What about women coaches? An examination of barriers and facilitators that affect progression in leadership roles


The underrepresentation of women coaches across sport and findings within the literature suggests that knowledge regarding coaching privileges men and perpetuates a highly gendered system (Reade et al., 2009). Underrepresentation of women in coaching can often be attributed to external, social, and structural barriers, such as unequal assumptions of competence, hiring from the principle of similarity, homophobia, microaggressions, and a lack of role models (LaVoi et al., 2019; Norman & Simpson, 2022). With this in mind, the purpose of the current study was to highlight the experiences of women coaches by exploring the facilitators and barriers that affected their progression towards important leadership roles within the sport system. Using a retrospective interview procedure in tandem with Côté and colleagues' (2020) Personal Assets Framework, a spectrum of 13 engaged and 7 disengaged model women coaches were identified and asked to reflect upon their unique leadership journeys. Data were collected following a two-phased interview approach. Thematic analysis indicated that intrinsic motivations of growth facilitated career progressions as a coach, supportive mentors or champions in sport, and a passion for the sport. Additionally, the coaches discussed many barriers such as doubt from male colleagues, cost of travel, the unconscious bias of organizations and colleagues, and being disregarded for positions and opinions.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC Grant # 435-2014-0038).