Coaching in varsity and professional sports has consistently been dominated by men, even on women’s teams. While professions that have been historically dominated by men, like medicine or law, have been working to increase the number of employed women, professional coaching has not had the same progress. As of now, women only account for 16 per cent of coaches at the university level, and that number has been declining in recent years.
The Varsity recently interviewed Michèle Bélanger, who’s been the head coach of the Varsity Blues women’s basketball team for the past 41 years. She discussed the importance of the acceptance of, and representation for, women in the field of coaching, and shared advice for younger women who are looking to find a career in sports management.
She also spoke about her strong belief that women’s sports teams should be coached by women.
“I believe that women should coach women, and women have to see, and young girls have to see that when you see a female coaching that those are options for career goals and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Bélanger continued, “When you don’t see women coaching at a higher level, then there’s assumptions that those are not female driven careers, and that it’s never going to happen.”
Research has shown that women are discouraged from even entering coaching jobs in the first place.
While men will often disregard job requirements and believe that they are more likely to learn on the job, women are less likely to apply if they do not meet the qualifications when they’re applying. Similarly, much of the language used in job advertisements can be perceived as being catered toward men.
Bélanger’s assertion is in line with what is recommended by the Government of Canada. The Minister of Science and Sport’s Working Group on Gender Equity recommends that more women coaches be hired in women’s sports. Men sponsoring women’s sports and the hiring of women coaches can go a long way in the development of professional leagues.
For younger generations of women looking to go into a profession in the field of sports management and coaching, Bélanger stressed the importance of not getting discouraged or disappointed if they don’t fit in or find the perfect opportunity.
“Know that with every day, there’s changes that are being made and you just need to be resilient and persevere and speak up to what you believe is right. Have a voice and just be willing to make the sacrifices, because they are really important for generations to come.”