Female Student-Athletes Intentions to Pursue Careers in College Athletics Leadership: The Impact of Gender Socialization

Date of Completion

January 2010


Business Administration, Sports Management|Women's Studies|Gender Studies|Education, Higher




Title IX has been quite successful at increasing sport participation rates for girls and women. However, that participation rate has not translated into high percentages of women employed in college athletics leadership. More girls and women are participating in sports than ever before, but the percentage of women head coaches is nearly at an all time low. Numbers of female athletic directors is also low (19%) and has dropped since last year (Acosta and Carpenter, 2010). Past research reveals several factors contributing to the low numbers of women employed in athletics: gender role conflicts, lack of mentoring relationships, work-life conflict, and masculine nature of the work environment. However, these factors have chiefly been identified through research with women already employed in athletics. ^ The purpose of this study was to find out more about how female student-athletes perceive athletic careers for women. Additionally, the aim was to learn about their career plans, what factors go into their decisions related to career aspirations, and how they perceive male dominated careers. With the assumption that female athletes make up the most qualified pool of women for college athletics positions, ultimately the study seeks to uncover reasons why many female athletes choose to not pursue careers in college athletics. ^ Through a combination of phenomenology and narrative analysis, this study utilizes a theoretical framework based on social role theory, discursive formation, and poststructural feminism. Participants were 13 junior and senior female student athletes from a large Division I university in the northeast. Data collection consisted of 3 focus groups and 5 individual interviews with athletes from nine different teams. Thematic analysis was performed using an a priori hierarchical coding framework developed from theories underpinning the study, while also allowing for emergent themes to arise from the data. Results show that gender socialization, pressure to conform to traditional gender roles, and perceptions of work-family conflict greatly affects the female athletes' attitudes about sport and especially about sport careers. ^