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Creating Leadership Opportunities for Women in College Athletics

By March 8, 2017 No Comments

We’re currently experiencing a time in college athletics — and in our society — where we’re faced with many challenges when it comes to women’s equality, women in leadership and executive roles, gender and societal roles,  and expectations and norms. And while progress has obviously been made in the last 50+ years, there’s still much more to be done.

Why is this? In such a progressive and modern state that we live in, how is this even an issue that still needs to be addressed? These are questions I ponder often while I read the news and stumble upon statistics of women in leading roles in the corporate world and in college athletics. 

With today being International Women’s Day — a day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women — I thought there was no better topic to dive into.

In a recent conversation (podcast) with Women Leaders in College Sports’ CEO Patti Phillips, I asked her about the state of women leaders across the college sports industry. She shared some great insight on the subject and also shared that we’re making great strides, but that there are some very important steps we must take to help women move up the ranks on a larger scale — particularly in college athletics.

In college athletics, there are items in place to help grant women equal opportunities (Title IX) and also minimally, at the administration level (the Senior Women’s Administrator or SWA position). This article from  Forbes brings up a lot of interesting points on the subject and the panel insights are helpful for outlining what’s holding women back from making the progress necessary to be viewed on the same playing field as men in college athletics.  Additionally, studies like this and espnW report highlight many of the benefits women provide and the challenges women face. 

Diving further, how do we create more opportunities for women to lead in college sports?

In our discussion, Patti outlines many approaches. What is really comes down to is promoting the opportunities for women and creating awareness around the issue and just how valuable women can be as leaders in college athletics administration. Another key element is educating and preparing women for these competitive opportunities and building their confidence to go after them.

I believe that we have to create awareness early on by educating young women AND men. It’s not just the women that need to be made aware of the issues, challenges, and opportunities — but all individuals. The more awareness that is made around this, the more easily it can be addressed. 

We also need to educate about empathy and understanding. This is something that is taught when we discuss diversity with student-athletes and colleagues, but it’s also helpful to look at when we address women in leadership roles. Realizing that everyone is different and that there is strength in that, is a great way to make progress. A diverse leadership team is going to be one that gets ahead because it has differing perspectives and strengths.

While college athletics has taken steps to provide more opportunities for women in leadership roles, there is still more to be done. With organizations like Women Leaders in College Sports and others providing a voice, there’s no doubt that progress will be made and that we’ll see even greater results in the near future.