Dr. Nancy Lough
Professor and Graduate Coordinator, Educational Psychology and Higher Education, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Dr. Lisa A. Kihl
Associate Professor, School of Kinesiology — Sport Management, University of Minnesota
At the 2019 NCAA Women’s Final Four, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw created quite a stir when she boldly stated she was done hiring men. To some this may sound discriminatory or even sexist, but Coach McGraw was quick to share the evidence showing women bear the burden of discrimination in sport.
With women accounting for just over 40 percent of the head coaching positions in women’s college basketball, down from 90 percent in 1972, and only 7 percent of NCAA Division I athletic directors being female, women are certainly lacking representation.
With so few women role models visibly exerting power in sport, increasing gender representation has been identified as a challenge by many sports organizations. Winning this game will hinge on intentional hiring strategies and accountability measures.
A slam dunk
The NBA’s diversity initiatives have made them a leader in gender hiring practices — it has more women in positions of power than any other professional sports league. The NBA serves as an exemplar due to its adoption of approaches that recognize and respect the expertise of current and former WNBA players.
Becky Hammon and Kristi Toliver serve as NBA assistant coaches, Ruth Riley Hunter and Candace Parker work as TV studio and radio analysts, and Tamika Catchings is now a director of player programs and franchise development.
Among the effective strategies the NBA uses is including men to serve as gender allies, which means acknowledging and respecting the attributes of women professionals, along with advocating for active recruitment of women, intentional training for advancement, mentoring, and providing networking opportunities. These are all critical steps in the process of recruiting, retaining, and promoting women.
Accountability measures like gender report cards are also effective in creating awareness and change. When the NFL and MLB receive C’s for gender hiring, they take notice. Women represent 45 percent of their leagues’ fanbases and have influence on 80 percent of all purchasing decisions, meaning sponsors are also tuning into the value women offer.
By challenging power differentials in sport and intentionally advancing women’s status as coaches and leaders, we will see social, economic, and political impacts on lives both in and out of sports.
Dr. Nancy Lough, Professor and Graduate Coordinator, Educational Psychology and Higher Education, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and Dr. Lisa A. Kihl, Associate Professor, School of Kinesiology — Sport Management, University of Minnesota, [email protected]