Exploring the representation of women in leadership roles within intercollegiate sport in Puerto Rico

Velez, Luisa
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The representation of women as athletes is an achievement to be acknowledged as it has experienced incredible growth (Acosta & Carpenter, 2006). The same cannot be said of the representation women in leadership positions in sport. Female underrepresentation in leadership positions in sport is not a new issue nor is it one specific to the United States (Cui, 2007; Hoeber, 2007; West, Green, Brackenridge, & Woodwart, 2001). The continued growth of male head coaches for female sports has lessened the, possibilities for females to advance into these roles (Drago, Hennighausen, Rogers, Vescio, & Stauffer, 2005).

The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the representation of women in leadership roles within intercollegiate sport in Puerto Rico. Semi-structured interviews with female head coaches (n =6) and their male athletic directors (n = 4) of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletic departments in Puerto Rico were conducted.

The researcher used a phenomenological approach to capture the participant's point of view regarding the underrepresentation of females in leadership positions in intercollegiate sport in Puerto Rico. Results of this study brought to light barriers to increasing the representation of women in leadership positions and strategies that facilitate the path for women in attaining a leadership position in sport. The identified barriers were: (a) administrative structure of the sport organization, (b) women as a barrier, (c) cultural roles and expectations, and (d) the nature of a career in sport.

Even though participants faced different constraints, factors that allowed them to pursue their goals were: (a) experience, (b) communication/family support, (c) self-determination, and (d) sport as a family affair. It seemed important to participants in the current study obtaining a leadership position in sport to be as involved as possible in the sport field inside and outside the NCAA/university setting. There is an undeniable gender gap in leadership regarding intercollegiate sport in Puerto Rico. Culture and traditional practices play a significant role in perpetuating gender discrepancy. There are signs of a possible paradigm shift in different areas of the Puerto Rican culture regarding gender and positions of leadership in sport.

Social sciences, Education, Discrimination, Gender, Intercollegiate sport, Leadership, Puerto Rico, Sport management, Underrepresentation, Women leaders