Understanding the career trajectories of mid-career female athletics administrators : a life course approach
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Though there has been progress over the past decades, women continue to be underrepresented in intercollegiate athletics administration (Acosta & Carpenter, 2014). This is especially true in higher-level positions, such as that of athletic directors or those considered to be in the pipeline to that top seat in the administrative structure of athletics programs (Acosta & Carpenter, 2014; Lapchick, Agusta, Kinkopf, & McPhee, 2012). Past approaches to the study of this phenomenon have primarily been from a singular angle, such as the macro-, meso-, or micro-levels of analysis. While such research has yielded important information and added to the knowledge base in this area, understanding of the problem is still piecemeal. There is a paucity of research that considers the underrepresentation of women in this field in a holistic fashion. What is needed is research that takes into account the combination of various factors at multiple levels. It is important to consider the context within which people live their lives along with the circumstances and events that influence career decisions and shape life paths. The purpose of this study was to examine the lived experiences of women who work in intercollegiate athletics administration in a multi-level manner and identify the factors within their experiences that have influenced the decisions they have made regarding their careers and have helped shape their trajectories. Qualitative methods were used along with the guiding framework of the life course perspective. Using data gleaned from a life/career map, interviews, and field notes, subthemes were identified within the four themes of the life course framework: life and historical times, timing of lives, linked lives, and human agency (Elder, 1994). Results demonstrate that women’s careers within intercollegiate athletics administration are influenced by multiple factors and are susceptible to impact from the circumstances preceding and surrounding them. The career paths of the women who participated in this study were affected by each of the four themes outlined by the life course perspective and more specifically by the subthemes identified within each of those broader themes.