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Reflecting on a Year of Progress for International Women's Day 2024

By Staff, 03/07/24, 5:00PM EST


Play. Inspire. Unite.

As the world comes together to celebrate International Women's Day, Ontario Soccer proudly reflects on the significant strides made in the realm of women's empowerment and gender equity over the last year. We’ve witnessed inspiring initiatives, groundbreaking achievements, and breakthroughs that have taken women's roles and influence in the world of soccer to new heights.  

The Ontario Soccer community has embraced the mission of creating a more inclusive and equitable environment for female athletes, Coaches, Match Officials, administrators, and fans alike. The dedication to dismantling barriers and fostering opportunities has been evident at every level, from grassroots programs to elite competitions. Thank you to our membership for helping us move the needle! 

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2024, let’s reflect on some of the biggest moments of the past year - the milestones, campaigns, and success stories that underscore the collective commitment to promoting gender equality and women's empowerment within our beloved sport. 

After you join us in reminiscing on a great year, make sure you use #InspireInclusion on social media to join the conversation around International Women's Day 2024.

Winter 2023/2024

2024 Ontario Soccer Summit Showcases More Female Voices Than Ever Before

Not only was the 2024 Ontario Soccer Summit the biggest edition of the event so far - it was also our most gender inclusive.

Hundreds of female delegates came out for the weekend and had the opportunity to hear from influential women who are experts in various fields, like Sarah Green in the Coaching stream, Michelle Pye in Match Officiating, and our Keynote Speakers Dr. Ann Pegoraro and Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt presenting on business strategy and mental health.

Some familiar faces rejoined us at this year's Summit, including Diana Matheson, Allison Forsyth, Carol Ann Chénard, and Chelsea Spencer. They were joined by show-stoppers like Farkhunda Muhtaj, Catherine Dávila, Aparna Tarc, Sandra Riberdy and many more in delivering important messages around inclusivity and equity in sport.

See the full list of Summit Speakers here.

As we mentioned before, two of our keynote speakers are women who are dominating in the space of sports business and mental health research. Ontario Soccer had a chance to interview Dr. Ann Pegoraro and Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt before their Summit presentations to hear about their professional background and understand why they do what they do.

You can hear from both of our brilliant speakers in the podcast episodes below:

Thanks to all of the women who helped make the 2024 Ontario Soccer Summit our best one yet! For those who weren't there - you can still experience some of the Summit magic! Select Keynote, classroom and on-field sessions will be available soon on the Ontario Soccer YouTube channel.

Jessie Fleming Named New CANWNT Captain

A few weeks ahead of Canada Soccer's Women's National Team appearing in the Concacaf W Gold Cup, it was announced that Jessie Fleming would take over as Captain of the squad following Christine Sinclair's retirement.

Fleming is a Made in Ontario superstar hailing from London. The 25-year-old makes a great role model for up-and-coming players with her consistent displays of sportsmanship, composure, and undeniable talent.

We're excited to witness a new era of CANWNT with Fleming at the head of the ship! Congratulations to her on this well-deserved accomplishment.

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Female Leadership Day for Match Officials

In early 2024, Ontario Soccer hosted its first-ever Female Leadership Day for Match Officials. This initiative, hosted in Whitby, was organized in hopes that our female Match Officials could get together in a comfortable space, form deeper bonds, and learn from those who have already established themselves in the field.

This Female Leadership Day had a star-studded lineup of female speakers and instructors. Participants were grateful for the chance to be in a room with more feminine energy than usual, as Match Official workshops and training sessions are typically dominated by men.

Learn more about this event by clicking here.

Christine Sinclair Plays Her Final Game for CANWNT

In December, CANWNT captain and global soccer icon Christine Sinclair played in her last international match here in Canada. It was a bittersweet moment for soccer fans everywhere as Sinclair, widely known as the GOAT, closed this chapter of her soccer career.

Sinclair has been an inspiration to countless girls and women in sports for generations. Her impact transcends boundaries, holding the record for the most international goals of any man or woman worldwide. We thank Christine for being a positive influence on so many and paving the way for future generations of women in soccer.

