Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Dr. Jim Weese


A number of researchers have investigated the barriers that women often face in attempting to reach the senior leadership levels in sport management organizations (Acosta & Carpenter, 2014; Burton, Grappendorf & Henderson, 2011; Forsyth, Jones, Duval, & Bambridge, 2019; Kane & LaVoi, 2018; LaVoi & Dutove, 2012). This research extended the work of Hancock, Darvin, and Walker (2018) and focused on aspiring sport leaders at a different stage in their careers, specifically when they were in the senior years of their undergraduate programs. The researcher used the Career Pathways Survey instrument (P. Smith, Crittenden, & Caputi, 2012) to produce interval data from men and women undergraduate sport management students enrolled in one of nine Canadian universities offering a sport management program. The survey gauges the respondents’ perceptions of the barriers that women may face in order to advance in the sport industry. Prior to the onset of the data collection procedures, the students were provided with a context slide that highlighted the men and women currently occupying President and Vice-President positions in sport management, presented in proportionate ratios. The data were analysed across four themes, namely: resilience, denial, acceptance, and resignation. Once the data were collected and analyzed, a focus group meeting was held with sport management professors from the nine universities to assess their reaction to the results and discuss corresponding strategies to ensure that their soon to be graduates understand the benefits of equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion. The results allowed the researcher to conclude that men and women do not have different career expectations for senior leadership, but they do differ with regards to barriers women may face to reach this level. Women felt more strongly than men that a glass ceiling exists for women as they progress in the field. Women also felt more strongly that women do not accept management positions. The two groups did agree that women are often overlooked for promotions due to social and organizational barriers and that women are resilient in their pursuit for senior leadership. Finally, the professors that teach these sport management students agreed that they needed to continue to heighten awareness and sensitivities in their students on the topics of equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion. They believed that they could do this in their classes, meetings, and mentorship sessions.

Summary for Lay Audience

This study was conducted in two parts. Part A researched the perceptions that undergraduate sport management students have of the barriers that women face to advance in the sport industry. It was found that men and women are equally aspiring to senior leadership roles in the sport industry. As well as, men and women have different perceptions of the barriers that make up the glass ceiling but they both agreed equally that women overcome barriers to gain these positions. Part B turned to these students’ professors and asked them how they teach barriers in their classrooms and how these barriers could be taught better in the future. Professors felt as though equity, equality, diversity, and inclusion were key topics that should be taught in their courses, mentorship sessions, and meetings. This field is significant because there are not many women in senior leadership roles in the sport industry, in Canada. A senior leadership role can be defined as a president or vice president position. Research has been conducted that states having women in these positions promotes overall organizational function. However, equal opportunities still are not seen for women compared to men at these senior leadership levels. There are few women who do achieve these positions and research has been conducted where these women say they faced barriers to advance. These barriers can be things like, gender discrimination, access and treatment discrimination, stereotypes, juggling multiple responsibilities, and being discounted for things like promotions. Conducting research that will aid in a cultural change to debunk and break down these barriers is meaningful. Gender equity at the senior leadership level is necessary due to the fact that both men and women deserve to be in these positions equally and ultimately organizations will benefit. The value behind this research is increasing gender equity, ultimately for all and making the sport industry more powerful and successful as a result.