To see my monthly blog post for the Women in Coaching blog pertaining to the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport Fall Distinguished Lecture click here.
I wrote about three significant trends pertaining to females and the Olympics for Minnesota Public Radio. Namely I wrote 2012 has marked the 40th anniversary of title IX in the US, female Olympians outnumbers their male counterparts for the USOC, and women in predominately religiously conservative Muslim nations were allowed to compete for the first time in summer Olympic history. I also wrote about the lack of women in positions of power for the US Team (also see previous blog).
After I wrote that piece I’ve been thinking about other broken barriers, and in some cases have proven just how far girls and women in sport have yet to go. Other key occurrences include:
1. African American women winning gold in sports traditionally dominated by Whites–Serena Williams (tennis, becoming only the 2nd female to obtain the Golden Slam), Gabby Douglas (all-around gymnastics). However, both athletes competed in sports and trained in systems that are not under the jurisdiction of Title IX (i.e., private, non-school based). This is a key point because while Title IX as dramatically improved participation rates for females, girls and women of color have not benefited from this law to the same degree as their White peers.
2. On Friday, August 9, 2012, Shannon Eastin became the first female to referee an NFL game. This is key for many reasons–its provides proof females can be in other visible roles in football than cheering on the sidelines, it provides a role model for girls and young women to aspire to a career in refereeing at the highest level, and it provides evidence that women are capable of referring a sport that most don’t play (no one ever raises an eyebrow when men ump or coach softball!). Unfortunately due to enduring sexism and gender stereotypes about women in positions of power she will endure criticism that is not leveled at her male colleagues, and backlash in the blogosphere. However, her appearance is not without controversy due to the NFL ref picket line.
3. While US women have won 58% of the medals for Team USA (as of 8/10/12), female athletes in most all sports have been criticized and subject of derogatory remarks for not being feminine or attractive enough. There are a number a articles on this topic which details that “faces not feats” are predominately highlighted in Olympic coverage. I was encouraged by the fact some female athletes fought back and resisted those who tried to marginalize their amazing feats.
- What’s the right way to be a female Olympic athlete? (a parody which includes “do” be feminine, and “don’t” be fat or ugly)
- Beach Volleyball Photos Focus On Women’s Body Parts — Not Their Athletic Skills
- What’s Wrong with Media Coverage of Women Olympians?
The reason why this matters is that just as many current Olympians (e.g., Alex Morgan, Gabby Douglas, Missy Franklin) talked about how their aspirations for gold began as they watched 12, 8 or 4 years ago, today’s girls are doing the same. Girls need to see active, athletic female role models rather than be subject to commentary about how female athletes should look and conform to society’s notions of femininity and beauty. Athletes are beautiful…in all shapes, sizes, sport types, ages (equestrian Karen O’Connor is the oldest Olympian competing for the US at age 54; swimmer Katie Ledecky is the youngest at 15).
For some female athletes they self-promote by relying on looks, and for those who have them…can we blame them?. According to Jere Longman, a NYT writer, “Lolo Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign.” As Jones took 4th place in the 100m hurdles by a tenth of a second, I wondered if all the attention and hype distracted Jones’ attention and energy from optimal performance. What is even MORE interesting is that Longman’s critical column of Jones garnered considerable criticisms of its own (here, here, here, here).
…primarily from blogs that are rarely interested in covering women’s sport!
So is the lesson from “low blows on LoLo” that one should not be mean spirited and critical of the Olympic “It Girl”? (I’m reminded of my blog where I criticized the SI cover portrayal of 2010 Winter Olympic It Girl Lindsey Vonn). That female athletes should be left alone to market and promote themselves as they see fit? That it is OK if girls and young women internalize consistent messages of “it is more important what you look like than what you can do athletically” that can, according the to American Psychological Association, lead to a host mental and physical disorders?
If remaining gender barriers are to be broken, how female athletes are portrayed, portray themselves, and critiqued by the media must be examined and changed.
