“Women Are Cancer, You Shouldn’t Be Working in Sport”: Sport Psychologists’ Lived Experiences of Sexism in Sport

in The Sport Psychologist
View More View Less
  • 1 University of Hertfordshire
  • 2 Brunel University London
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year online subscription

USD  $69.00

1 year online subscription

USD  $92.00

Student 2 year online subscription

USD  $131.00

2 year online subscription

USD  $175.00

Though sexism has been recognized as problematic in sport, its impact on female sport psychologists in the United Kingdom has not yet been investigated. The purpose of this research was to explore the impact of sexism and its influence on practice. Four semistructured focus groups were conducted, comprising 11 sport psychologists who worked in the United Kingdom. Thematic analysis revealed four general themes: the environment, privileging masculinity, acts of sexism, and the feminine. Participants’ discourse suggests that female sport psychologists are impacted by sexism in their workplaces. Gendered power differentials, coupled with the low status of sport psychology within sport, exacerbated the challenges faced by female sport psychologists. This study contributes to making up for the dearth of research on the impact of sexism on sport psychologists. Suggestions are made with regard to implications for practice.

Goldman is with the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, United Kingdom. Gervis is with Brunel University London, Uxbridge, United Kingdom.

Goldman (a.goldman@herts.ac.uk) is corresponding author.
  • Adams, A., Anderson, E., & McCormack, M. (2010). Establishing and challenging masculinity: The influence of gendered discourses in organized sport. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 29(3), 278300. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Aicher, T.J., & Sagas, M. (2010). Are head coaches in intercollegiate athletics perceived as masculine? An evaluation of gender stereotypes and the effect of sexism on intercollegiate coaches. Gender Issues, 27(3–4), 165174. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Alvesson, M., & Sköldberg, K. (2009). Positivism, social constructionism, critical realism: Three reference points in the philosophy of science. In M. Alvesson & K. Sköldberg (Eds.), Reflexive methodology: New vistas for qualitative research (pp. 1552). Sage.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Anderson, E. (2008). “I used to think women were weak”: Orthodox masculinity, gender segregation, and sport. Sociological Forum, 23(2), 257280. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ashburn-Nardo, L., Blanchar, J.C., Petersson, J., Morris, K.A., & Goodwin, S.A. (2014). Do you say something when it’s your boss? The role of perpetrator power in prejudice confrontation. Journal of Social Issues, 70(4), 615636. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Barker, S., & Winter, S. (2014). The practice of sport psychology: A youth coaches’ perspective. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 9(2), 379392. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Barreto, M., & Ellemers, N. (2005). The burden of benevolent sexism: How it contributes to the maintenance of gender inequalities. European Journal of Social Psychology, 35(5), 633642. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Beard, M. (2017). Women & power: A manifesto. Profile Books.

  • Brackenridge, C. (2002). Spoilsports: Understanding and preventing sexual exploitation in sport. Routledge.

  • Brackenridge, C., Mutrie, N., & Choi, P.Y. (2005). Is sport and exercise science a man’s game? In M. McNamee (Ed.), Philosophy and the sciences of exercise, health and sport: Critical perspectives on research methods (pp. 169186). Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77101. doi:

  • Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2014). What can “thematic analysis” offer health and wellbeing researchers? International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 9, 26152. PubMed ID: 25326092 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Braun, V., Clarke, V., Hayfield, N., & Terry, G. (2019). Thematic analysis. In P. Liamputtong (Ed.), Handbook of research methods in health social sciences. (pp. 843860). Springer Nature.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Braun, V., & Wilkinson, S. (2005). Vagina equals woman? On genitals and gendered identity. Women’s Studies International Forum, 28(6), 509522. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brittan, A. (1989). Masculinity and power. Basil Blackwell.

  • Burke, M. (2001). Obeying until it hurts: Coach–athlete relationships. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 28(2), 227240. doi:

  • Canetto, S.S., & Sakinofsky, I. (1998). The gender paradox in suicide. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 28(1), 123. PubMed ID: 9560163

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Carpenter, L., & Acosta, R.V. (2000). Women in intercollegiate sport a longitudinal study twenty three year update 1977–2000. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 9(2), 141144. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cejka, M.A., & Eagly, A.H. (1999). Gender-stereotypic images of occupations correspond to the sex segregation of employment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25(4), 413423. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chambers, S.A. (2003). Telepistemology of the closet; or, the queer politics of Six Feet Under. Journal of American Culture, 26(1), 2441. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Connell, R.W. (1987). Gender and power. Stanford University Press.

  • Connell, R.W., & Messerschmidt, J.W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender & Society, 19(6), 829859. doi:

  • Cortina, L.M., Rabelo, V.C., & Holland, K.J. (2018). Beyond blaming the victim: Toward a more progressive understanding of workplace mistreatment. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 11(1), 81100. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cotterill, S. (2017). Developing leadership skills in sport: A case study of elite cricketers. Case Studies in Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1(1), 1625. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cotterill, S., & Barker, J. (2013). The psychology of cricket: Developing mental toughness. Bennion Kearny.

