More women earning roles in athletic administration

February 15, 2017 / Athletic Administration
From Ohio University

There is a misconception that girls are not interested in sports. The truth is, nearly half of the fans in the major leagues are women and the number of female athletes continues to grow. Their voices need to be heard as well.

Men currently dominate administrative roles in sports but women are gaining momentum as leaders in the field. Intrepid pioneers are changing perceptions and setting the stage for even greater female representation at the top of athletic programs. This infographic, created by Ohio University’s Online Masters in Athletic Administration program, takes a closer look.

Women in non-athletic roles

There is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to sports-related jobs. As of 2013, only 28 of 713 certified sports agents in the NFL are women. It’s 6 out of 400 in Major League Baseball and 6 of 375 in the National Basketball Association. The figures in sports journalism are low as well but they are getting better. Female editors rose from 6.3% in 2010 to almost 10% in 2014. Columnists increased from 9.9% to 12.4% in the same period while reporters increased from 10.6% to 12.7%. ESPN has 48 female anchors, analysts, reports and contributors.

Female athletic administrations

Intercollegiate athletic programs are getting increased female presence. The ADs in NCAA Division I rose from 8.6% in the 2012-2013 season to 9.6% in the 2013-2014 season. As for Division II, the jump was from 17% to 28.9%. In Division III, ADs went from 17.7% to 29.4% in a span of one year. Of the 969 NCAA D1 head coaches for 2014-15, 40.2% are women with field hockey, lacrosse, equestrian, golf and softball leading the way. Men coach over 43% of women’s teams while women coach only 3% of men’s teams.

Successful female coaches, ADs 

Inspiring women have risen to the top of the pyramid and showed everyone that it can be done. Mary Alice Hill, for example, has been a coach at Colorado State University since 1972. She became the first female AD is the country for San Diego State University a decade later. She is instrumental in obtaining the first NCAA scholarships for female athletes. Pat Summit is a legendary basketball coach who has won 8 NCAA championships and 32 SEC titles. Becky Hammon made headlines in 2014 when she was hired by the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach.

Challenges women face in athletic administration

The lack of experience, role models, and precedents are hurting women’s chances in getting accepted to high level jobs. Observers say that most search committees hire men simply out of habit. There is a deeply rooted perception that women are not up to the task of leading the way given their lack of experience in sports. Only a small number of women attempt to apply for coaching jobs in men’s teams due to the existing norms. It is no wonder that there are few that bubble up to the top to serve as role models. It is a classic case of the old chicken-and-egg problem.

How to increase female representation

The glaring inequality can be addressed by looking at what successful have done and replicating them. For instance, 55% of current D1 athletic directors were former student athletes. Many have played different roles in the department after graduation, which allowed them to learn the inner workings. A good percentage took a major in sports management. Others worked in various areas of the sports industry including legal services and sponsorship rights. Some have honed their business intelligence in a different industry before shifting to sports. Finally, veterans are encouraging young women to seek networking and mentoring opportunities to promote personal and career growth.


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