Athleticism and talent of ALL female athletes, not just the ones who meet society’s standards of femininity and attractiveness, (of all the hours of NBC coverage I did not see any of female weightlifters or boxers) should be sufficient for coverage.
And when they perform well and give it all they had in the tank, we should celebrate– not compare them to men, call them “manly” or other gendered slurs, subject them to sex testing, or wonder if performance enhancing drugs are involved (e.g., Ye Shiwen, Caster Semenya).
Given 2012 marks the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, this is ironic for a few reasons.
1. As Founder of Women Talk Sports Network, Jane Schonberger points out, media coverage of female athletes in the Olympics has lagged behind participation. If media coverage were to reflect and be in proportion to the % of female athletes, than ~50% of the coverage would given to women’s teams. Perhaps this year coverage will be equal, but based on previous data I am not overly optimistic.
2. While female athletes outnumber males, female head coaches of USA Olympic Teams are a minority. Based on the research of my summer interns (thanks Alyssa & Emma!) and the information available (some of which is unclear, unavailable or can’t be found), the USA Olympic Team has 9 female Head Coaches total (Tennis, T & F, Synchro Swim, Swimming, Soccer, Pairs Rowing, 4′s Rowing, and Table Tennis). All nine are head coaches of female athletes. Based on this data, less than 30% of the women’s teams and 0% of men’s teams are coached by women. If this data is incorrect please let us know.
Saturday, June 23 marked the 40th anniversary of the passing of Title IX. A great deal of print and broadcast media was dedicated to this landmark piece of federal civil right legislation, including a documentary aired on ESPN titled “A Sporting Chance.”
In the last year I have learned a great deal about Title IX, a law that is constantly under attack in what sport sociologists call “contested terrain.” One data trend in particular worries me.
Title IX’s most prominent “prong” (there are 3 prongs: proportionality, history of continued progress, interest of under represented sex), proportionality, specifies the percentage of female athletes should be in proportion to the percentage of females in the student body of the institution. Currently females comprise 57% of students on college campuses, but only ~43% of athletes are female. Thus, sport participation opportunities for females is disproportionate. In fact, male athletes outnumber females at both the high school and college levels (See graph on left).
One would assume 40 years after Title IX participation numbers would be equal, but they are not. In fact one trend to keep an eye on, is the fact in the last few years, more opportunities have been added for male athletes than for females (see stats on right). Therefore the likelihood gender equity will be achieved any time soon is low.
Why are more sport participation opportunities being added for males? To answer this look at the percentage of males in the student body…43%. Colleges desperately want to attract males to their campuses, especially small liberal arts schools, so the student body is approximately 50:50 male to female.
What is one way to attract and recruit males to campuses….offer sport programs! What is one way to attract a LOT of males to boost your student body numbers to 50:50…add for example, lacrosse (for some great data on LAX click here!). Lacrosse is popular, teams are large, both males and females play, and it is less expensive to run/add than football.
The Truth is in the Numbers
From 2007-2011, 42 men’s lacrosse teams were added across NCAA D-III, with an average squad size of ~35 (+1470 male athletes). Comparatively, from 2007-’11, 54 women’s LAX teams were added with an average squad size of 20 (+1080 female athletes). So when colleges want to attract males, but not be out of compliance with Title IX, they add BOTH a women’s and men’s lacrosse team, but have a smaller average squad size for the women. (Note: from 2007-’11 eleven NCAA D-III football teams have been added).
Based on the data, admission officers and those in the lacrosse community are ecstatic, while those who fight for gender equity at large in athletics may groan.
The result? The gap between the number of male and female athletes gets LARGER and Title IX compliance under proportionality is less likely.
This week marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Currently I’m out in Denver for the NCAA Women Coaches Academy (run by the Alliance of Women Coaches) and in the next room is the NCAA/NACWAA Institute for Administrative Advancement where in both rooms the current and future generation of coaches and athletic administrators are being empowered. Seeing this group of women is inspiring and motivates me to continue the work I do to help them in part to succeed and stay in sport careers. Unfortunately they need a lot of support to do so.
