When Title IX was enacted in 1972, females coached 90 percent of women’s intercollegiate teams. Today, women only coach 41 percent of women’s college teams and less than three percent of men’s teams. What’s at play, and what are the stakes?

1. Follow the data

Although the number of female coaches has dropped significantly, we’ve also seen a stagnation of that decrease over the last three years. “So now the work becomes ‘How do we reverse this trend?’” poses Megan Kahn, Executive Director at Alliance of Women Coaches.

2. Increase education

Grassroots initiatives to increase support levels stem from youth programs through professional leagues. By focusing on the collegiate level, Kahn helps female coaches prepare for an industry that’s often stacked against them, teaching them skills such as “how to be a better coach, win a job interview, ask for a raise, communicate better with your athletic director,” explains Kahn. She offers these alongside “professional training opportunities.”

3. Make opportunity accessible

“Too often women are being blamed for that percentage [of female coaches] going down, but traditionally what we are seeing is men in those hiring decisions,” explains Kahn. And research shows us that people will often hire those that remind them of themselves. “So it’s men hiring men.”

Kahn also discusses the change in the work itself as a factor. “Coaching is now a lucrative career opportunity.” Therefore, there are more men seeking coaching jobs, and they have an unfair advantage in obtaining those positions. 

4. Acknowledge gender bias

“Women are being judged differently by male counterparts,” says Kahn. For example, a man may run a practice a certain way, but, if a woman ran a practice that same way, it may be seen as negative, too direct, or aggressive. “There is a lot of gender bias in how women’s actions are assessed, from a hiring and retention standpoint, and not feeling supported on campus.”

5. Build support systems

Because of the issues in access and bias for those women coaches, they are likely the only female in their entire athletic department. As a result, their programs often fail them in areas such as equal pay, maternity leave and childcare.

“Our hope is just that one day our coach is a coach, and not defined by gender. Leadership should know no gender,” says Kahn.