What’s being done?
Former and current female coaches hope their experiences give hope to girls and other women who have similar aspirations. There are also countless organizations and groups that promote women in athletics, including the Women’s Sports Foundation, Alliance of Women’s Coaches and Women Leaders in College Sports.
“We have evidence that not only are role models critical in the advancement of women throughout roles of leadership, but female-based networks are also crucial,” says Lindsey Darvin, who is pursuing her Ph.D. in sports management with a focus on gender and sport at the University of Florida. “Men are often provided with greater amounts and larger networks — an ‘old boys network’ — within the industry given a tradition of more male leaders within sport, and women are missing out on opportunities based on a lack of connections.”
The NFL, for example, is committed to increasing the number of women in managerial roles while developing its own network. Samantha Rapoport was hired as the league’s director of football development in Sept. 2016, with a main focus of identifying qualified women, training them, and helping create a pipeline for them to land football jobs. Speaking at the league’s first Women’s Summit ahead of Super Bowl 50, commissioner Roger Goodell also announced a Rooney Rule for women in front-office jobs — meaning a woman must be interviewed before a hire was made for every managerial position or higher. (The Rooney Rule is a 2003 NFL policy where teams are required to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation positions before making a hire.)
While the world of sports is slowly headed in the right direction, gender inequality and sexism at the coaching level won’t end until women coaching men — and women, for that matter — at all levels becomes more prevalent, and a coach isn’t judged by his or her sex, but by his or her success.
“When young girls (and boys) see women in leadership positions, or in this case, head coaching positions, it has the ripple effect of empowering young girls to consider coaching as a successful, viable career option,” Kahn says. “The more we see women being supported and respected as coaches and leaders, the more we will continue to crush gender stereotypes. Leadership knows no gender. A coach should be a ‘coach’, not defined or limited as a ‘female’ coach.”