Lack of Female Presence in Sports Organizations

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Background Information
  • Purpose
  • Research Questions
  • Research Methods
  • Additional Concepts


Sports organizations are currently at a standstill in their development across their professional and respectable platforms. The successes of sport organizations and business lie within the diversification of their upper management. Specifically, it lies with women. It is time to make a real change. Women are emerging and have already emerged as strong, intelligent figures of modern day society and present opportunities for sport organizations to increase in value while operating and maintaining their efficacy throughout day to day transactions. Upper level management positions in sports organizations have predominantly been male and to this day, this notion remains the same; however, it is time for organizations to develop and create governing policies to allow room for increasing female participation in the upper level structures of sports organizations.

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Research into the increase of women in sport is crucial to the development of sport organizations as they gear towards the inclusion of gender equal policies that offer the opportunity for women to apply themselves into sport and acquire key management positions in sport. It is essential for women to apply themselves to key level management positions in sport and generally for the betterment of the organizations, for with diversification, sports organizations will gain insight, feelings, attitudes, knowledge, analysis, and understanding from a variety of minds. Women generally provide organizations with ideas and knowledge that men may not and with that, organizations could benefit a great deal from the inclusion of women throughout their organization. The goal of this study is to uncover the limitations for women to achieve managerial positions in major sports organizations while developing and managing gender equitable policies throughout sports organizations and governing bodies.

Background Information

Sports organizations have predominantly been under the leadership of men rather than women. The world’s major sporting organizations and governing bodies - the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA (Federation International de Football Association) - have never been under the leadership of a woman nor has it ever been thought of. Further scholars and researchers have noted that 7% of women have only ever been in upper level management positions throughout sport seen from 2012 to current years (Adriaanse, 2016).

In addition to, scholars have uncovered the presence of women in high level management positions in sport throughout the NHL (National Hockey League), NFL (National Football League), MLB (Major League Baseball) and NBA (National Basketball Association) and it’s shockingly only 2%. (Macleod, 2018). From a personal standpoint, as a 3rd year student in the Sports Management Undergraduate program at Brock University, a general awareness has been calculated, and the presence of women compared to men in classes, workshops, events has been lackluster. It has been unchanged for long periods of time, but it is time for women to be appreciated and welcomed into the world of sport on and more importantly off the field.


The purpose of this research is to identify and analyze barriers among sports organizations and governing bodies that prevent women from achieving and sustaining full-time key management positions while improving policies and diversification guidelines so that they are more accessible and compatible with women.

Research Questions

The questions that will be researched, identified, and analyzed throughout this qualitative research study are as follows:

  1. How can we improve upper management so that it is more accessible and compatible with women?
  2. What are the barriers women face in becoming involved with upper management?
  3. How do sport organizations and governing bodies policies allow/disallow female presence in upper management?

Research Methods

The methods of our research will allow us to understand and gather insight from women and men in sports organizations as volunteers, interns, or part-time employees and their experiences and thoughts in regard to our research questions. The respective methods we will be using consist of in-depth interviewing and participant observation (ethnography). Our samples will differ across each respective research method. For in-depth interviewing, 10 students from Brock University, 6 females, 4 males will be taken through an in-depth interviewing process where their reactions, attitudes and behaviours will be analyzed through our research questions to help understand the communal understanding as to the lack of female presence in sport. As well as, with the grant of $250,000 from the CPPKTI, we will travel to the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific headquarters and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) to conduct in-depth interviewing to gather perspectives, attitudes and behaviours from interns, volunteers, part-time and full-time employees while engaging in participant observation for 3 weeks to understand the culture of the organizations and the challenges women often face or experience in day-to-day work.

Additional Concepts

In order to understand and analyze the information effectively, further information and knowledge should be obtained from a differentiated list of concepts. An understanding of the different types of participant observation that are available to qualitative research would allow the research to benefit fully by applying the best method for the purpose and goals of our research.

As well as, an understanding of governing policies and gender equal policies across not only sports organizations but organizations and governing bodies across Canada allows us to grasp a detailed perspective into what organizations already have in place and how certain limitations and barriers may differ across a variety of organizations that prevent women from being accessible with upper level management positions.

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