RESEARCH: Levelling the Playing Field for Women Coaches in Football

Infograph depicting the research findings.

A Team of Researchers from around the Globe have spent the last few months gathering data and looking deep into the landscape of female football coaches.

The researchers include:

Dr Donna De Haan – Utrecht School of Governance, Utrecht University (Netherlands)

Dr Leanne Norman – Carnegie School of Sport, Leeds Beckett University (UK)

Dr Nicole LaVoi – Tucker Centre for Research on Women & Girls in Sport, University of Minnesota (U.S.A.)

Dr Annelies Knoppers – Utrecht School of Governance, Utrecht University (Netherlands)

Background of Research

Women coaches form a minority globally in almost all sports and football is no exception. This situation applies to women coaching women as well as women coaching men. Moreover, this minority position tends to increase in higher levels of competition, where unequal representation of women in coaching is found to be worst (LaVoi & Dutove, 2012).

The importance of having women role models and representation in crucial positions in sports organisations is unmistakable: self-perceptions, valuing of abilities and potential, coach well-being, organisational performance and success, career aspirations and challenging stereotypes depend on it.

Same-sex role models provide and inspire insights and advice as to how to navigate the various challenges a woman will encounter when pursuing a career in sports where she tends to be in the minority.

More tangibly and urgently, women coaches themselves experience poorer mental and physical health effects as well as negative career implications as a consequence of their minority status.

Alienation, feeling highly visible and scrutinised, a pressure to over-perform to gain credibility and conform to organizational norms, as well as consistent gender discrimination in the form of wage inequalities, limited opportunities and even sexual harassment, all are routine, common issues experienced by women coaches.

Purpose of the Research

  •  To obtain insight into the strategies women coaches use to navigate gender issues in coaching top level football and to illuminate the experiences of women coaches within the broader cultural and organisational context of football in order to understand what works to increase the number of women coaches.
  • To stimulate dialogue and further understanding about the experiences of women coaches within the occupational landscape of football and how these experiences may connect to other sports.
  • To create a possible agenda for change for the governance of football that improves the experiences of women coaches and thus ultimately, their players.

To read the full Executive Summary of the Research, you can download it here:


If you would like to watch the recording of the online presentation of the research, please click here: