Updated: Jun 7, 2019
Why Women Coaches Matter
The statistics for girls and women in sport are overwhelming. There is not one sport where girls and women do not play, excel at or even achieve record breaking performances at. However, the most recent national surveys indicate that female coaches only account for 19% of all coaches.
Let’s face it, Women’s sports are here to stay and will undoubtedly continue to grow and maybe even surpass their male counterparts.
Having said that, here’s some stats and information that I found interesting and wanted to share:
“The most recent national survey (published in 2008) reported that females outnumber males in six of the 10 most popular sports— swimming, soccer, volleyball, alpine skiing, cycling, and tennis. In soccer, the #1 children’s sport and the only sport to show an increase in participation from the previous survey in 1998, girls’ participation had become identical to that for boys; in ice hockey, girls were quickly closing the gap, increasing their participation three-fold since 1998. The story is similar at the highest levels of performance. Despite fewer events in which to compete, Canadian women have earned Olympic berths in roughly the same numbers as men for two decades and brought home roughly the same number of medals. At the 2012 Olympics in London, Canadian women won nine medals, as did the men. Canada’s only gold medal was won by Rosie MacLennan of Toronto on the trampoline.
Another Study conducted in 2011, by the Centre for Sport Policy Studies at the University of Toronto found that while there are almost as many teams in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) competition for women as there are for men, only 19% of the head coaching jobs are held by women. It's not much better in other positions of leadership where only 17% of the athletic director positions in Canadian universities are held by women. And even worst, at the highest levels of competition, female coaches are still the exception”.
So Why is this?
Many female coaches will tell you they feel “invisible” to their male counterparts. They are often time treated as the “assistant coach” rather than the real consideration they actually deserve. There is a perception out there that female coaches can’t possibly have earned the right to be as good as their male counterpart and that they are somewhat deficient in their qualifications.
The lack of visible female leaders and mentors is probably one of the biggest deterrents to aspiring female coaches. Let’s face it, in a male dominated coaching industry where women are overlooked again and again, it’s easy to be dismissed and made to feel inferior and less-than.
Barriers that Female Coaches face:
- male control of the sport
- the lack of role models
- employers’ unwillingness to hire
- lack of recruiting and mentoring programs
- job insecurity
- low salaries
- gender-based violence and sexual harassment
- work-life balance
- lack of networking, group practices, and job-sharing
- perception that girls and women want male coaches because they are considered “better”, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
What needs to change:
Did you know that “One hundred percent of male athletes have had a male Coaching role model during their athletic careers?” Young women likewise needand deserve more same.
Same sex role models positively influence self-perceptions amongst girls. Women Coaches challenge stereotypes about gender and leadership and offer diverse perspectives, insight and advice to their athletes. Having gender diversity in role models is important because it challenges outdated gender stereotypes about women in leadership. Additionally, if women are not visible in leadership positions it can lead to less favorable outcomes for girls and women. Their abilities and self-perceptions can be devalued as we have seen when speaking with other female coaches.
In a day and age where we struggle for barrier-free access to facilities, the right to play in a hijab, gender self-determination, gender bases violence, sexual harassment/solicitation and even racism, female coaches should be made a priority. Female-Friendly environments can and have shown to increase and enhance female participation. More female coaches in the industry make sports more acceptable and safer to many more girls and women
When women are ‘out of sight’, they are also ‘out of mind’, their needs don’t get prioritized. On the flipside, when there are enough women decision-makers, women’s issues get prioritized.
What Women Coaches can do for other Female Coaches:
Female Coaches can provide support and advice to colleagues about navigating what has traditionally been a male dominated workplace. With more female coaches, the sport could better cope with the high rate of disordered eating and body image issues, which tend to be more common on women’s teams and with female athletes.
Developing that sense of relatedness and connection with female colleagues working as Coaches or in a sport related capacity is both beneficial and critical to the quality of their experience, especially when coupled with the opportunity to receive feedback from other Coaches.
The ‘network’ is just as relevant and useful for women as it is for men, it can help them in their career and women Coaches need to see and interact other women Coaches for friendship, networking, support, career advice and mentorship.
“By increasing the number of women Coaches, we can change perceptions, give equitable opportunities and positively influence the lives of young women. We are poised to change the landscape not just for current Coaches, but also for the next generation of aspiring female Coaches.” ~ Nicole LaVoi Ph.D., a pivotal force in the women’s coaching movement says in her book, Women in Sports Coaching.
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