Scheduled for Poster Session: Research on Coaches, Athletes, Teachers, and Students, Thursday, April 2, 2009, 10:15 AM - 11:45 AM, Tampa Convention Center: Exhibit Hall RC Poster Sessions

Disparate Impact Discrimination Toward Women in High School Athletics

Warren A. Whisenant, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL


Athletic administrators and decision makers within interscholastic athletics are expected to embrace a code of ethics to guide their professional behavior. Research focused on the organizational structures and hiring activities within interscholastic athletics however, suggest systemic barriers exist which exclude women from serving in leadership roles. The purpose of this national study was to determine if two components of the hiring process, job announcements and corresponding job descriptions for interscholastic athletic administrator positions, contained a bias that could lead to disparate-impact discrimination against women.


The data used for this study was collected weekly from state websites used to post job announcements for interscholastic athletic administrators. Those sites were identified by either each state's NIAAA State Liaison or the Executive Director for each state's athletic director association. The researchers then contacted the human resource departments posting the job announcements by email and asked the department to supply a copy of the job description pertaining to the posted job announcement. Descriptive statistics and Chi-square analyses, with an alpha of .05 were used for all analyses.


With regards to a bias within the job specifications, the findings indicated that a sex bias did exist in many of the announcements (28%). In 21% of the announcements, the job announcement also called for the administrator to serve as the Head Football Coach (HFC). The sex of the hiring supervisor was recorded and coded in the data, which was analyzed to determine the correlation between the sex of the supervisor and the job responsibilities listed in either the job description or job announcement. Supervisors that were men, listed head football coach or coach of a boys' sport in 37% of the announcements, while women supervisors also listed head football coach or coach of a boys' sport in 25% of the postings. The final data analysis included the sex of the hiring supervisor and the sex of the person that was hired. Women supervisors hired a man as an administrator in 86% of the instances, while 90% of the men supervisors hired men as administrators. Conversely, women supervisors appointed women administrators in 14% of the cases, while men supervisors employed a woman as the administrator 10% of the time.


This study reaffirmed the assumption that the “glass ceiling” women have long endured continues to exist in interscholastic athletics. The “ceiling” appeared to be held in place through discriminate hiring practices and other organizational structures.

Keyword(s): high school issues, sport management, sport topics

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