Why a lack of female representation exists in sports business leadership

There is no question that leadership roles in the sports industry are dominated by males. Team owners, commissioners, presidents, and CEOs in sports-related fields are almost exclusively held by men. Die hard sports fans and casual fans alike would be hard pressed to name at least five women possessing a leadership role in the sports industry.

Could a woman gain the notoriety, prominence, and power of a Roger Goodell? Certainly, however there just simply isn’t enough female presence in leadership positions. In fact, fewer than five percent of Fortune 500 chief executives are women. Forget sports, women across the business field are not being promoted or considered to fill leadership roles.

What is the cause and contributing factors to this dilemma? Women are entering the sports industry with entry level and mid-level roles with no problem, and there are more opportunities for women in this industry than ever before.

Research suggests that women tend to start families and have children during their early 30s, while new presidents and CEOs typically transcend into their roles during their mid to late 30s. This would indicate that women who step away from their positions will have more catching up to do in terms of reentering the work force and attaining higher level positions.

Another factor is that most high-level sports executives begin their career working in sales. However, most women enter the sports industry working in marketing, media, and service related roles. Essentially, this means that women will still be required to gain sales experience in order to move up in the organization. For most women, this means a longer path to a leadership position.

Women are held back even more because they are less likely to negotiate for raises and salaries than males. Women are said to have “soft” aspects of leadership which include: honesty, fairness, and mentoring. Men typically excel in negotiation and risk taking, which are skills that tend to have more impact on a company’s bottom line. These traits alone are what often lead to companies hesitating to promote women into leadership positions.

When women take on a more masculine role in the office, it can be a tricky situation because women are perceived less favorably with this role and are often deemed bossy. Women who possess a more feminine leadership approach can come across too nice and can be taken advantage of.

Whether justified or not, companies are discriminating against female candidates for their sex and the stereotypical tendencies associated with being a female in and out off of the office. This gives women a greater onus to understand the trends in gender bias and plan their careers strategically to avoid being overlooked by organizations.

women in sports

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