As I get ready to compete at the NCAA Division 2 Track & Field Championships today in Allendale, Michigan, I can’t help but notice something about the athletes that surround me. A lot of them are black. We all know that track, especially jumps and sprints are usually dominated by African-Americans, but there are a lot more black students competing at the national level then in my own conference which is in a “whiter area” of the country. Not a knock on my part of the country, but it’s nice to see so many successful black and white athletes running around. I’d love to see Martin Luther King enjoy a track meet where a white teammate hands off to a black teammate and a hug at the finish line follows
With all these black kids running around I did notice something strange, not a lot of black adults. Where are the black coaches? For that matter, where are the women coaches? Well, there aren’t very many. This got me thinking about a thesis written by the Associate Dean of Student Life at Central Washington University, Dr. Keith Champagne. The thesis was on the lack of African-American athletic directors in the U.S. Before Dr. Champagne’s thesis I had never realized what an imbalance there is in athletic administration. This is a field that has recently seemed appealing to me. With my PR, economics and athletic background, this might be right up my alley. It may shock you to know what an outlier I would be if I acquired an athletic director position. There are very few black or female athletic directors at the university level, and don’t even get me started on black females.
First, let’s take a look at the statistics concerning black athletic directors. Black athletes make up about 25% of all Division I athletes. This may seem surprisingly low, but keep in mind that there are three sports in which black athletes tend to compete in, basketball, football and track. Other sports such as swimming, lacrosse, golf, tennis, ice hockey, field hockey, crew and even baseball and soccer have low levels of African-American participation. This is in part due to black workers making about 75% of what their white counterpart makes. Expensive sports or are available to those who can afford it. Sports that are dominated by white players are also usually those where club play and early exposure are key to later success.
Although there are sports with virtually no black players, the sports most heavily attended, broadcast and financially profitable are dominated by African-Americans. 45.8 % of DI football players are black compared to the 45.1% that are white. 60.9% of male DI basketball players are black and 51% of female DI basketball players are black. Basketball and football are the biggest money makers in college athletics. Statistically, black people have more experience playing these high profile sports and dealing with the pressures that go along with them. These experiences are not reflected in the hiring of athletic directors.
Only 7.4% of DI athletic directors are black, while in my division, DII, only 3.1% are. Almost as bad, only 8.3% of DI athletic directors are female and 15.5% of DII athletic directors are female. How many athletic directors are black females? One. Not including historically black colleges, there is one female African-American athletic director in DI. Here’s the real kicker, this woman, was hired in 2013, December of 2013. Before her there were none. What’s shocking about this fact is that many of the fields that best lend themselves to an athletic director position are dominated by women. For instance, 75-80% of PR practitioners are women and 43% of public administration majors are women. Women have the skills, we have the experience, but we’re not getting the jobs.
There are a lot of voices cheering for more equal opportunities between men and women. I’m all for equal pay, but I think a lot of the data supporting the notion that women make less than men is skewed. Yes, men make more than women on average, but when you control for certain factors, this isn’t actually the case. Women make less than men because they often choose to leave the job force for some time to have children. Women also tend to choose jobs that are lower paid. It’s in our psychology, we can’t help it! Women have the urge to nurture and help others, leading to jobs in non-profit, teaching and nursing. While there are high-paying jobs in these fields, most of them will not make as much as the doctor, lawyer and engineering jobs men are more inclined to be interested in. The lack of female athletic directors is still a bit of a mystery to me. As a black female, I can change the game. Whether it’s as an athletic director or in some other field, you can bet I will. I’ll be on the prowl for black and female coaches this weekend and if I spot a black female coach you can bet on a second blog. 🙂