University of Minnesota

2012 Fall Newsletter

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Mary Jo KaneWelcome back to another school year. We had an especially busy summer as we honored and celebrated the 40th anniversary of Title IX. For example, the work of the Tucker Center was featured in a special issue on Title IX in the Minnesota Women’s Press. We continue to conduct groundbreaking research including the latest efforts from Associate Director Nicole M. LaVoi and Research Assistant Julia Dutove’s paper on the barriers facing female coaches along with the support structures that help them overcome those barriers. You will find a sampling of presentations and publications generated by Tucker Center scholars in the Kudos & Announcementscolumn. And speaking of Title IX, read about the progress of female athletes and the challenges that remain in giving them equal access to resources and opportunities both in our Did You Know column and our Feature Story<, “By the Numbers: Some Progress—but not Parity—for Females in Sport.” The Tucker Center continues to attract the best and brightest students and scholars from around the world. In our Staff Updates column, you can learn about our summer interns, Emma Leyden and Alyssa Ruhland, who made significant contributions to our research and educational agendas. We are also looking forward to working with Professor Sally Shaw, an international visiting scholar from the University of Otago in New Zealand. In Professor Shaw’s Guest Column< you will see she has published extensively on issues related to gender in the field of sport management, and she will be a part of our Fall Distinguished Lecture Series. She will be joined by another internationally recognized scholar in this area of study—Professor Janet Fink, from U Mass–Amherst. Both will offer their considerable expertise exploring the scarcity of women in key leadership positions and sport governance in the United States and around the globe. We are frequently asked to share our knowledge and expertise, to take part in national conversations, and to lead educational workshops on cutting-edge issues related to maintaining and advancing the involvement of girls and women in sport and physical activity. To keep up-to-date on all the work we do to make a difference in the lives of girls and women, follow us on Twitter (@TuckerCenter), friend us on Facebook, and visit our Web page at And Happy Fall!

—Mary Jo Kane, Director

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For two weeks this summer many enjoyed watching the 2012 London Olympics. The Olympics provide an opportunity to celebrate and see amazing and exciting athletic achievements of female athletes from around the globe. Many historic accomplishments pertaining to participation and fan attendance were noteworthy during these Games.

The 2012 Olympic Games was the first in which women competed in every sport on the Olympic program. For the first time, women boxers were able to demonstrate their talent. And for the first time every country had a female Olympian representative. Of all participating Olympians, 44% were female—the highest in the history of the Games. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Brunei sent female athletes for the first time. Thirty-four countries sent more women than men to the Games, including the United States. Not only did U.S. female Olympians outnumber their male counterparts, they outperformed them as well, bringing home 63% of the gold medals. Regarding fan attendance, another record was set. The gold medal women's soccer game between the USA and Japan brought 80,000 fans to Wembley Stadium, making it the biggest crowd for women's soccer in Olympic history.

Despite this amazing set of "firsts," many females before, during, and after the Games faced sexism and discrimination—via their own Olympic organizing committees, national governing bodies, the media, or fans. Before the Games, debates raged over appropriate uniforms for women's badminton and boxing, as both federations suggested women competitors should be required to wear skirts. The rationale for requiring skirts given by the Amateur International Boxing Association was, "to help viewers distinguish between male and female boxers." The policy was not implemented in either sport. Two women's teams—Japanese soccer and Australian basketball—flew coach while their male counterparts flew first class. Incidentally, in both cases, the women's teams out-medaled the men's. Female athletes were ridiculed and criticized in both traditional and digital media for not being conventionally attractive or using their sex appeal to attract sponsorships. It seemed that "faces not feats" were highlighted in many cases, reproducing existing media portrayal patterns of female athletes. Some female athletes fought their detractors and stuck up for themselves and each other using various social media avenues. For example, Serena Williams (gold medalist in tennis singles and doubles), stated that the focus and criticism about All-Around gymnastics gold medalist Gabby Douglas's hair was "ridiculous" and praised her as a role model.