  • Cunningham, G.B. (2008). Creating and sustaining gender diversity in sport organizations. Sex Roles, 58(1–2), 136145. doi:

  • Drury, B.J., & Kaiser, C.R. (2014). Allies against sexism: The role of men in confronting sexism. Journal of Social Issues, 70(4), 637652. doi:

  • Dupuis, S.L. (1999). Naked truths: Towards a reflexive methodology in leisure research. Leisure Sciences, 21(1), 4364. doi:

  • Farnham, C. (Ed.). (1987). The impact of feminist research in the academy. Indiana University Press.

  • Fink, J.S. (2016). Hiding in plain sight: The embedded nature of sexism in sport. Journal of Sport Management, 30(1), 17. doi:

  • Finlay, L. (2002). “Outing” the researcher: The provenance, process, and practice of reflexivity. Qualitative Health Research, 12(4), 531545. PubMed ID: 11939252 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fox, N.J. (2008). Post-positivism. In L.M. Given (Ed.), The Sage encyclopaedia of qualitative research methods. Sage.

  • Gervis, M., Pickford, H., Hau, T., & Fruth, M. (2020). A review of the psychological support mechanisms available for long-term injured footballers in the UK throughout their rehabilitation. Science and Medicine in Football, 4(1), 2229. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gervis, M., Rhind, D., & Luzar, A. (2016). Perceptions of emotional abuse in the coach–athlete relationship in youth sport: The influence of competitive level and outcome. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 11(6), 772779. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Glick, P. (2013, February 28March 1). BS at work: How benevolent sexism undermines women and justifies backlash. Harvard business school symposium gender & work: Challenging conventional wisdom.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Glick, P., & Fiske, S.T. (1996). The ambivalent sexism inventory: Differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(3), 491512. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Glick, P., & Fiske, S.T. (2001). An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications for gender inequality. American Psychologist, 56(2), 109118. PubMed ID: 11279804 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Glick, P., Fiske, S.T., Mladinic, A., Saiz, J.L., Abrams, D., Masser, B., & Annetje, B. (2000). Beyond prejudice as simple antipathy: Hostile and benevolent sexism across cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79(5), 763735. PubMed ID: 11079240 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harris, F., III. (2008). Deconstructing masculinity: A qualitative study of college men’s masculine conceptualizations and gender performance. NASPA Journal, 45(4), 453474.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Henderson, K.A. (2011). Post-positivism and the pragmatics of leisure research. Leisure Sciences, 33(4), 341346. doi:

  • Hundleby, C. (2011). Feminist empiricism. In S.N. Hesse-Biber (Ed.), Handbook of feminist research: Theory and praxis (p. 28). Sage.

  • Intemann, K. (2010). 25 years of feminist empiricism and standpoint theory: Where are we now? Hypatia, 25(4), 778796. doi:

  • Jenkinson, B., Kruske, S., & Kildea, S. (2017). The experiences of women, midwives and obstetricians when women decline recommended maternity care: A feminist thematic analysis. Midwifery, 52, 110. PubMed ID: 28528239 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jewkes, R., Morrell, R., Hearn, J., Lundqvist, E., Blackbeard, D., Lindegger, G., … Gottzén, L. (2015). Hegemonic masculinity: Combining theory and practice in gender interventions. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 17, 112127. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Karniol, R., Gabay, R., Ochion, Y., & Harari, Y. (1998). Is gender or gender-role orientation a better predictor of empathy in adolescence? Sex Roles, 39(1–2), 4559. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Katz, J., & Hemmings, B. (2009). Counselling Skills Handbook for the Sport Psychologist. Division of Sport & Exercise Psychology of the British Psychological Society.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kelner, M. (2018, May 29). Women in Football reports 400% rise in alleged discrimination and sexism. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/may/29/women-in-football-report-400-rise-in-alleged-discrimination-and-sexism

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kimmel, M.S. (2018). Privilege: A reader. Routledge.

  • King, M., & Ussher, J.M. (2013). It’s not all bad: Women’s construction and lived experience of positive premenstrual change. Feminism & Psychology, 23(3), 399417. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Krane, V., & Waldron, J.J. (2020). A renewed call to queer sport psychology. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology . Advance online publication. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Krane, V., & Whaley, D.E. (2010). Quiet competence: Writing women into the history of US sport and exercise psychology. The Sport Psychologist, 24(3), 349372. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lewis, C.J., Roberts, S.J., Andrews, H., & Sawiuk, R. (2020). A creative writing case study of gender-based violence in coach education: Stacey’s story. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 1, 19. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Longstaff, F., & Gervis, M. (2016). The use of counseling principles and skills to develop practitioner–athlete relationships by practitioners who provide sport psychology support. The Sport Psychologist, 30(3), 276289. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marchia, J., & Sommer, J.M. (2019). (Re)defining heteronormativity. Sexualities, 22(3), 267295. doi:

  • Mason, J. (2002). Researching your own practice: The discipline of noticing. Routledge.

