The “glass ceiling” for women administrators in college athletics may be cracked, but is not completely broken, according to a new study co-authored by a North Carolina State University researcher.
Results of the study, which surveyed athletic administrators at universities across the country to determine how, and if, gender roles made a difference in hiring practices, may disappoint those who think double standards for women have been relegated to the past.
Dr. Heidi Grappendorf, assistant professor of parks, recreation and tourism management at NC State, and colleagues surveyed 276 athletic administrators at Division I universities to have them evaluate fictitious vignettes of male or female candidates for intercollegiate athletics positions such as athletic director, compliance director or life-skills director. They then ranked the candidates’ attributes and the likelihood of hiring them for the respective positions.
The research found that female candidates for the athletic director position, despite having the same background as their male counterparts, were viewed as less feminine. However, if the same female candidates applied for life skills positions – positions which are predominately held by women in real-life athletic administration – they were viewed as more feminine.
Meanwhile, males were more likely to be chosen for athletic director positions, even with the exact same background and attributes as female candidates.
Researchers believe the study lends support to the notion that men tend to be hired in management roles not just for their skills and experience, but because of the perceived view that management roles require masculinity.
“It seems like there is, unfortunately, a ‘catch-22’ for women in management roles – particularly in sports,” Grappendorf explains. “The assumption has been that masculine attributes like aggressiveness and competitiveness are needed for management-level positions, yet women who display those attributes are still not given the same opportunities as men. Even worse, if they do happen to be hired, women are often looked down upon by colleagues for having those masculine qualities.”
Similar research has been conducted in business settings, but this research is the first of its kind conducted in the sports industry, which continues to be male-dominated. The research, which is published in the Journal for Sport Management, was conducted along with lead author Dr. Laura Burton from the University of Connecticut and co-author Dr. Angela Henderson from the University of Northern Colorado.
NC State’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management is part of the university’s College of Natural Resources.
Note to editors: The study abstract follows.
“Perceptions of Gender in Athletic Administration: Utilizing Role Congruity to Examine (Potential) Prejudice Against Women”
Authors: Laura Burton, University of Connecticut; Heidi Grappendorf, North Carolina State University, Angela Henderson, University of Northern Colorado.
Published: 2011, Volume 25, 36-45, Journal of Sport Management
Abstract: Based on the tenets of role congruity theory, the current study examined the unequal representation of men and women in athletic administration positions. A total of 158 female and 118 male (n = 276) athletic administrators evaluated a male or female candidate for an athletic director, compliance director, or life skills director position within athletics. Participants indicated no significant differences in masculine ratings of male or female candidates and significant differences in feminine ratings for female candidates in the life skills position. Male and female candidates were perceived as similar in potential and likely success in all positions. Finally, the female candidate was evaluated as significantly less likely to be offered the athletic director position when compared to the male candidate.