After the conclusion of the Games some media dubbed "The Women's Games," International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge stated that strategies to improve gender equity in sport "will take time, [with] at least a decade to see major improvements." Rogge's comments angered advocates of women's sport because many feel equity issues would occur commensurately faster if the IOC made new—and enforced existing—policies to help advance gender equity. Policy implementation can make a difference—as evidenced by Title IX--but enforcing compliance through sanctions and penalties accelerates progress.

For example, the IOC stated that all national governing bodies must set the objective of reserving at least 20% of decision-making positions in all executive and legislative bodies within their structures for women by the end of 2005. This objective was not achieved by the deadline, nor has it been met thus far. There is no penalty for failing to meet the objective, such as preventing an offender from sending a delegation to play in the Games. As of June 2012, 20 of 106 women (18.8%) are active IOC members, and only 2 of 15 (13.3%) IOC Executive Board members are women. In all national Olympic committees and international federations, only a small percentage have women presidents (4% and 3.2% respectively). How seriously can IOC mandates be taken when the IOC Executive Board itself has not met its own goal of gender equity?

So, while we have much to celebrate in terms of participation, a great deal of work has yet to be done to create gender equity for women in positions of power in sport in the United States and around the globe.

TC Associate Director Nicole M. LaVoi and Julia Dutove, Kinesiology doctoral student and TC research assistant, recently published an article titled, "Barriers and Support for Female Coaches: An Ecological Model" in the inaugural issue of Sports Coaching Review. In the paper, the barriers that affect females from seeking or remaining in a coaching position or those that negatively influence career trajectories were summarized, as well as those factors that help facilitate a career in coaching. All factors were organized using four levels of an ecological model—individual, interpersonal, organizational/structural, and sociocultural. This model helped to consolidate a vast literature on female coaches into a comprehensive understanding of a gender-related phenomenon—the statistical minority of female coaches. Based on the literature, there were, unfortunately, far more barriers than supports reported at each ecological level. In addition, gaps in the research were identified.

The goal of the paper is to create awareness of the complex factors that influence and shape the current low numbers of female coaches at all levels of competition, to help identify directions for future research, and to assist organizations in developing multi-level strategies that will help shift the percentage of female coaches upward.


During the fall semester of 2012, LaVoi, along with TC Affiliated Scholar Dr. Cindra Kamphoff (Minnesota State University—Mankato), will release a report, Women in High School Sport: A National Study, in which they document the percentage of women in positions of power in high school sport across the United States. This report, funded in part by a grant from AAHPERD, is meant to be the high school equivalent of the seminal work of Vivian Acosta and Linda Carpenter, who for 35 years have tracked the statistics for women in positions of power in intercollegiate sport. LaVoi and Kamphoff's report will be available online free of charge.

Women in High School Sport

This summer the TC was fortunate to have two interns. Out of a competitive applicant pool, Emma Leyden and Alyssa Ruhland emerged as the best and brightest. And they did not disappoint! Their energy, enthusiasm, and hard work helped advance many aspects of our ongoing research projects. From their comments below, both women felt positively about their summer in the Tucker Center.

Emma LeydenEmma Leyden will be a junior, majoring in psychology at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, where she plays on the women's basketball team. When she found out about the Tucker Center, Emma says she "felt an instant click with the institution's mission, mainly because for my whole life I have identified as a female athlete, and I have been constantly asking questions about what that means in today's world." Emma states that her TC internship experience "gave me an invaluable opportunity to work with quantitative and qualitative data analysis, and I learned about the tedious, but rewarding, process it takes in order to produce a well-done, published study. Every day I felt so much admiration for the Tucker Center faculty and how hard they work toward their mission. This internship has further solidified my feelings that this work really matters, and there are many people working towards creating positive change for women in sport."

Alyssa RuhlandAlyssa Ruhland will be a senior majoring in psychology at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, and is a captain for the women's ice hockey team. Alyssa pursued an internship in the TC to gain research experience and be better prepared for future graduate studies in clinical psychology. Alyssa says, "My summer at the Tucker Center has been a very eye-opening experience. With the 40th anniversary of Title IX in June, I couldn't have asked for a better time to intern in the TC. I have seen firsthand that through research people can be educated about the different issues surrounding girls and women in sport and hopefully make a difference in their own lives as well as others. I am extremely fortunate to have spent my summer at the Tucker Center; I learned a lot and made great relationships along the way."

