Occupational Sex Segregation in a Youth Soccer Organization: Females in Positions of Power

By LaVoi, Nicole M. | Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Occupational Sex Segregation in a Youth Soccer Organization: Females in Positions of Power


LaVoi, Nicole M., Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal


Abstract

Research pertaining to female coaches at the professional, intercollegiate, and interscholastic levels exists, hut attention to females in positions of power in youth sport is limited. Given youth sport is an important social institution that affects millions of children and their families, it provides a rich opportunity for creating social change and challenging stereotypical beliefs pertaining to gender and leadership. This study uses the theoretical framework of occupational sex-segregation--specifically tokenism and marginalization (Kanter, 1977a, 1977b)--to examine the representation of females in positions of power (N = 5,683; Head Coaches, Assistant Coaches, Team Managers) within one Midwestern youth soccer association. Based on the data, female coaches are considered "tokens " within all boys' teams and at the highest competitive level of girls' teams, and are marginalized and underrepresented in all positions of power at almost all age groups and competitive levels. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

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Youth sport is an important social institution in the United States (Coakley, 2009). While a talented few play and coach collegiate and professional sports, millions of children play, and an equal number of adults volunteer for and coach youth sports (Hedstrom & Gould, 2004). The adults who coach, manage, and administer youth sports have the potential to profoundly influence the performance and psychosocial development of young athletes (Wiese-Bjorntal 6c LaVoi, 2007). Youth sport also offers a rich--but often lost--opportunity for creating social change and challenging the stereotypical beliefs of children and their families pertaining to gender, power, and leadership.

Acosta and Carpenter (2008) have documented the underrepresentation of females in positions of power within intercollegiate athletics over the past 30 years, while others have focused on the interscholastic (Kane & Stangl, 1991) or Olympic (Kilty, 2006) levels. However, research regarding females in positions of power in youth sport is limited (LaVoi & Becker, 2007; Messner, 2009; Messner & Bozada-Deas, 2009). This study uses the theoretical framework of occupational sex-segregation--specifically tokenism and marginalization (Kanter, 1977a, 1977b)--to examine the representation of females in positions of power within youth soccer.

Occupational Sex Segregation

Researchers have documented that all levels of sport are still dominated by males (for a review, see Hums, Bower, & Grappendorf, 2007). Connell (2006) describes situations or contexts in which men are predominately in positions of power as a "gender regime." As outlined by Kanter (1977b), occupational sex-segregation can be examined in two ways: tokenism and marginalization.

Tokenism

Tokenism is measured by the proportion of males to females within a position from balanced (50:50), tilted (65:35), skewed (85:15), and uniform (100:0) gender representations (Kanter, 1977b). When an organization is skewed, those in the less represented group ([less than or equal to] 15%) are considered "tokens" (e.g., female Head Coaches of men's intercollegiate teams) and are subjected to scrutiny and pressure to over-perform in order to gain credibility and conform to organizational norms in a highly visible manner (Kanter, 1977b).

Marginalization

Marginalization occurs when a group of people are denied access to, not allowed to participate in, or have limited access to some part of society, or are not granted opportunities for development (Allison, 2000). In sport contexts marginalization occurs when females occupy less desirable positions such as "Team Mom" versus Head Coach in youth sport (Messner, 2009), or coach less prestigious interscholastic boys' sports such as golf instead of football (Kane & Stangl, 1991), compared to males within the same organization (Kanter, 1977b). …

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