As I was getting ready this morning I caught part of the ESPN Outside the Lines piece on “Coaching Conundrum” as to why there is a scarcity of female coaches. The ESPN crew had been out in Atlanta filming at the Alliance of Women Coaches annual Huddle in last May. While the ESPN piece is great for raising awareness about the scarcity of female coaches, it only scratched the surface of this complex question. An espnW piece on “The Glass Wall” is a much more in depth treatment female coaches.
The barriers for female coaches reside at four levels.
1. Individual (perception of lack of competence or confidence, choose not to coach, perception of time commitment to fulfill role)
2. Interpersonal (family & domestic commitments, lack of support from administration, negative recruiting from colleagues)
3. Organizational (lack of opportunity for professional development, lack of family-friendly policies, limited opportunities for advancement, lack of female role models in positions of power)
4. Societal-Cultural. This is the level that rarely gets discussed, is the hardest to change, and has to do with stereotypes of women, gender and leadership. The traits of effective leadership we mostly highly value in US society align with a male/masculine leadership style. If women don’t adopt or conform to this style (firm, authoritarian, assertive, loud, in control, competitive) they are perceived to be incompetent and weak. If they do adopt this style, the are often labeled a bitch because she is not conforming to a stereotypical female leadership style (caring, quiet, nurturing, passive, collaborative). The key here is that the association with gender and leadership is constructed and arbitrary, but has a dramatic effect on the careers of female coaches. If those in positions of power are mostly men (and they are!) and they are not aware of their own uncritical acceptance of leadership beliefs, and largely believe that male coaches are more competent than females…this will result in most likely a male being hired into the position. The result?–The current structure of sport and male power does not get challenged and females remain marginalized and in the minority, and because men continue to dominant the sport landscape and occupy the most important positions, society at large continues to believe that men are inherently more competent to coach.
Effective leadership is not gendered. Being competent, knowledgeable, facilitating optimal performance, treating people with care and respect, being organized, communicating well, are not inherent to males or females.
Female coaches need a voice in the sport landscape that is dominated by men. Be part of the critical mass and join the Alliance of Women Coaches.
Look for a full length article I wrote with a graduate student on this topic coming out in July 2012 in the inaugural issue of Sports Coaching Review titled “Barriers and support for female coaches: An ecological model.”
Marking the 40 year anniversary of Title IX, a landmark piece of civil rights federal legislation, many organizations are holding conferences, raising awareness and educating the public on the importance, history and current issues pertaining to this important law. I’ve included some key Title IX resources below.
The espnW team, a site that connects female fans to the sports they love and follow, has created an entire microsite full a great content about Title IX that is well worth checking out, including a recent story by Peter Keating (@PKStatsBlog) titled “The silent enemy of men’s sports” which outlines Title IX is not responsible for the cutting men’s non-revenue sports–the real reason is men’s football. If you look at the statistics, the data is compelling and provides evidence which refutes the myth that Title IX “cuts men’s sports.” A law doesn’t cut sports, people do, and most of the decisions to cut sports have been made by male athletic directors.
Colleague, lawyer, and Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation Nancy Hogshead-Makar (@Hogshead3au) suggests people look at the data provided by Knight Commision’s “College Sports 101.” For those still not convinced, and wanting to argue that “football pays for all other sports” I would click here for a telling graph on profits and revenues of big time athletics programs. In 2011 of the 120 Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) schools only 22 were profitable and the other 98 had a median loss of $11.3 million. That is certainly enough money to fund a men’s “non-revenue” sport! In fact Nancy often educates others that “in FBS schools football and men’s basketball eat up 78% of the men’s athletics budget”–meaning all other men’s sports get to split the other 22%.
For those in the great state of MN, the June issue of the Minnesota Women’s Press is dedicated to Title IX including a short column I wrote about the status of women’s sports 40 years after Title IX, and an interview with colleague and Tucker Center Director Mary Jo Kane on pervasive “myths and stereotypes about Title IX.”. One of the myths she debunks that is mentioned above pertains to “Title IX is blamed for hurting men’s sports.” For those outside MN the entire issue is available online!
