_Sidelines Bias

A new study helps illuminate why fewer women are coaching college sport teams than in years past.

_Ellen J. Staurowsky

Staurowsky is a professor in the Center for Sport Management.

As the number of women coaching in college athletics dwindles, a study commissioned by the Women’s Sports Foundation and co-authored by a Drexel sport management professor highlights some of the professional challenges female coaches face.

“Beyond X’s & O’s: Gender Bias and Coaches of Women’s College Sports” is one of the first studies to measure the issue of systemic gender bias in the coaching of women’s college sports. In a survey of more than 2,500 college coaches, Drexel’s Center for Sport Management Professor Ellen Staurowsky and her co-authors found that there is, in fact, a systemic gender bias directed at female coaches of women’s teams; it is not sporadic or limited to a few institutions. As a result, women face limitations in pay and professional advancement in the coaching workplace.


In 1972, more than 90 percent of the coaches of women’s teams were female. Today, only 43 percent are female

And it’s a trend showing no signs of improvement.

There are more women competing and working in college sports than ever before, but women are still underrepresented in significant leadership roles. In 1972, more than 90 percent of the coaches of women’s teams were female. Today, only 43 percent are (typically only two in 10 head coaches are women).

According to the researchers’ findings, men are given more professional advantages than women: The vast majority of female coaches (80 percent) agree that it’s easier for men to get top-level jobs, negotiate salary increases (91 percent), be promoted (70 percent) and secure multi-year contracts (67 percent).

Meanwhile, advocating for fairness has consequences, the study found. Many female coaches expressed fear of unfair treatment, retaliation and loss of their jobs if they express Title IX concerns to athletic department leaders or university administrators.

“The findings are consistent with earlier studies I’ve done that strongly suggest cultures within college sport workplaces suppress discussions regarding gender equity and Title IX compliance and are threatening to the women working in those environments,” Staurowsky says. “Given the low percentages of women who serve as head coaches in college athletic departments, this offers some context to consider in terms of their hiring, promotion and retention.”