Here’s the latest good news for women in sports:  

The highest-ever number of women–14,742–are now employed in athletics departments as administrators, head coaches, paid assistant coaches, head athletic trainers, and sports-information directors.

If you missed that uplifting figure in last week’s coverage in the Chronicle of Higher Education, it’s because it was buried at the end of an otherwise doom and gloom article on the state of female coaches and athletic administrators.  The picture that Libby Sander’s article (subscription required) paints is not a pretty one.  More men are coaches and athletic administrators than women.  So, while the absolute number of women in these areas are at an all-time high,  compared to men, women are lagging behind.  The implied message is that this is due to some sort of foul play.

These sorts of allegations are nothing new (I reported on a similar story in October) but a few things to be concerned about in this recent coverage:  

-The Chronicle‘s coverage ignores a very important question:  why?  That seems like a reasonable place to start when looking at these statistics.  Simply chalking any disparities up to some nefarious sexism just doesn’t fly.  Are we really to believe that there are no other explanations?  Perhaps there is a significantly larger pool of male applicants for these jobs, as men tend to watch sports and participate in sports in larger numbers than women do.  Perhaps more men and fewer women are attracted to the often grueling schedule and constant traveling associated with coaching. Or, maybe I’m wrong on those two points and other factors are at play — the point is that we should be discussing possible factors and not crying discrimination every time we observe a difference between two groups.

-Why are their no voices of skepticism in the story?  There is rich debate when it comes to the many issues surrounding Title IX and readers are robbed of an interesting intellectual debate when only one side is reported.


-Does any of this even matter?  Athletes consistently report that they don’t care whether their coach is male or female — they want the best coach possible.  That strikes me as a good attitude to take.  It seems a lot more productive to ask whether the best coaches are getting the open positions, rather than putting all of the focus onto gender.