"I Don't Feel That Women Are Capable of Coaching a Men's Team": Impact of Hegemonic Masculinity on Collegiate Coaching Perceptions

By Menaker, Brian; Walker, Nefertiti A. | Journal of Contemporary Athletics, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

"I Don't Feel That Women Are Capable of Coaching a Men's Team": Impact of Hegemonic Masculinity on Collegiate Coaching Perceptions


Menaker, Brian, Walker, Nefertiti A., Journal of Contemporary Athletics


Workplace discrimination in managerial and leadership roles is commonplace in early 21st Century United States. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 2008 data, the underrepresentation is manifested by the figures that women make up 29 % of Executive/Senior Level Officials and Managers and about 38 % of First/Mid Level Officials and Managers in private sector companies (EEOC, 2009). The figures are as sobering in collegiate athletics leadership, as the coaching profession mirrors this inadequate representation of female leaders. Women represent 21% of the total head coaches in intercollegiate sports and 19 % of athletic directors, a figure that trails the aforementioned corporate workforce records for comparable positions. In addition, approximately 43 % of women's teams are coached by women head coaches, while 57 % of women's teams are headed by male coaches (Acosta and Carpenter, 2010). Men serve as head coaches for women's team but women coaching men's teams is almost a nonexistent occurrence. This data displays the power dynamic that exists in athletic organizations which mirrors the culture of male dominance in most work organizations.

The lack of women coaches has been attributed, in part, to cultural perceptions that men are more suited to lead and therefore are more qualified to lead as coaches. Beliefs about gender roles, male hegemony in sport organizations, and hegemonic masculinity inform these social views about the gender appropriateness for sport coaches. Gender roles show that women have experienced less opportunity and unequal treatment in the workplace, especially in sport organizations stemming from the previously mentioned social views (Cunningham, Fink, and Kenix, 2008). There are negative biases and perceptions about leadership abilities of women (Eagly and Karau, 2002). Conversely, men are perceived as leaders and it is part of manhood to coach, regardless of the sex of the players. It is accepted by society that men have a birthright to authority. Therefore, asserting their power in positions of leadership and occupying the majority of coaching positions is the norm (Whisenant, Pedersen, and Obenour, 2002).

Previous literature focusing on women coaching men's sports has found that women rarely filled coaching positions for male sports in both high school and college, as a result of homologous reproduction (Kane and Stangí, 1991; Staurowsky, 1990). Greenhill, Auld and Cuskelly (2009) recognized that coaching attributes, environment, and networking affect women's ability to develop coaching careers. Women have difficulty overcoming the organizational cultures and human resource decisions made by male leaders, and therefore have trouble breaking into leadership roles themselves. Although homologous reproduction remains an adequate explanation for gender inequities, these systemic barriers may also be explained by hegemonic analyses.

Extensions of Marxist theories of hegemony have been used to show the gender inequities that exist in the workplace. Cultural hegemony was identified by the works of Gramsci (1971), and serves as a primary explanation for why men are primarily in these leadership roles, and retain social power. The concept of hegemony focuses on class domination, one group enjoys power over the secondary group. Ruling class hegemonic masculinity asserts the belief that women are non-factors as decision makers in important matters and "can be dealt with by jocular patronage in little matters" (Donaldson, 1993, p. 654). The aim of this research is to investigate the influence of hegemonic masculinity on societal perceptions of women coaching in men's college basketball. In the subsequent sections we will analyze cultural perceptions that exist in men's college basketball that hinder women's opportunities to coach men's sports.

Gender Roles in the Workplace

Historically, women have faced unfair and unequal treatment in the workplace (Cleveland, Stockdale, and Murphy, 2000; Cunningham, Fink, and Kenix, 2008). …

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