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Stick to hockey: Institutional discrimination in sports

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On institutional discrimination in sport.

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NCAA Womens Basketball: Women's Final Four-Mississippi State vs South Carolina Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

To close out Women’s History Month, my department hosted Dr. Ellen Staurowsky, professor of sport management at Drexel University. Her talk centred on the representation of women in NCAA coaching, or more accurately, the lack of women’s representation. This trend has been very well documented: as women’s numbers as NCAA athletes have risen, the number of women coaching those teams has declined precipitously (from almost all women’s team having women coaches to about 40%). There are a lot of reasons for this, like the old-fashioned sexist belief that women are less adept as athletes and by extension, as coaches. Another important reason to consider is the trend in virtually any career that sees the number of women decline as the prestige increases (like in coding), or the number of women increasing as the prestige decreases (such as school teachers).

It is also necessary to consider issues of race and sexuality. There are very few women coaches who are racial minorities (less than 11% of non-HBCU D1 colleges and universities have African American women as basketball coaches, for example), and countless coaches have spoken out against the homophobia that they have faced in their profession.

I called this post “Institutional Discrimination in Sport” because several of the articles this week highlight how sexism and other oppressions are not always perpetrated by misogynists who want to see women fail. This can certainly be the case at times, to which many of the articles will attest, but in a lot of cases it is more subtle. Due to unequal divisions of home labour, many women are disadvantaged when it comes to unconventional and demanding coaching and scouting schedules. Women can have difficulty finding mentors at any level of sports, whether it is administration or journalism. Men are often perceived to be better coaches, are better able to recruit talent, and have an easier time achieving success because of subtle biases. Women’s teams do not receive comparable resources.

Changing attitudes and beliefs about minorities is important, but so is changing institutional cultures.

Number of women coaching in college has plummeted in the Title IX era

Jere Longman, New York Times

“Auriemma said fewer women wanted to coach because they had far more career opportunities beyond teaching, and basketball, than they did when Title IX was enacted.

‘It’s quite simple,’ he said.

But that characterization would be vigorously disputed by a number of female coaches.

Maybe the U Conn coach should have talked to some women about this.

Imani Boyette is here to tell you about WNBA life

Imani Boyette, The Summitt

I love this first-person account of being a WNBA player. There are gems (well, infuriating gems) like this:

Did you know the WNBA has a dress code? There’s an array of rules about what we can and can’t wear. A set of guidelines to make sure we always look presentable and represent the league well.

Yeah, I didn’t know either. During my rookie year, I had no clue about this. And quite frankly, I looked kind of terrible on a normal basis. I didn’t really have a lot of normal, casual clothes. In college, we traveled in matching baggy burnt-orange sweatsuits. One day, my vet, Cappie Pondexter, pulled me aside and basically told me I need to look better, in the most inoffensive way possible. I appreciated her guidance and it gave me the push I needed to go shopping, being a rookie I was also quite frugal. The idea behind it all is that we’ll always look great if and when the media snaps a picture.

But, the gag is: there’s rarely any media.

Kara Lawson: Sacramento Kings Called Me Distraction, Kept Me Out Of Practice

Howard Megdal, The Summitt

You may have seen WNBA player Kara Lawson officiating March Madness games this week, but she also discussed a past experience that is really illustrative of how women are kept out of higher echelons of sports. In 2003 while working as a studio analyst for the Sacramento Kings, Lawson asked to sit in on the team’s practices so that she could cover the team better. She was repeatedly rebuffed, and eventually found out the reason: she would be too “distracting” to the players if they could see her during practice.

We discussed this last week with regards to VP Mike Pence’s policy to not dine alone with women who are not his wife. The backlash against this was centred around the ways in which this robs women of mentorship and deal-making opportunities that are available to me. What happened to Lawson is exactly like this-- because she was deemed to “distracting” to players, she was not given an opportunity that so many others have had that has helped to launch coaching careers.

Title Fight

Jessica Luther and Avital Norman Nathman, SB Nation

When Quinnipiac University tried to cut the women’s volleyball team to save money, they became embroiled in a Title IX controversy that was “solved” by creating a women’s rugby team. That team has battled for resources, a field, and publicity from the school. Great article but do not read the comments (evergreen).

There are a few ways to be in compliance with Title IX (and as the article states, most schools aren’t right now, and that isn’t likely to get better under secretary of education DeVos) and an important one is offering the athletic opportunities for women that are proportionate to their enrollment in the school. Because of this, when a women’s team is cut there is often going to be a Title IX challenge, and men’s teams are often cut to balance out the numbers. Women’s sports get blamed, instead of the football teams that take up a disproportionate number of slots for male athletes (please read this interview with Dr. Mary Jo Kane, the director of the University of Minnesota Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, where she discusses some of the myths about Title IX).

Has USA Hockey given former star Blake Bolden a fair shot?

Bob Hohler, Boston Globe

Taking a look at why Blake Bolden, who would be the first black player to compete for Team USA at the Olympics, has not yet been selected.

Going to the Ballpark Alone: A look inside Stacey May Fowles New Book

Finally, while this particular post by Fowles isn’t especially sociological, I am here for anything that she writes and I can’t wait to pick up her book, Baseball Life Advice: Loving the Game That Saved Me, when it goes on sale next week!

That’s what I came up with for this week, but feel free to post the articles you loved (or hated) in the comments. And please send me your writing or anything that is of interest to you on Twitter!