  • Masser, B.M., & Abrams, D. (2004). Reinforcing the glass ceiling: The consequences of hostile sexism for female managerial candidates. Sex Roles, 51(9–10), 609615. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Messner, M.A. (1992). Power at play: Sports and the problem of masculinity. Beacon Press.

  • Moesch, K., Kenttä, G., Kleinert, J., Quignon-Fleuret, C., Cecil, S., & Bertollo, M. (2018). FEPSAC position statement: Mental health disorders in elite athletes and models of service provision. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 38, 6171. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Möller-Leimkühler, A.M. (2003). The gender gap in suicide and premature death or: Why are men so vulnerable? European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 253(1), 18. PubMed ID: 12664306 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pain, M.A., & Harwood, C.G. (2004). Knowledge and perceptions of sport psychology within English soccer. Journal of Sports Sciences, 22(9), 813826. PubMed ID: 15513275 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Patton, M.Q. (2005). Qualitative research. In B. Everitt & D.C. Howell (Eds.), Encyclopedia of statistics in behavioral science. Wiley.

  • Payne, S., Swami, V., & Stanistreet, D.L. (2008). The social construction of gender and its influence on suicide: A review of the literature. Journal of Men’s Health, 5(1), 2335. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Petrie, T.A., Cogan, K.D., Van Raalte, J.L., & Brewer, B.W. (1996). Gender and the evaluation of sport psychology consultants. The Sport Psychologist, 10(2), 132139. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ploszay, A.J. (2003). The experience of providing expert sport psychology consultation: An existential phenomenological investigation (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Tennessee.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rhind, D.J., Scott, M., & Fletcher, D. (2013). Organizational stress in professional soccer coaches. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 44(1), 116. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Riessman, C.K. (2008). Narrative methods for the human sciences. Sage.

  • Rogers, J., & Kelly, U.A. (2011). Feminist intersectionality: Bringing social justice to health disparities research. Nursing Ethics, 18(3), 397407. PubMed ID: 21558115 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Roper, E.A. (2002). Women working in the applied domain: Examining the gender bias in applied sport psychology. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 14(1), 5366. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Roper, E.A. (2008). Women’s career experiences in applied sport psychology. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 20(4), 408424. doi:

  • Roper, E.A., Fisher, L.A., & Wrisberg, C.A. (2005). Professional women’s career experiences in sport psychology: A feminist standpoint approach. The Sport Psychologist, 19(1), 3250. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Routledge, F.S. (2007). Exploring the use of feminist philosophy within nursing research to enhance post-positivist methodologies in the study of cardiovascular health. Nursing Philosophy, 8(4), 278290. PubMed ID: 17897171 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ryan, A.B. (2006). Post-positivist approaches to research. In M. Antonesa, H. Fallon, A.B. Ryan, A. Ryan, & T. Walsh, with L. Borys (Eds.), Researching and writing your thesis: A guide for postgraduate students (pp. 1226). MACE.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Simons, J.P., & Andersen, M.B. (1995). The development of consulting practice in applied sport psychology: Some personal perspectives. The Sport Psychologist, 9(4), 449468. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stapel, D.A., & Noordewier, M.K. (2011). The mental roots of system justification: System threat, need for structure, and stereotyping. Social Cognition, 29(3), 238254. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Statler, T. (2003). The art of applied sport psychology: Interviews with North America’s outstanding consultants. 20th AAASP Conference .

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Straub, W.F., & Hinman, D.A. (1992). Profiles and professional perspectives of 10 leading sport psychologists. The Sport Psychologist, 6(3), 297312. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Swann, C., Moran, A., & Piggott, D. (2015). Defining elite athletes: Issues in the study of expert performance in sport psychology. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 16, 314. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tracy, S.J. (2010). Qualitative quality: Eight “big-tent” criteria for excellent qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(10), 837851. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Waldron, J.J., & Krane, V. (2005). Whatever it takes: Health compromising behaviors in female athletes. Quest, 57(3), 315329. doi:

  • Walker, N.A., & Sartore-Baldwin, M.L. (2013). Hegemonic masculinity and the institutionalized bias toward women in men’s collegiate basketball: What do men think? Journal of Sport Management, 27(4), 303315. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, R.S. (1995). Learning from strangers: The art and method of qualitative interview studies. Simon and Schuster.

  • Whaley, D.E., & Krane, V. (2012). Resilient excellence: Challenges faced by trailblazing women in US sport psychology. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 83(1), 6576. PubMed ID: 22428413 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wheaton, B. (2000). New lads: Masculinities and the ‘new sport’ participant. Men and Masculinities, 2(4), 434456. doi:

  • Women in Football. (2016). Women in football 2016 survey analysis. https://www.womeninfootball.co.uk/assets/genericfiles/Women%20in%20Football%20Survey%20Analysis.pdf

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Women in Sport. (2018). Beyond 30%: Workplace culture in sport. http://www.womeninsport.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Beyond-30-Workplace-Culture-in-Sport-report.pdf?x99836

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 928 928 248
Full Text Views 122 122 68
PDF Downloads 37 37 22