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"It's a long hard road to the top" : the career paths and leadership experiences of women in Canadian sport administration Martel, Josée


The under-representation of women in the higher echelons of sporting organizations has been examined since the 1970's. It is well documented, with the Olympic Movement being the target of much of this criticism (Bischoff and Rintala, 1994, 1996, 1997; Cameron 1996, Hovden, 2000a, 2000b; ISLP and IOC , 2004; McKay , 1997; Pfister et. al, 2005). Research shows a paucity of female leaders at all levels of sporting organizations. This study explored the career paths and leadership experiences of women who have accessed high level leadership positions in Canadian high performance sporting organizations. Semi-structured, open ended interviews were conducted with ten of these women to elicit their personal narratives, and information concerning their career experiences in sport administration was obtained. These stories provide important insights into our current understandings of female experiences in sport administration and the factors that continue to contribute to the under-representation of women in high level sporting leadership. The research questions guiding the study were: (1) Who are the women that have reached high level leadership positions in Canadian sporting organizations? (2) How have they achieved these positions? (3) What have been the circumstances and extent of their leadership involvement? (4) What factors still hinder women's full involvement and progression in sport administration? Accordingly, I will address four specific areas of investigation. First, quantitative data will be presented to demonstrate the lower levels of women participating at the Olympic Games. Second, the study will trace the career paths of women who have accessed high level sport management positions and highlights women's entry and progression in sport administration. Third , the women's level of leadership involvement will be assessed including the personal skills that led to their success and their accomplishments in these executive roles. Fourth, barriers hindering women's opportunities to advance into high level leadership positions will be examined. The implications of these findings will then be discussed and recommendations will be made for policy makers and current sporting leaders who can influence change within their sporting organizations. It is hoped that this study can contribute to a better understanding of female under-representation in high level sporting leadership.

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