Toolbox Tackles Gender Equity

by Gavin Sing

Toolbox is a Seattle league team that has participated in DiscNW league since 2008, starting in C pool and rising to be a mainstay in A pool. We’ve also developed into a fun travel tournament team that has made it’s way up and down the West Coast and Hawaii. While our roster has evolved and changed, there is a core group that have played together for going on five or six years. We’ve played club together, we hangout together – we’re all friends.

After an intense league game where we thought the competition was not very gender equitable, Toolbox decided to get together and talk about it. It led to an engrossing GroupMe discussion that formed into an actionable meeting on a lovely Saturday afternoon.While this discussion was sparked by a league game, it was one that any mixed team needs to have. With the amount of time we all spend together on and off the field, having this kind of talk brings everyone together.

We get to learn more about each other, our goals, our fears; it brought a sense of unity and understanding among 20 odd people of different educations, backgrounds, ethnicity and diversities.

The format of the discussion was based off of a similar concept that 77 Cents had during DiscNW Winter League.

  1. Discussion guidelines
  2. Discussion goals
  3. Definition of gender equity for Toolbox
  4. Small groups
  5. Gather and chat
  6. Action items

Our guidelines
Positive intent and frequency of contributions by allowing for all to have time to talk and listen. We are all in a safe place, and this discussion will in no way solve gender equity.

Our goals
Work towards a few actionable items, find a shared understanding of what gender equity means to Toolbox, see where we are now and what we want next season, gain a better understanding of our team’s culture.

Definition of gender equity
To put it bluntly, trying to define this for Toolbox was going to need a longer meeting time. We brainstormed a bunch of ideas but weren’t able to define it exactly for Toolbox due to time constraints.

With that in mind we broke out into small groups – males/persons identifying as male and females/persons identifying as female and talked about why we play mixed ultimate, what we find frustrating playing with Toolbox and how we’re combating gender equity on Toolbox.

Why we play mixed

Some discoveries during discussion were that majority of the males played mixed ultimate in order to meet members of the opposite gender, while the females played mixed because it was the only option at the time (thank you to Womens Winter League (soft plug!)). Mixed also has the added benefit of being more fun and dynamic which was an interesting perspective to find.

What frustrates us

While Toolbox has been a mainstay in the A division we do have shortfalls in our play style which came into consideration with this discussion. For example, considering competitive vs developing skills, valuing individuals on the field, disc touches, vision on the field, calling plays/lines, who gets to pull and why, people cutting others off, field spacing and timing, voices or concerns not being heard, calling out throws from certain players (mostly men) vs encouraging bad throws because they don’t always feel empowered (mostly women). All this encompasses gender equity.

How are we fighting inequity

Some highlights include: making the same cut or throw regardless of gender or throwing ability. Also communicating with people and telling them “hey that specific cut was for you, I thought you had that throw, but either you didn’t see me or didn’t think you had that throw, but I know you do and I was cutting for you”.

We also talked about making sure our feedback was not biased based on gender. An example – personally I have a habit of yelling negatively at male players on Toolbox that make a bad decision/throw, but will yell positive encouragement to a women who did the same thing. Regardless of my reasoning, I understand that while I see it as encouraging it is not having that positive outcome.

Toolbox has a lot of growing to do in terms of ultimate and gender equity. To help facilitate this growth, the team decided on two items to work on for the rest of the season.

  1. Men taking a step back from things like calling lines, being center hub handler and calling plays.
  2. Having a buddy on the field that you can talk to for constructive feedback. These buddies would be cross gender and non relationship associated (we have quite a number of teammates in heterosexual relationships).

We also did an anonymous team rating to see where everyone thinks Toolbox is with regard to gender equity. It gives us a starting point and a goal to work towards for the future. We decided to do this eyes closed and one person counted votes.

Out of 5, the average vote was 2.9. Average women vote was 2.50, average men vote was 3.29
Not the worst, not the greatest.

Having this discussion in an informal manner as friends over dinner was a great way for Toolbox to start. It had an open feel to it and allowed Toolbox as a team to delve deeper into the topic without having a 10 or 15 minute time constraint. If anything, we could have made this discussion longer. We have history with each other which allowed us to be as open as we are, even with a topic as difficult as this.

We had one person lead the discussion but the floor was always open to anyone who had a thought or question having our ‘positive intentions’ at the forefront. Keeping it open allowed people to feel comfortable. Even though we have been playing together for years, bringing up ‘problems’ or ‘hot’ topics can be difficult for people.

Having the guidelines was a great help too. Positive intent, open communication yet not overshadowing people puts everyone on equal footing.

Regardless of the reason for the discussion, learning more about your teammates and understanding where they are coming from can only benefit us on and off the field.

This discussion has helped us open lines of communication that otherwise would have just led to more frustration. Having a goal or two to focus on as a team can bring unity. It can also bring better ultimate – opening up new possibilities on the field and giving greater confidence to all teammates. Realizing that even though play styles differ, we are working to a common goal.

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