Leadership development and effectiveness among female athletic directors in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)

May 2023
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Women’s participation in sport has increased significantly, however, women remain significantly underrepresented in leadership positions at all levels (Burton, 2015). While Title IX has been a monumental force for the increase of female sport participation (Coakley, 2009), the authority of women remains marginalized in sport (Bopp & Walker, 2011). Furthermore, current reports by Lapchick (2021) indicate that women now hold only 36.3% of upper management positions in sport. Furthermore, studies pertaining to the interaction between leader gender and leadership style in sport are also limited (Wells, Peachey, 2014; Peachey, Burton, 2011; Dirik, 2020). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate leadership style in sport as it relates to gender, years in leadership positions, and effectiveness via a developmental perspective. Qualitative data was collected through individual, in-depth semi-structured interviews involving female athletic directors in intercollegiate sport. The study sample featured eight female athletic directors currently working in the NCAA divisions I, II, and III. The open-ended interview questions focused on the women’s career paths, perceptions of leadership within collegiate sport settings, and changes in leadership style over time. These questions were developed from the literature review yet altered to meet the objectives of the study. The term effectiveness was defined as a high-level of achievement within the leadership role. Achievement for this study indicates positive results as they refer to relationships and career

goal fulfillment within the role of athletic director. Through the tedious process of coding and data reduction and analysis, ten dominant themes were established. The themes for RQ1 included (a) leadership style variance (b) the importance of collaboration. The themes for RQ2 included (a) underrepresentation (b) gender-based stereotypes (c) work-life applications. The themes for R3 included: (a) career viability (b) leadership support. The findings of this research are valuable in the furthering of career options and opportunities for females seeking to pursue athletic director roles within the NCAA. The findings also suggest areas for improvement within the organizational environment of leadership within intercollegiate sport.

Health Sciences, Education