Applying Career Construction Theory to Female National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Conference Commissioners

by Elizabeth A. Taylor (Temple University), Jessica L. Siegele (UNC-Pembroke), Allison B. Smith (University of New Mexico), and Robin Hardin (University of Tennessee)

Member institutions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) began sponsoring sports for women in the 1970s soon after the passage of Title IX, and the NCAA then began offering championships for women in the early 1980s. Both of these changes led to the dissolution of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) which was providing governance for women’s collegiate athletics. Women’s athletics were eventually fully integrated into the governance structure of the NCAA which led to increased funding, participation, and scholarship opportunities for women. All positive developments. A negative aspect of women’s athletics coming under the purview of the NCAA though was the reduction in leadership and coaching opportunities for women.

Women hold fewer than 25% of the athletic director positions in the NCAA, and 11% of athletic departments do not have a woman in an administrative position in any capacity. Women also only hold approximately 25% of the head coaching positions in the NCAA. There has been a plethora of research examining career mobility issues for women in sport and in collegiate athletics. Common themes that have emerged from this line inquiry are gender normalcy, homologous reproduction, organizational barriers, lack of mentors, and issues associated with work-life balance.

One place where women have seen more success securing senior level positions is that as conference commissioners. Eleven of the 32 NCAA Division I conference commissioners were women at the time of this study with one women serving as commissioner of two conferences. A much higher percentage than other leadership positions. The purpose of the project was to examine the experiences of women who are NCAA Division I conference commissioners and how they were able to ascend to these positions of leadership using career construction theory (CCT) as a theoretical framework. The study consisted of semi-structured interviews with 8 of the women who held the position at the time of study. Career construction theory was utilized for its ability to examine how and why specific events or experiences as well as education and training influence an individual’s career choices.

Findings:

Women may experience increased success in leadership positions at conference offices, compared with on-campus athletic departments, due to limited direct interaction with football and donors.

Findings revealed participants constantly negotiate time spent on personal and professional obligations, and relationships created in the workplace turned into organic mentorship relationships. The experiences and challenges of negotiating the space between work and family are not specific to collegiate athletics, but may be more prevalent in an industry with high time demands, a nontraditional work schedule, and pressure to perform at a high level.
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Women from the study indicated they engaged in very personal, professional relationships with other female conference commissioners around the country. They would often extend work trips to create opportunities for female-to-female bonding. These types of experiences are common practice for male employees, however, this is one of the first times a population of female employees within the sport industry has described these behaviors and events. Participants felt that there were limited amounts of sexism in the workplace, but all discussed experiencing instances of sexism, indicating a culture of gender normalcy. Many of the participants discussed these experiences while appearing to “laugh them off,” however sexism was still prevalent. These women may have learned the sexism and discrimination is part of the job and to be successful they must learn to accept it.

For Industry:

  1. Model Good Behavior: Practically speaking, more senior level employees can model better work-life balance to show entry-level employees it is acceptable to take time for family or outside interests. It is important this behavior is modeled otherwise entry-level and newly-hired employees will believe they must be in the office for extended periods of time and weekends in order to be successful.
  2. Build Strong Networks: Additionally, athletic departments can utilize this information to help women build strong networks within the field of collegiate athletics. Encouraging women to engage networking that is both personal and professional may be beneficial for women in the industry.
  3. Build Culture Against Sexism: Finally, creating a culture that is not tolerant of sexist behavior is critical to increase the presence of women within the collegiate athletics industry. Although more senior level female employees may “put up” with sexist behavior because they have become accustomed to it that does not mean it is accepted behavior that should be tolerated.

 

To read the original article from Journal of Sport Management, click here.

Executive Committee Fall Meeting Recap

By Lisa Kihl, NASSM President

The Fall 2018 EC meetings were held in October at the site for the NASSM 2019 Conference in New Orleans. The day and half meetings involved a robust agenda that included reports given related to strategic planning working groups, new initiatives, operating code revisions and additions, new communication initiatives, budget, journals, and NASSM awards. Below are some of the highlights that I would like to share with the membership.

  1. Strategic working groups: Three working groups (archivist, governance and conference) presented reports. Based on the archivist group’s report, we will form a 2-3 person committee for a 3-year period to liaise with the archivists at Bowling Green State University (where the NASSM archives are located). The group would also assist with managing the archives, collecting content, and maintaining quality. The EC also received initial reports from the governance and conference working groups. We are now considering different governance frameworks that could guide potential restructuring. The EC discussed the information presented and offered feedback on strengths and suitability of the proposed structures and how to move forward. We look forward to receiving their proposals at the May meetings. I would like to thank the following NASSM members for their time and service toward NASSM’s strategic plan:

Archivist: Chair, Laurence Chalip (George Mason University), Jillian McNiff (Flagler College), Norm O’Reilly (University of Guelph, and Scott Tainsky (Wayne State University)

Governance: Chair, Meg Hancock (Louisville University), Spencer Harris (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs), Milena Parent (University of Ottawa), and Darlene A. Kluka (Dean Emeritus and consultant)

Conference: Chair, Janet Howes (St Joseph University), Janet Howes (St Joseph University), Shannon Kerwin (Brock University), Brian Menaker (Texas A&M University-Kingsville), Nicole Melton (University Massachusetts-Amherst), Bri Newland (New York University), and Kristy Spence (Brock University)

  1. New initiatives: The EC approved a NASSM Senior Research Fellow Award which will be implemented in 2020. Look for more details to be released about the Award’s purpose and criteria after the May EC meetings.
  2. Journals: The Journal of Sport Management (JSM) and Sport Management Education Journal (SMEJ) display strong growth. JSM continues to have record submissions and a rising impact factor. Rob Hardin is the new SMEJ editor and announced a Special Issue on study abroad programs that will be published in 2020. The EC encourages the membership to continue to support our journals.
  3. Budget: In many respects due to the success of the 2018 conference in Haifax, we are in a sound financial position, which will allow NASSM to continue to support grant funding.
  4. Communications: The EC approved a new communications strategy. NASSM will transition into managing its own listserv using Google groups. Look for an invitation this spring for individuals to join the list. In addition, all social media information will be streamlined. The communications committee will add two new members to assist with the transition and management of NASSM owned and operated communications. Look for a call this spring for volunteers to serve on this committee.
  5. NASSM awards: The various awards committees presented their nominee recommendations for vetting and approval. Stay tuned for an announcement about award winners which will be presented during the 2019 conference in New Orleans.

I want to THANK the members of the Executive Council and the standing committees for your time and dedication in serving NASSM. We could not exist and/or meet the needs of the membership without your commitment to serving NASSM.

I look forward to seeing everyone at the 2019 Conference in New Orleans.