School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

News

25 Nov 2021

Raising awareness and dismantling biases of women in coaching

A series of evidence-based infographics designed to help tackle gender imbalance within high performance coaching, has received support from sports organisations across the UK.

Professor Sophia Jowett has worked with UK Sport to create the series to promote and encourage a general understanding of gender-related challenges women coaches face within their workplace, while they work with colleagues, athletes, parents.

They will also form part of a series of initiatives UK Sport is leading with the overarching mission to increase the number of female coaches, especially within the context of high performance, Olympic and Paralympic, sports from 10% to 25% in Paris 2024.

The infographics have been supported by all Home Nations - Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport NI, Sport Wales, as well as UK Coaching and The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMPSA).

Professor Jowett said: 

"The reception of the infographics has been positively overwhelming – it suggests to me that ideas will be exchanged, mutual understanding will be improved, necessary skills will be developed.

"There is a great desire, willingness, support, enthusiasm and energy to create positive change across the sport landscape in the UK. The more we can work together, the faster the change will happen.

"I am confident that the momentum and desire to bring about the necessary societal change within the coaching community at all levels of participation and performance will follow. Thus, I hope the infographics assist to remind the importance of integrating a gender perspective into policies, programmes, projects, and services."

Why do stereotypical biases still exist?

Professor Jowett believes that the stubbornness of gender stereotypes in sport coaching and elsewhere, reside in how men and women are viewed in societiy.

She explained:

"We are brought up and socialised in ways that lead us to think that men are agentic (assertive, strong, decisive, tough) and women are communal (empathic, caring, considerate, nurturing). While these stereotypes are unfounded, they result in making us believe that men make better coaches as they are seen to better fit the societal view of what a prototypical coach leader should be.

"Women coaches therefore have to behave counter-stereotypically to fit the coach leader prototype society has created."

"By displaying both agentic (authoritative/taking charge) and communal (participative/taking care) characteristics and behaviours, women coaches as leaders may find it easier to earn the respect of their colleagues and athletes.

"In fact, it serves male and female coaches well to consider these seemingly “opposing” characteristics in their coaching and use them appropriately when situations call for them.

It is important to remember that we cannot expect female coaches to solve a problem that is a much bigger societal issue. Changing the systems is certainly key."

Download the infographics here: