Not good sports

Massey University’s Professor Sarah Leberman, who co-authored the report with Dr Sally Shaw from the University of Otago, says she was seeing good female students being overlooked, while being called on to give references for male students who she didn’t think were as strong as their female classmates. 

“I wanted to understand why these women were not ending up in leadership roles and how we could prepare them better for the challenges they face once they leave the university.”

Leberman says her research also found that women need to improve their relationship building and negotiation skills if they are to compete on an equal footing with men.

“While not all sporting organisations have paid positions, we found that there were only 10 female chief executives out of 90 national sports organisations, so there are still very few women in leadership roles,” she says.

Leberman, who is member of the New Zealand Olympic Committee’s Women in Sport Group, says historically sports management has been dominated by men. The hours, which involve lot of weekend and evening work, can be very tricky for anyone looking after family. 

“The sports industry is also lower-paid than other industries so women can get hit by double whammy of lower pay in an already low-paid sector.”

The research showed that female chief executives of sports organisations rated self-awareness and relationship building as the most important skills for achieving success. But content, rather than soft skill development, is still the focus of tertiary sports management courses. 

“Women need to compensate for the fact that sports management is still male-dominated sector by being even better at making connections and presenting themselves in an effective way,” Leberman says.

Leberman established the Achieving Career Excellence (ACE) programme at Massey University three years ago to address some of these issues. 

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