Breaking Up the Old Boys Club by Elevating Women Coaches

By Banwell, Jenessa; Ph. D. Candidate et al. | The Canadian Press, March 7, 2019 | Go to article overview

Breaking Up the Old Boys Club by Elevating Women Coaches


Banwell, Jenessa, Ph. D. Candidate, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical, Toronto, University of, The Canadian Press


Breaking up the Old Boys club by elevating women coaches

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: Jenessa Banwell, Ph.D. Candidate, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto

The federal government has a goal of achieving gender equity across all levels of sport by 2035. Minister of Sport Kirsty Duncan announced the development of a Working Group on Gender Equity in Sport.

In the group are experts, leaders and advocates for girls and women in sport and in coaching -- Olympians Hayley Wickenheiser and Adam van Koeverden and former Canadian women's soccer team head coach John Herdman are just a few of the high-profile members.

Currently, only 16 per cent of head coaches in Canadian universities and 16 per cent of Canadian national team head coaches are women.

In Ontario, several coaching bodies and networks partnered with the province to launch Changing the Game - Changing the Conversation to recruit and support women coaches.

It's time for leaders in athletic communities to not only celebrate women in coaching, but perhaps also to ask: what can I do to open the door for more women coaches? Then do it.

Why the low numbers?

An examination of the research, and my own experience as a former university coach and current community club coach, suggests there are multiple challenges that make it difficult for women to pursue coaching and to advance in coaching.

The Old Boys club presented by many sport organizations makes it challenging for young female coaches trying to enter coaching, as well as for those looking to advance through coaching ranks.

The vast majority of coaches, and those in leadership positions in sport, are men. Studies have shown that people have a tendency to hire from a position of similarity.

Women coaches may also face expectations about managing domestic labour and caregiving at home; the amount of time expected of women in those spheres can make the non-traditional work schedules associated with coaching challenging. Coaching often requires late nights and long weekends devoted to training, competition and travel.

Issues of harassment, low salary, stereotyping and being the token woman in a sport organization are also well-documented barriers, but women coaches are not the only ones who face these challenges.

Women in various other professional sectors -- business, medicine, law, engineering and higher education -- have reported facing similar barriers in their careers.

However, the percentage of women entering into and advancing in these sectors has increased over the years, while the percentage of women in coaching is decreasing.

Sponsorship makes a difference

My preliminary doctoral research shows that leaders in non-sport fields such as business and medicine believe sponsorship is responsible for improving the landscape of women in their fields. …

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