Unexpected consequences of Title IX for female coaches

by Paige H.

The purpose of this blog will be to look at the lack of female coaches in collegiate sports, and how it has changed since the implementation of Title IX.

Women typically have to be “nicer” than men in order to exercise equivalent power and authority; this then in turn reaffirms gender stereotypes (Ridgeway, 2001). In addition to gender stereotypes there are four main barriers that are repeatedly examined in reference to the professional opportunities for female coaches. The four barriers include unequal assumption of competence, homologous reproduction, homophobia and lack of female mentors (Kilty, 2006).

Prior to 1972, when Title IX was signed and implemented by Richard Nixon, it was “lesser” of a job to coach women’s athletics because of the lack of visibility and interest in women’s sports as a whole. With the lack of men interested, women were able to dominate that coaching field, but after Title IX, the numbers of female head coaches has plummeted with the sudden interest in it from their male counterparts. As women’s sport opportunities became more pervasive, men increasingly filled coaching positions (Cunningham & Sagas, 2013).

An unexpected result of Title IX, especially at the intercollegiate level, is the decrease in the proportion of women serving as coaches of women’s teams (Cunningham & Sagas, 2013). In 1972, women coached over 90% of women’s teams; while as of recent years only 42.4% of women’s teams were headed by female coaches (Kilty, 2006). Not only are those numbers decreasing, but also the coaching positions in which women tend to fill now are also at lower levels of competition and also in traditionally “feminine sports” (Reade, Rodgers, & Norman, 2009). The percentage of female head coaches coaching male teams has remained constant over the past 30-40 years, at 2% (Kilty, 2006). This is troubling because despite the highest level of female athletic participation, thanks to Title IX, females have experienced a decline in coaching at all levels of educational institutions. Within Division I schools in the NCAA, women coaches are more frequently found in more prestigious, resource richer institutions and those that devote more resources to sport (Welch & Sigelman, 2007). The same study found that women head coaches are less likely to be found in traditional institutions, where gender roles are still highly thought of, examples of this would be religiously affiliated institutions and private schools.

Homologous reproduction is the process whereby dominants reproduce themselves based on social and/or physical characteristics (Stangl & Kane, 1991). This is vital to the understanding of why coaching is such a male dominated field. Therefore, the employment relationship between gender of athletic director and the head coach, for example, would be considered; as there is a direct relationship between the gender of the person being hired and the gender of the person doing the hiring (Stangl & Kane, 1991), this study also stated that homologous reproduction reproduces male hegemony.

Athletic departments have been regarded as one of the purest manifestations of hegemonic masculinity (Welch & Sigleman, 2007). This is important because through studies it was found that this is where homologous reproduction is a major factor preventing the advancement and hiring of female coaches. 71.4% of athletic programs in the NCAA are directed by a male, which is a 5:1 ratio in comparison to females (Kilty, 2006); according to Stangl and Kane (1991), the beliefs expressed by male athletic directors appear to be based more on a gender stereotypic bias about female competence than on any objective data. Managers and leaders tend to select those to fill positions that they see as “their kind”, and it repeatedly reproduces itself through its own image (Stangl & Kane, 1991), making it an increasingly difficult barrier for women to overcome. Homologous reproduction explains the dramatic reduction in the number of female coaches since Title IX has come into effect. Typically when women are judged for promotion in comparison to her colleagues, gender stereotypes prevail, placing additional pressures on women to especially establish themselves as competent that men typically don’t face (Eagly & Carli, 2007).

There are very few female mentors in which new female coaches can look up to for guidance. This is vital because there are now more women experiencing and participating in sports than ever, because of the implementation of Title IX, yet the amount of female head coaches is at an all time low. The impact of mentors on a professional career is substantial, and combined with the lack of women in the profession of high performance coaching, it becomes problematic for young women who aspire to coach (Kilty, 2006). This means that there needs to be a bottom up approach, rather than the top down approach in which was supposedly instilled. In doing so we inform the grassroots and mass participation level, which tends to be more flexible, and work our way up; rather than starting at the elite, more concrete level and trying to funnel it down. There will in turn be pressure for the athletic departments to conform to what the bottom is doing and what the athletes coming through have come to expect, which is equality and equal representation.

References:

Cunningham, G. B., & Sagas, M. (2002). The differential effects of human capital for male and female Division I basketball coaches. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport73(4), 489-495.

Eagly, A., & Carli, L. 2007. Through the labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

Kilty, K. (2006). Women in coaching. The Sport Psychologist20(2), 222-234.

Reade, I., Rodgers, W., & Norman, L. (2009). The under-representation of women in coaching: A comparison of male and female Canadian coaches at low and high levels of coaching. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching4(4), 505-520.

Ridgeway, C. L. (2001). Gender, status, and leadership. Journal of Social issues57(4), 637-655.

Stangl, J. M., & Kane, M. J. (1991). Structural variables that offer explanatory power for the underrepresentation of women coaches since Title IX: The case of homologous reproduction. Sociology of Sport Journal8(1), 47-60.

Welch, S., & Sigelman, L. (2007). Who’s calling the shots? Women coaches in Division I women’s sports. Social Science Quarterly88(5), 1415-1434.