We are forever grateful for Emma and Alyssa's invaluable contributions, and we look forward to hearing about their future endeavors and how they will make a difference in the lives of girls and women in sport and beyond.

Tucker Center Film Fest logo Mark your calendars now for the third annual Tucker Center Film Festival (TCFF) to be held the first week of February 2013 in conjunction with National Girls & Women Sport Day. Our inaugural film fest featured The Mighty Macs and last year's feature was Salaam Dunk. The TCFF was created to honor and increase the visibility of female athletes.

Film submission is open until November 1, 2012. For more information or to submit your film for consideration, contact Austin Stair Calhoun (

Though the Paralympics were ongoing at press time, below are some highlights:

  • 4,286 athletes from 164 countries competed in the London 2012 Paralympic Games—1,510 (35.2%) were women who competed in 18 different sports.
  • The total number of female Paralympians has doubled since the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
  • Of teams with at least 50 members, Mexico had the highest percentage of female athletes (55.6%), followed by the Netherlands, China, Australia, and the Ukraine. For any team with more than two members, Slovenia had the highest proportion of female competitors—15 of 22 (68.2%).
  • 93 of Team USA's 223 competitors were female (41.7%).
  • Finally, countries competing in the Paralympic Games are not subject to the same gender equality rules as are teams competing in the Olympic Games.

Greetings from the University of Otago, New Zealand! I am very excited to be visiting the Tucker Center this October 2012. My primary research interest is gender relations in sport organisations. Using a critical sociological approach, I examine women's and men's experiences in sport organisations, focusing on how organisational practices, processes, cultures, and assumptions work to create, re-create, and challenge gender relations. Recently, I have examined the management of high performance women coaches, questioning how and whether organisations support these women. Other research projects have included examining female sport management students' readiness for the work place—a project I collaborated on with another former TC visiting scholar, Sarah Leberman from Massey University, New Zealand. In this project we tried to answer the question: How well do we prepare female students for the realities of an organisational environment that remains steadfastly male-centered and male-dominated? My future research directions include examining the experiences of women on nonprofit governance boards in sport and recreation. I am looking forward to developing these areas of research, as well as refreshing and reinvigorating my research interests and collaborations during my stay at the Tucker Center with Drs. Nicole LaVoi and Lisa Kihl. This, along with exploring some of Minnesota, an area of the USA that is new to me—and hopefully fitting in some golf—will make for a very busy visit!

Honors & Awards

  • Emily Houghton, doctoral candidate and advisee of Tucker Center Director Prof. Mary Jo Kane, is now a visiting instructor in Exercise Science at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. Congratulations, Emily!
  • After a year coaching women's rugby in Laos, Katie Wurst, former Master's student and advisee of TC Associate Director Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi and TC Affiliated Scholar Dr. Diane Wiese-Bjornstal, is now a visiting instructor in the School of Human Performance and Recreation at the University of Southern Mississippi. Congratulations, Katie!
  • As part of a celebration to honor the 40th anniversary of Title IX, Kane was honored—along with other pioneers in women's sports—at a Minnesota Lynx game in June 2012.
  • LaVoi was invited to serve on the Board of Directors for the Alliance of Women Coaches (, a newly formed organization that aims to improve the sport landscape for women coaches.
  • Chelsey Thul, Kinesiology doctoral student in sport and exercise psychology co-advised by Drs. LaVoi and Wiese-Bjornstal, was awarded a two-year Interdisciplinary Research Training postdoctoral fellowship in Child and Adolescent Primary Care in the Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota.
  • The Tucker Center's video Concussions and Female Athletes: The Untold Story, produced with Twin Cities Public Television MN Channel, has been nominated for an Emmy Award in the "Sports—One-Time Special" category.