In November 2011, The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota, the first center of its kind, held a one day conference with gender scholars from across the globe, on important issues facing females in sport contexts including lack of females in positions of power, disproportionate coverage of female athletes in the sport media, and issues of in/exclusion. You can watch videos of the keynotes, see pictures, download posters on the Tucker Center website. In April 2012 the Tucker Center held their spring Distinguished Lecture series featuring a trio of Title IX champions and pioneers Judy Sweet, Deborah Brake and native Minnesotan Peg Brenden (who is also featured in the June issue of MN Women’s Press!). You can watch video the lecture here.
In May 2012 the newly formed Sport Health Activity Research and Policy (SHARP) Center for Women and Girls at the University of Michigan held a 2-day “Title IX at 40″ conference to celebrate and discuss key issues facing females in health, sport and physical activity. You can see videos of keynotes and conference highlights here. (note: SHARP is a partnership between the Women’s Sports Foundation and U-M’s School of Kinesiology and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.)
If you are a female fan of sport, a fan of women’s sport, or care that female athletes and women’s sports are portrayed as legitimate and athleticism is the primary focus, I need you to be a Sports Minister!
There is a proliferation of “Bikini Leagues.” Starting with the expansion of the Lingerie Football League (which I’ve critiqued numerous times) into Canada, the LFL is trying to expand globally to Australia where it is being met with resistance from the Australian Sports Minister Kate Lundy who stated “As Minister for Sport, I can’t abide a spectacle that degrades women and threatens to undermine the progress of women in sport in Australia. It offends me that the promoters are hiding behind the guise of LFL being a ‘sport’. Lingerie Football objectifies and exploits women by trading on their sexuality to make money pure and simple.I am particularly concerned that young women watching the LFL will form the unfortunate view they can only ever hope to be taken seriously or even noticed in sport if they get their kit off.”
This is precisely why the US needs a Sports Minister!! We don’t, therefore we ALL need to take responsibility to fight Bikini Leagues and the spread of activities branded as sport, that clearly are not.
I am very troubled by LFL expansion efforts as well as the commencement of a Lingerie Basketball League and a Bikini Hockey League.…especially when Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS)–a REAL league, suspended play for 2012. Clearly there is a market for the sexualization of females, but if women refuse to play in these “leagues” there will be no leagues and no product to sell. Women who play or are considering to play in Bikini Leagues (many of whom are legitimate athletes) need to take some individual and collective responsibility.
JUST SAY NO.
DO NOT PLAY.
Do not let yourself be objectified for entertainment under the guise of sport.
Are these leagues going to increase respect for and interest in women’s professional sport? Are these leagues going to garner you respect and legitimacy as an athlete or a person? Are Bikini Leagues good for the individual, women’s sport in general, or society? What messages do Bikini Leagues send young girls about their bodies and self worth? What messages to Bikini Leagues send young boys and males about objectifying and consuming the female body, and respecting females as legitimate athletes?
What can you do to fight Bikini Leagues!?
- Forward this blog to someone, re-post, or share on Facebook, Twitter or other social media
- Be your own Sport Minister
- Do not attend or watch Bikini Leagues, and dissuade others from doing so
- Educate others that Bikini Leagues are not sport leagues
- Do not buy products or support sponsors of Bikini Leagues
- Watch and support legitimate women’s sport leagues on TV or attend local pro, college or amateur games…like the Independent Women’s Football League, the Women’s Football Alliance, WNBA or tune into ESPN coverage of the NCAA Softball World Series.
- Read about (CLICK ON) and share stories from writers and organizations that promote legitimate female athletes and women’s leagues (your clicks matter!). Here are some places to go to promote female athletes
What other suggestions to you have so that we can all take responsibility in our own ways to fight Bikini Leagues.
Good coaching is good coaching, regardless of athlete gender.
