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The Curious Case of Women Coaches of Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Teams

- November 27, 2007

Most occupations are numerically dominated by one sex or the other, and (at least in the U.S.) the higher-prestige, more remunerative ones tend to be male-dominated. It’s relatively easy to think of occupations that were once dominated by men but over the years have become dominated by women, e.g., elementary school teachers. The prevailing interpretation ofsuch displacement of men by women is that when certain occupations become less desirable, they become more accessible to women. But try to think of an occupation that was formerly dominated by women in which men now reign numerically supreme. You can’t, can you?

My long-time research collaborator Susan Welch could, and she and I have just published a study of this exceptional case: women’s intercollegiate sports coaches (which, in practice, means women coaches of women’s teams). Interestingly (or at least we think so!), it turns out that in Division I schools (those with “big-time” athletics programs), women coaches are more frequently found in more prestigious, resource-richer institutions and those that devote more resources to women’s sports. This, then, appears to be an exception to the general tendency, which has been amply documented in the research literature on occupational sex segregation, for women to fare better in the competion for less desirable positions.

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