  • Wiese-Bjornstal spoke about "Female Athlete Concussions" at the Mayo Clinic Symposium on Concussion in Sport in Scottsdale, AZ on September 28, 2012.
  • Last April, Kane gave the Linda Arnold Carlisle Professorship Lecture, "Selling Sex in Media Coverage of Women's Sports: The Good, the Bad, & the Counterproductive," at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
  • TC Affiliated Scholar Dr. Beth Lewis and colleagues presented "The Efficacy of an Exercise Intervention for the Prevention of Post-Partum Depression" as part of a symposium at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, April 11-14, in New Orleans, LA.
  • TC Affiliated Scholar Dr. Kent Kaiser will present a paper titled "A Longitudinal Analysis of Collective Action Framing, Counterframing, and the Impact of Exogenous Shocks in the Dispute over Title IX" at the annual meeting for the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language & Gender, October 11-14, in Tacoma, WA.
  • Kane, LaVoi, and Dr. Janet Fink (UMass Amherst) will present a paper at the annual NASSS conference, "Exploring Elite Female Athletes' Interpretations of Sport Media Photographs: A Window into the Construction of Social Identity and 'Selling Sex' in Women's Sports," November 7-10, 2012, in New Orleans, LA.
  • LaVoi presented "Does Sex Sell Women's Sport?" at the Title IX at 40 Conference, May 10-12, 2012 hosted by the University of Michigan's SHARP Center.

Dr. Vivan Acosta, Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi, Dr. Linda Jean Carpenter,
and Dr. Cheryl Cooky at the University of Michigan's SHARP Center
Title IX at 40 Conference.


  • TC Affiliated Scholar Dr. Lisa Kihl, along with visiting scholar Sally Shaw and doctoral student Vicki Schull have a forthcoming paper, "Fear, Anxiety, and Loss of Control: Analyzing an Athletic Department Merger As a Gendered Political Process," in the Journal of Sport Management.
  • To honor the 40th anniversary of Title IX, Kane and LaVoi were featured in the June 2012 edition of the Minnesota Women's Press. Kane was highlighted in a Q&A with editor Kathy Magnuson titled "Myths & Stereotypes Surrounding Title IX," and LaVoi wrote a column about the shortcomings of Title IX.
  • TC Affiliated Scholar Dr. Marie Hardin (Penn State) and LaVoi published a chapter, "Inappropriate Behavior and Lesbianism: The Contrasting Falls of Two Women's College Basketball Coaches," in a textbook anthology, Fallen Sports Heroes, Media, and Celebrity Culture.
  • Kane wrote an invited paper, "Title IX at 40: Examining Mysteries, Myths, & Misinformation Surrounding the Historic Federal Law," which appeared in the September 2012 edition of the President's Council on Fitness, Sport & Nutrition Research Digest.

About the Lecture

The summer of 2012 was marked by three historic milestones for sportswomen: (1) the 40th anniversary of Title IX; (2) the Olympic Games in London where, for the first time, the U.S. team included more females than males, and where women captured 63% of all U.S. gold medals; and (3) female athletes comprised 44% of Olympians from around the globe—also an historic number. Despite these unprecedented achievements, similar milestones for women in sport leadership positions around the globe are remarkably absent. In the United States alone, a precipitous decline of women in positions of power—including coaches and athletic administrators—has occurred over the last four decades. Outside the United States, ascension to positions in sport governance is even scarcer despite growing participation rates in many countries. Two leading experts in gender and sport management will examine these critical issues, explore why a lack of females in key leadership positions matters, and outline effective strategies for moving forward.

About the Panelists

Janet FinkJanet Fink, Ph.D., is associate professor in the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research focuses on diversity and the marketing of female athletes and women's sports. Professor Fink has published over 50 articles and book chapters and is one of the top 15 cited authors in the Journal of Sport Management, the premier journal in her field. She was awarded The Ohio State University's Distinguished Teaching Award (2007), is a board member of the National Collegiate Athletics Administration Scholarly Colloquium, and is a research fellow and acting past-president of North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM).


Sally ShawSally Shaw, Ph.D., is senior lecturer in the School of Physical Education at the University of Otago, New Zealand, where she teaches organizational theory and organizational sociology. Professor Shaw's multi-faceted research includes gender relations, nonprofit governance, organizational partnerships, and sponsorship—all linked by a focus on organizational power on which she has published extensively. Professor Shaw is a research fellow of NASSM and an editorial board member of Sport Management Review and the Journal of Sport Management.