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Q: What Factors Contribute to the Perpetuation of Sex Discrimination in Educational Sport?

In the arena of educational sport a number of current and historical factors have contributed to the perpetuation of sex discrimination:

  • Historically, women’s sports used to be housed within women’s physical education departments, separate from men’s physical education and men’s athletics.  In these departments, women held 90% of the coaching positions and all of the administrative positions.  When Title IX was adopted in 1972, the control of women’s sports moved under previously all male men's athletics departments and athletics directors who were primarily male.  The head of women's sports lost their jobs.  As a result of this separation of women’s sport from women’s physical education, women’s sports also lost the protection of of tenured and powerful female faculty members.
  • The separation of women’s sport from faculty control subjected it to total control by male athletic business model where women’s sports was an underdeveloped product and not valued.
  • Faced with fears of litigation and/or sharing resources, many male athletic directors hired and promoted females who were afraid to bring up Title IX concerns and questions.
  • Today, male athletic directors still hold over 80% of all top administrative positions in athletics departments, control hiring and are more likely to hire males with whom they have greater connections and comfort levels.  As a result, in 2007, females held 44% of the head coaching jobs in women’s high school and college sports teams and only 2% of the head coaching jobs in men’s sports.  Because there are more men’s sports teams, fully 80% of all head coaching opportunities in educational sport are held by men, including the highest status and highest salary coaching positions.
  • Subtle employment discrimination is also at play.  Athletic directors are more likely to make ‘paper hires’ (select coaches from among a formal paper applicant pool) for coaches of women’s teams while they are more likely to aggressively go into the marketplace to identify and pay what it takes to attract the best coach for men’s teams, ignoring the paper hire process.
  • Double standards are commonly at play in applicant interviews, with athletics directors demonstrating a concern for female pregnancy limiting a female coach’s longevity, homophobia, and a fear for outspoken women who might raise Title IX issues.
  • If women are hired, many times they receive less encouragement and fewer opportunities for professional development. They often receive less support within a predominantly male system and fewer networking opportunities, experiencing greater retention problems.


-- Prepared by Donna Lopiano, Ph.D., President, Sports Management Resources