There are a number of factors that may contribute to the underrepresentation of women as coaches in professional sports. One possible factor is the relatively small number of women who have played sports at the highest levels, which may make it more difficult for them to break into coaching positions. Additionally, there may be biases and prejudices that make it harder for women to be hired as coaches, and there may be a lack of female role models in coaching positions that makes it harder for women to envision themselves in these roles. Finally, there may be structural barriers, such as a lack of support or resources for women seeking to become coaches, that make it more difficult for them to succeed in these positions.
For example, a study of coaching in the National Football League (NFL) in the United States found that just 7% of head coaches and approximately 20% of assistant coaches were women in 2019. Similarly, a study of coaching in the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the United States found that just 4% of head coaches and approximately 22% of assistant coaches were women in 2019. In contrast, a study of coaching in English professional football (soccer) found that women made up approximately 30% of all coaches at the professional level in 2019
It is possible that being a woman coach in Olympic sports could be more difficult due to the same factors that can make it challenging for women to coach in professional sports more generally. These may include a lack of female role models in coaching positions, biases and prejudices that make it harder for women to be hired or promoted, and structural barriers such as a lack of support or resources. Additionally, the high stakes and intense pressure of the Olympic games may make it more difficult for women to succeed as coaches in this setting. However, it is important to note that the experience of being a woman coach can vary greatly depending on the specific sport, team, and individual circumstances, and there are many successful women coaches in Olympic sports.
There are a number of things that professional sports teams can do to hire and retain more female coaches. Here are a few strategies that may be effective:
- Create a supportive culture: Teams can work to create a culture that is inclusive and supportive of female coaches by, for example, providing access to resources and opportunities for professional development.
- Expand the pool of candidates: Teams can actively seek out and recruit female coaches by partnering with organizations that support the development of female coaches, Women Lead Sports and other Foundations that actively look for proactive solutions.
- Address any biases or prejudices: Teams can work to identify and address any biases or prejudices that may be hindering the hiring or retention of female coaches, and can develop policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusivity.
- Provide mentorship and more importantly sponsorship: Teams can provide mentorship and sponsorship to female coaches to help them develop the skills and networks necessary to succeed in their roles.
- Celebrate and recognize the achievements of female coaches: Teams can work to raise the visibility of female coaches by celebrating and recognizing their achievements, which can help to create more role models for aspiring female coaches.