Career Opportunities in Sport: Women on the Mark

By Delpy, Lisa A. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, September 1998 | Go to article overview

Career Opportunities in Sport: Women on the Mark


Delpy, Lisa A., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


For years, research (Acosta & Carpenter, 1988, 1992, 1996; Parkhouse, 1990; Holmen & Parkhouse, 1981) has indicated that professional career opportunities for women to play, coach, manage, and report sports are limited. Although barriers and stereotypes continue to exist, the increased participation of women in sport as well as in the workplace has heightened public attention to the abilities of women to perform on and off the playing field. In addition, Gary Cavalli, an American Basketball League (ABL) founder states, "There has been an evolution of the acceptance of women as role models in our society" (Thurow, 1997, p. A8). This heightened awareness and confidence level has opened the doors to greater professional career opportunities for women.

The passing of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and the precedent-setting legal cases that have followed are largely responsible for the increased opportunities for women in sport as well as in the workplace. As the number of women who participate in sport increases, so too does the pool of employment opportunities for women in the sport industry, from coaching and management to sporting good sales and manufacturing. Greater athletic participation also reduces the common hiring barriers related to lack of on-the-field experience and first-hand knowledge of competition. However, in the words of Billie Jean King, "[When Title IX passed] and we supported a 1975 to 1978 three-year grace period...we never envisioned a future where it would take 25 years to move halfway to the goal of equal opportunity" (Women's Sports Foundation [WSF], 1997, June, p. 2). According to the Women's Sports Foundation Gender Equity Report Card published in 1997, the majority of higher-learning institutions are content with only "average" performance when it comes to providing female student-athletes with the same athletic and educational resources as their male peers.

To further depict the status of women in sport in terms of participation, scholarship allocation, employment, salary, and career advancement, a number of statistics are provided below.

Participation

The number of females participating at both the high school and collegiate level has most definitely increased since the passing of Title IX in 1972 and continues to grow. In 1971, 1 in 27 girls participated in high school sports; by 1997 that figure was 1 in 3 (WSF, 1997, September). A dramatic difference. Similarly, of all National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletes in 1995-96, 37 percent were females compared to only 15 percent in 1971 (WSF, 1997, June).

Scholarship Allocation

Unfortunately, accurate figures as to the allocation of funds to men's and women's sport programs were not systematically collected until 1993, when Congress passed the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act. This act requires every college and university to report its spending, participation rates, and sports opportunities for men and women. based on the 1995-96 figures, however, male athletes received 63 percent of the total scholarship funds allocated to collegiate athletes (WSF, 1997, June).

Employment

Professional Sports. The number of women entering traditionally male sport-employment positions has greatly increased, yet according to Barbano (1997) it appears that white males between the ages of 30 and 45 continue to dominate the industry. Female involvement is rare at the higher levels of management; it is confined to director-level positions and two job titles in particular: director of promotions (58.8% female) and director of marketing (29.9% female). Of the 30 National Football League (NFL) teams, for example, 23 do not have a single woman at the vice president level or above.

The greatest opportunity for women in sport appears to be at the league level, where women compose 33 percent of all employees (Barbano, 1997). The National Basketball Association (NBA) has the most equitable representation of male and female employees of all the professional leagues - nearly a 50:50 ratio. …

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