Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Sports Education Leadership


Sports Education Leadership

Advisor 1

Nancy Lough, Committee Chair

First Committee Member

Monica Lounsbery

Second Committee Member

Jerry Hughes

Graduate Faculty Representative

Elizabeth Baldizan

Number of Pages



The purpose of this study was to investigate the underrepresentation of women in interscholastic sport leadership positions by analyzing perceptions of state association administrators and athletic directors of the function, if any, that role congruity theory plays in the underrepresentation women. Previous research has examined potential causes for this underrepresentation but no previous study had examined this phenomenon from a prejudice toward women in a leadership role perspective. Data were collected through indepth, semi-structured interviews involving nine women leaders in interscholastic athletics. The criteria for participation placed them into one of three categories: (1) participants who were currently working as state association athletic administrators as either an executive director or associate director; (2) participants who were currently working as a high school athletic director in addition to a leadership role in their state athletic directors association; (3) participants who were working in interscholastic athletic administration at the national level.

Using role congruity theory as a conceptual framework, the current study sought to give voice to a few select women who have broken the glass ceiling in the hegemonic masculine field of sport. The interview questions focused on the participants' career path, perceptions of the current representation of women in interscholastic athletics, experiences inherent to role congruity, and their perceptions of the function of role congruity theory in the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in interscholastic sport. The data collected from the interviews were analyzed and five themes emerged: (1) formative career experiences; (2) perceived barriers for advancement; (3) perceptions of role congruity; (4) experiences associated with role congruity; and (5) strategies to overcome prejudice associated with role congruity.

All nine of the women interviewed perceived representation of women in interscholastic athletics as a problem that exists at the leadership position as well as other positions in interscholastic sport. The participants described barriers including work-life conflict, self efficacy, and effects of symbolic interactionism that they perceived as factors contributing to the current state of underrepresentation. Eight of the nine participants interviewed believed role congruity plays a part in the underrepresentation of women in interscholastic athletic administration. Based on the lived experiences of the participants the degree of impact varied. The results suggest despite the many advances that have taken place for women, there are still many limitations, based on role congruity theory, that exist in interscholastic sport leadership. Mentoring, networking, and avoiding professional limitations were consistent strategies the participants advised for women to progress into leadership positions. Future research is recommended to continue to study women in interscholastic leadership positions and develop an understanding of what influences women's decision making women pursuing leadership positions, as well as barriers that are impeding them.


Athletics; Leadership; Interscholastic sports; Role incongruity; Underrepresentation; Women


Higher Education Administration

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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