

GXS Event

Shireen Ahmed spoke of the importance of instilling confidence in young women and girls. “Society has made our girls believe that they’re not athletes,” said Ahmed.

Shireen Ahmed spoke of the importance of instilling confidence in young women and girls. “Society has made our girls believe that they’re not athletes,” said Ahmed.

The panel addressed barriers they faced, not only due to their gender, but also those which stem from race, stereotypes and traditional socialization in sport. 

“It’s about changing the dialogue… diversity is an absolute strength,” said Welter. “In football, we see that you need everything from straight muscle to straight hustle."

GXS Panel

Shireen Ahmed addresses the audience. Source: She's4Sports on Twitter (@Shes4Sports)

GXS Event

A sold-out crowd listens to the panel. 

The panelists emphasized how representations of diversity, along with the amplification of women’s accomplishments in sport, are integral to inspiring young women to envision themselves as future professionals in the sport industry. The event’s panel discussion attracted over 100 guests, including industry influencers and the interest of several Toronto news outlets, including CTV News and CityTV.

 “These inspiring, powerful voices of women in sport are integral to long term systemic change,” said Laurel Walzak, director and founder of GXSLab and assistant professor at the RTA School of Media. “Working closely as a partner with She’s4Sports Founder Ainka Jess, GXSLab will continue to create spaces and foster discussions that make it possible to recognize and combat current barriers as well as inspire the next generation of women to take part in the world of sport.” 

GXS Event

Ainka Jess, founder of, is interviewed by City-TV News.

GXS event

FCAD Dean Charles Falzon (left) poses with Ainka Jess (middle) and FCAD's Director, Marketing and Strategic Development, Rana Latif (right), at the VIP reception.

The GXSLab, housed in The Catalyst, is a part of a creative network at FCAD that supports and facilitates scholarly research and creative (SRC) activity with the goal to mobilize impact both locally and globally. Founded on promoting gender equity in the sports industry, amplifying the contributions of women in sport and addressing current barriers, the joint activities of GXS Lab and She’s4Sports reflect the culture of diversity and inclusivity FCAD aims to create and inspire.

The Global Experiential Sport Lab (GXSLab)

The GXSLab is the connection between scholarly research and industry practice in sport and sport media. Under the GXSLab’s Gender in Sport platform, its GXS Women in Sport is an initiative and a community for women and men to come together and engage in activities and discussions related to gender inequities in sport, sport media and sport business. The GXSLab is physically based at Ryerson’s downtown Toronto campus within the Catalyst, FCAD’s interdisciplinary research hub. 

Visit GXSLab's website, external link, opens in new window


She's4Sports is a digital content and events network made up of over 3500 women and men. Through our content and events, we amplify the voices and contributions of women in sport.

FCAD at Ryerson University

Ryerson FCAD is an impactful education hub and innovation ecosystem at the heart of Canada's media, design and creative industries. It is grounded in Canadian values but with a truly international perspective and scope. It is home to many of Canada's top schools and programs in their field and recognized as a leading institution around the world.

Media contact:

Nicole Bartnicki
FCAD at Ryerson University
Coordinator, Marketing and Communications