An Examination of Intercollegiate Athletic Directors’ Attributions Regarding the Underrepresentation of Female Coaches in Women’s Sports

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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Two generations removed from Title IX, women have made unprecedented advances in sports. Yet there remains one important arena where females have witnessed dramatic declines—leadership positions, most notably in coaching. The percentage of female coaches has declined from 90% in the early 1970s to 43% in 2018. In 1988, Acosta and Carpenter surveyed intercollegiate athletic directors (ADs) regarding their attributions for this employment trend. They found significant gender differences whereby male ADs focused on the attributes of individual women (e.g., they are unqualified), while female ADs highlighted organizational factors (e.g., success of “old boys’ network”). This investigation replicated and extended the earlier study. We surveyed a nationwide sample of college athletic administrators to determine current-day perceptions regarding the underrepresentation of female head coaches. Significant gender differences emerged in that female administrators continued to rate institutional variables such as unconscious discrimination as key attribution factors, while male administrators attributed the absence to individual variables such as time constraints due to family obligations. An unexpected finding compared to 30 years ago was that female ADs, even more strongly than their male counterparts, believed that a major contributing factor was women’s failure to apply for jobs. These findings—and their broader implications—are discussed within the theoretical framework of critical feminist theory.

Kane is the director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, School of Kinesiology, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. LaVoi is the co-director of the Tucker Center, School of Kinesiology, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.

Address author correspondence to Mary Jo Kane at maryjo@umn.edu.
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