• Canberra United's two championships have been masterminded by female coaches (The Women's Game)Source: The Women's Game
While the US Title IX law has been beneficial for female athletes, it has had detrimental effect for female coaches
Ann Odong

18 Jul 2016 - 8:30 AM  UPDATED 18 Jul 2016 - 8:30 AM

In 1972 the momentous Title IX law was enacted in the United States of America and it changed the future for women in sport.  

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in any federally funded education program or activity.

The effect for female athletes in America has been overwhelmingly positive with women’s sports programs in high school and, in particular, college receiving significant funding boost in the past four decades.  

“The legislation was a tipping point for women’s equality in sports and in society,” said legendary tennis player and equal rights activist Billie Jean King.

“Not only did the law increase sports participation, it also shifted perceptions of what was socially and culturally acceptable for young women.”

Title IX has been widely cited as a key reason for the United States’ dominance in women’s sport globally.  

However, the effect has not been as positive for all women involved in sport as noted by King’s Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF).  

In a June 2016 report “Beyond X’s and O’s”, WSF’s research found that female coaches have been left behind in intercollegiate women’s sports.

"Men have more leverage because they have opportunities for coaching in both men's and women's sports."

Where once, due to low remuneration and opportunities, college women’s sports teams were predominantly coached women, now the majority are coached by men.  

The effect of the increased funding for women’s sports have made them a more viable option and subsequently female coaches have been sidelined.  

WSF’s nation wide online survey, the largest to date, saw 2,219 current and 326 former male and female coaches respond and the results were stark reading.

It found that there was systemic gender bias when it came to the development of female coaches and ultimately recruitment.  

Some of the findings included:

  • 65% of current coaches felt men had an easier time obtaining top-level coaching jobs
  • 75% said men had an easier time negotiating salary increases
  • 54% believed men are more likely to be promoted, to secure a multiyear contract upon hiring (52%), and to be rewarded with salary increases for successful performance (53%).
  • 33% of female coaches responded they could receive potential retaliation if they spoke about the gender bias they have experienced .
  • More than 40% of female coaches said they were “discriminated against because of their gender,” compared to 28% of their male colleagues.
  • 48% of the female coaches and just over a quarter of the male coaches (27%) in the study reported “being paid less for doing the same job as other coaches.”

While the results are America-centric, there would be naive to think there would be much difference in the Australian market.  Just have a look at Australia's top women's sport leagues; Netball, W-League, WNBL and Women's Big Bash League.  


# of Teams

Female head coach

ANZ Championships (netball)



W-League (football)



WNBL (basketball)



Women’s BBL (cricket)



*Only Australian teams counted

In just that small experiment only netball, a female-centric sport, comes out at more than a 50% return.  Not to mention Women's AFL which has announced a number of head coaches with a less than 50% return so far.  

In the W-League, which has the lowest ratio, female coaches have performed at an almost equal level with 4 out the 5 premiership teams (best record over the regular season) led by a female coach.   

The argument in sport is always about getting the "best person" for the job.  However the WSF report found that there were systemic obstacles that meant women didn't receive the same opportunities as their male counterparts and therefore had less opportunities to develop.  

So what is the answer?  

Women's Sport Foundation has made a number of recommendations in relation to creating gender-neutral coaches' employment and compensation Systems.  To that end WSF has developed a resource with practical information and guides

They also look at addressing the developmental pathway to ensure there are more women at the top end with the requisite experience and qualifications to form a diverse selection pool.  

This is already happening in some Australian sports.  The FFA have introduced a female coaches mentoring system and all W-League teams are required to have a female assistant coach.  While it is not enough, it is a good starting place.  

Ultimately, in the United States or in Australia, it is not an issue that will change overnight considering it has taken decades to take root. 

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