See our tribute to #17

Fall 2023

Centre Circle Awards

The Centre Circle Awards - sponsored by Nothers – The Award Store are Ontario Soccer's highest form of recognition, and more women than ever before were honoured at the 2023 ceremony.

Nadine Powell, Patty Peebles, Leslee Bax, and Robyn Gmeindl each received an award for their meaningful contributions to the Ontario Soccer community.

Jessica Misek, Chantal Senior, Izabella Stalteri, Camille Jelenik were selected for the MilkUP Future Leaders Awards, which recognize some of the best and brightest youth in our community for their service, pride and passion for their sport, and strong work ethic in all that they do. Four of the five awards this year were given to young women!

The MilkUP Ontario Soccer Future Leaders Program recognized dozens more trailblazers over the past year through the MilkUP Future Leaders "Class of '23" Bursary program and inviting Future Leaders to the MilkUP Youth Summit.

Read the ceremony recap

Summer 2023

BMO Girls Play ON!

One of the biggest developments of the last year in the gender equity space was the introduction of BMO Girls Play ON! - a brand new leadership program aimed at keeping girls and young women involved in soccer.

BMO Girls Play ON! is a free one-day program that brought together hundreds of girls from cities across Ontario. The event was designed around two age groups - U16 and U17 Girls with an interest in Coaching, and U7 and U8 Girls with a desire to play. The two age groups come together in the afternoon for a 3v3 Fun Fest led by the Coaching participants.

Ontario Soccer and BMO established BMO Girls Play ON! as a way of getting more girls and young women interested in soccer, and dip their toes into the world of being a soccer Coach. For the U7s and U8s it's all about having fun, making new friends, and finding new role models in the U16 and U17 Coaches.

BMO Girls Play ON! was a big success in its first year, with overwhelmingly positive reviews from participants in every city. We even had local news outlets come out and cover the event in Kingston, helping to spread the word about this empowering initiative.

Since BMO Girls Play ON!'s pilot year has come to an end, we've released a few stories that emerged out of the program. Check them out below:




Visit the Ontario Soccer Facebook page to see a photo album from each location, showing all of the female faces that played a part in BMO Girls Play ON!

The second year of BMO Girls Play ON! is currently being planned! We can't wait to bring these events back in the summer of 2024 and welcome more girls and young women to the BMO Girls Play ON! family.

Stay tuned for location announcements in the coming months!

Click here to learn more about BMO Girls Play ON!

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Shine the Light Soccer Tournament Sees a Brighter Future for Women and Girls

During the summer, our member Club Whitecaps London FC hosted its third annual Shine the Light Soccer Tournament in support of the London Abused Women's Centre. The event brought over 40 girls' teams together for a weekend of competition that served an even greater purpose - spreading awareness about abuse and trafficking and raising thousands of dollars for the local women's centre.

Read the full article by clicking here.

CANWNT Goes to the Women's FIFA World Cup

The FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ happened last summer from July 20 to August 20, giving fans the opportunity to see CANWNT shine once again after their gold medal finish at Tokyo 2020.

But before the action begun, the team went Down Under for the pre-tournament camp in Australia, bringing 16 Made in Ontario talents in a 25-player pool - an incredible showing for our province!

CANWNT's final roster was revealed in July, which ended up having 15 Ontario-based players out of 23. This announcement also saw the addition of Olivia Smith who was just 18 years old at the time and very recently came up through the Ontario Soccer system.

As the FIFA Women's World Cup progressed, we highlighted each and every Made in Ontario player with a short bio on our website, acknowledging the youth Clubs that played a part in their journey to the national team. If you want to learn more about the CANWNT stars who came up through Ontario, be sure to visit the webpage!

Read the player bios

With all of the buzz around the Women's World Cup, Ontario Soccer's Senior Communications Coordinator Rebecca Chouinard conducted a series of interviews, taking a deeper dive into the lives of three Made in Ontario players - Olivia Smith, Vanessa Gilles, and Kadeisha Buchanan.

We had the privilege of speaking directly with Gilles and Buchanan via Zoom from the pre-tournament camp in Australia. Once the competition had started, we touched base with Smith's father, Sean Smith, as well as her former Coach.

You can see each of the podcast episodes below, and learn more about how our CANWNT talents got to where they are today. The conversations are also available in the form of a Q&A article.

