Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Mentoring Women to Advance within Leadership Positions as International Physical Educators

Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Mentoring Women to Advance within Leadership Positions as International Physical Educators

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study was to explore the reasons for mentoring women to advance within leadership positions as international physical educators. The study focused on the following within international physical education departments: (a) individual reasons for mentoring women, (b) organizational factors that inhibit or facilitate the ability to mentor women, (c) protege characteristics that attract mentors to women proteges and (d) outcomes associated with mentoring women. A phenomenological research design was chosen to examine the mentoring relationship. A group of women from a wide variety of colleges and universities were contacted at the International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women (IAPESGW) conference (N = 5). The primary means of collecting data were in-depth interviews. A constant comparative analysis was used throughout the study. The study provided valuable information for mentors wanting to find ways to successfully mentor women to advance within leadership positions as international academic physical educators.


Rearchers have documented the fact that women are underrepresented within sport and physical education leadership positions in North America (Acosta & Carpenter, 2006; Bower & Hums, 2003; Lapchick, 2004; Weaver & Chelladurai, 2000; 1999). This under-representation is not limited to North America, however. Women are becoming more and more involved in leadership positions on an international level, but are still underrepresented within all leadership positions in sport and physical education (Doll-Tepper, Pfister, Scoretz, & Bilan, 2005; Pfister & Hartmann-Tews, 2003; Rimeslatten, 2004; Shaw & Hoeber, 2003; Shaw & Penney, 2003; Shaw & Slack, 2002).

The lack of progress for women has often been attributed to the glass ceiling (Ragins, Townsend, & Mattis, 1998; Pfister, Doll-Tepper, & Radtke, 2004). The U. S. Department of Labor (1991) defined the glass ceiling as "artificial barriers based on attitudinal or organizational bias that prevent qualified individuals from advancing within their organization and reaching their full potential" (p. 1). Wirth (2001), of the German International Labor Office, further defined the glass ceiling as invisible but very effective in preventing women from climbing to the top of the career ladder. Pfister, Doll-Tepper, and Radtke (2004) indicated that "the glass ceiling could be one of the reasons why women do not aspire to leadership at all" (p. 28). What can be done to help women overcome this barrier? One strategy that has received a considerable amount of credit for helping women break gender-related barriers is mentoring (Bower, 2004; Bower, Hums, & Keedy, 2006; Strawbridge, 2000).

There is no universal definition for the term "mentoring," but for the purposes of this study it is defined as "the practice of mentoring to advise and guide another, providing wisdom and inspiration as a result of experience" (Miller & Noland, 2003, p. 84). Mentoring reflects a relationship between an experienced, productive supervisor and a less-experienced employee. The experienced supervisor takes the less-experienced employee and facilitates his or her personal development for the benefit of the individual as well as the organization (Kram, 1985). Furthermore, Kram (1985) outlined the important role of mentoring relationships in organizational settings by developing two categories: (1) career-related and (2) psychosocial-related functions. The career-related functions support the protege's advancement within the organization and include sponsorship, exposure and visibility, coaching, protection, and challenging assignments. These mentoring functions are possible because of the mentor's position, experience, and organizational influence in helping young employees to "learn the ropes" of organizational life, gain exposure, and obtain promotion. …

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