Male and female athletes are much more similar than they are different. There is just as much variability within females and within males, than between males and females. Despite the popular Mars/Venus perspective that females and males are vastly and inherently different, psychological research has not proven this true (see APA keynote from Janet Hyde titled “The Gender Similarity Hypothesis”). Similarly, despite widespread opinions, anecdotes, quotes from famous coaches (i.e. Anson Dorrance), and popular press “coaching girls” books that are not evidence-based, research in coaching science and sport psychology does not support the idea that coaching males and females is different.
The only statistically significant difference, but has a very small effect size, is that female athletes prefer more democratic leadership styles from their coaches.
Here are some common stereotypes I hear about coaching girls: more emotional, take criticism personally, too sensitive, hold grudges, need to talk and socialize, value relationships more, less competitive, need a cohesive team, lack killer instinct, and are better listeners. I would argue, yes this is true for SOME girls, but it is also true for SOME boys.
For example, if a coach believes or uncritically accepts that boys are inherently more aggressive and competitive, the coach may have different expectations and ways of structuring practices, interacting, communicating, motivating and leading girls. Similarly, if coaches believe boys don’t value connections and friendships, this too erases boys’ need for feeling a sense of belongingness. Coaching based on opinions, beliefs and popular press coaching books of inherent difference is dangerous and can limit the experiences of athletes, regardless of gender.
Coaching science researchers have demonstrated that good coaching is good coaching.
NOTE: If you would like to read a more in depth critique of this topic, please consult: LaVoi, N.M., Becker, E., & Maxwell, H.D. (2007). “Coaching Girls”: A content analysis of best-selling popular press books. Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, 15(4), 8-20.
With March Madness and basketball on the minds of many, I thought I’d provide a “by the numbers” analysis of coaches of women’s basketball. In previous blogs I have outlined, in part, the many barriers female coaches face in entering and staying in coaching at all levels (to read click here and here). Two writers for espnW, Fagan and Cyphers, published an in depth story on this topic titled “The Glass Wall: Women continue to shatter stereotypes as athletes. So how come they can’t catch a break as coaches?” that is worth a read.
The 20111 WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve in an article by Fox Sport North, discussed her desire to see more female head coaches in the league. When the WNBA formed in 1997, seven of the eight head coaches were women. Today, the league boasts two all-female staffs, in Indiana and Los Angeles, and six of the 12 head coaches (50%) are women. Of the 33 total coaches, 21 are women, and there are no all-male staffs. The writer of this article makes an interesting point–successful female coaches in the WNBA have primarily been mentored by NBA experienced male coaches. Now female coaches like Reeve can provide visible role models and mentor other females who desire to coach at the professional level.
At the collegiate level some interesting patterns also arise. According to Acosta & Carpenter’s 2012 Women in Intercollegiate Sport Report, basketball is the sport most commonly offered on college campuses and 6 of 10 (60%) of women’s basketball teams are coached by females. This is interesting because only 42.9% of female college athletes in all sports are coached by a female. At the most elite level, the percentage of female head basketball coaches is even higher.
In the Women’s NCAA I basketball tournament, in the Elite 6 of 8 (75%) teams were coached by a female head coach. In the Final Four 3 of 4 (75%) teams were coached by a female head coach. In the championship game both teams (100%) will be coached by a female head coach-Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame, and Kim Mulkey of Baylor.
Is this proof that females are ultimately more successful coaching females when given the opportunity? Is this a sign of the times that the percentage of female head coaches in women’s sport is on the rise? Or is it just a unusual year that makes it seem like the glass ceiling/wall is cracking when it really hasn’t?
Regardless of how you may answer these questions, having McGraw and Mulkey coaching against each other in the NCAA Championship game provides visible role models for young girls and women who aspire to coach, communicates that females can be successful at the highest levels of women’s sport, and helps change gender stereotypes that females are not as competent as their male counterparts.
NOTE: Read a NYT article about pay disparity between head coaches of men’s and women’s basketball. It states “For Division I basketball, the median salary for coaches of a men’s team in 2010 was $329,300, nearly twice that of coaches for women’s teams, who had a median of $171,600. Over the past four years, the median pay of men’s head coaches increased by 40 percent compared with 28 percent for women’s coaches.” To read full story click here.