Interview with Olivia Smith's Father & Coach:

Read the Q&A

Interview with Kadeisha Buchanan:

Read the Q&A

Interview with Vanessa Gilles:

Read the Q&A

CANWNT was eliminated from the FIFA Women's World Cup after a crushing loss to Australia. It was a big disappointment for the squad, especially coming off their Olympic gold medal performance. Regardless of the outcome, CANWNT inspired many through their gutty performances, team camaraderie and national pride.

BMO, the Official Canadian and US Bank of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, organized an early-morning Watch Party for the match on July 26 vs. Ireland Understanding the significance of watching the Women's National Team play on the world stage, the event was family-friendly and brought fans of all ages and backgrounds together to support Team Canada. Big shout out to BMO for giving CANWNT the type of celebration they deserve.


Canadian Special Olympics Women’s Soccer Team Take Bronze at World Games

The Special Olympics World Games took place in Berlin, Germany from June 17-25, 2023. Canada's Women's Soccer Team brought home the bronze medal with an exciting 2-1 win over Special Olympics Bharat.

Two Made in Ontario stars were on Canada's roster last summer: Kristy Alford from Innisfill and Candace Bushie from Peterborough. Way to make your province proud!

Read the article

Spring 2023

Read the article

Pride Month Q&A with Dr. Ann Pegoraro

In support of Pride Month, last June we spent time with Dr. Ann Pegoraro, a gender equity expert and member of Ontario Soccer’s Board of Directors, discussing the significance of gender equity and inclusion in soccer. Dr. Pegoraro highlighted the progress made in gender equity, the importance of soccer as a leading institution for embracing diversity, and the role of representation in fostering an inclusive environment. The conversation aligns with the campaign theme for International Women's Day 2024, "#InspireInclusion," by emphasizing the ongoing commitment to inclusivity and addressing the challenges faced by the 2SLGBTQI+ community in sports, particularly in soccer.

Ontario Soccer Clubs Selected for The Next Play grant program

Eight teams from the Ontario Soccer community were honoured by Canadian Women and Sport through The Next Play grant program.

90 sports organizations across the country were chosen based on their work in engaging more girls and gender-diverse people in sport and physical activity.

Congratulations to last year's recipients! Click here to see the list.

Read the article

Read the article

Project 8 Update: A.F.C. Toronto City

In an exciting development from Project 8 - the organization developing Canada's first women's professional soccer league - it was revealed that A.F.C. Toronto City will be one of the league's Founding Teams, along with Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Calgary Foothills SC.

Project 8, led by two-time Olympic medallist Diana Matheson, has been in the works since 2022. The league is set to launch sometime next year, hopefully with more Ontario-based teams to be established!

Women's Futsal Introduced at Futsal Canadian Championship

Did you know that 2023 was the first year Women's Futsal was played at Canada Soccer's national competition?

The 2023 Futsal Canadian Championship, held at Seven Chiefs Sportsplex in Calgary, Alberta from April 13-16, saw the Women's division incorporated for the first time with more girls and women taking to the sport in recent years.

Our 2023 Women's Ontario Futsal Cup champions Scarborough GS United represented our province with great pride last year, bringing home the silver medal and making history as our first women's Futsal squad to play on the national stage.

Read the article

Read the article

Women Promoted to Ontario Soccer Executive Leadership Roles

It was announced last April that three key staff members at Ontario Soccer - Linh Nguyen, Patty Forbes, and Nicky Pearson - would assume new roles on the organization's Executive Management Leadership Team.

Nguyen became the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), while Forbes became the Senior Director of Administration and Pearson was promoted to Director of Member Services.

These three women have been thriving in their roles since the announcement was made, and Ontario Soccer's staff has continued to grow in diversity over the last year.

Winter 2023

Carmelina Moscato Becomes Hall of Fame Inductee

One year ago - on the last International Women's Day - we recognized Carmelina Moscato who had recently been inducted into Canada Soccer's Hall of Fame. Moscato is a Mississauga-native who went on to become an Olympic bronze medal winner, Concacaf champion, and play three times in the FIFA World Cup with Canada Soccer's Women's National Team (CANWNT). Way to go, Carmelina!

Read the article