Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Sport Management

First Advisor

Erin Morris

Second Advisor

Lindsey Darvin

Third Advisor

Gretchel Hathaway


Diversity and inclusion hiring in NCAA Division III athletic departments has seen some improvement over the last two decades, but questions remain on whether we are really getting ahead. There continues to be a lack of diversity, particularly in private Northeast institutions. The purpose of this study was to determine the perceived effectiveness of hiring practices and initiatives utilized by athletics departments. The study utilized tenants of critical theory which supported the in-depth questioning and centering of the lived experiences of participants. This study used semi-structured interviews of nine Division III female head coaches of women’s sports to examine their perceptions and lived experiences of diversity hiring practices and initiatives. Purposive sampling was used to solicit experiences from women of various racial identities and sexual orientations.

The diamond framework of diversity management strategies (Fink & Pastore, 1991; Fink, et al., 2001; Fink et al., 2003) and concepts of performativity within mission statement language (Ahmed, 2012), were used to guide the analyses. The data was analyzed using a hybrid approach to thematic development; both inductive (In vivo coding) and deductive (A Priori) coding were used in tandem as approaches to allow for themes to emerge. Four dominant themes were revealed upon analysis of the interviews: Marginalization of Women, Symbolic Equality and Its Role in Diversity and Inclusion Strategies, Inclusivity, and The Divergent Nature of the Admissions Process. Findings revealed that gender, rather than race or sexual orientation, proved to be a more dominating characteristic upon which participants experienced marginalization. Findings should encourage the dismantling of the continued preference of hegemonic masculine work environments in collegiate athletics where male athletic directors continue to foster practices unfavorably impactful towards female coaches and women’s athletic programs. Findings should entice athletic departments to continue to seek out women for leadership positions as they tend to offer effective, diverse and inclusive environments. Findings should prompt athletic administration and institutional administration to look to collaborate on developing solutions to the symbolic language used in mission statements, in diversity initiatives, and in the divergent nature of the admissions process and its ancillary effects on diversity and inclusion initiatives and hiring practices within athletics. Practical implications include expanding the cultural competency of those that have not traditionally experienced oppression or underrepresentation, in order to help grow the general awareness of the cultural, socio-economical, and social aspects of diversity and inclusion initiatives and their importance within athletics. Recommendations include adopting proactive diversity management strategies, initiatives to promote inclusivity, and performative language strategies to encourage hiring of underrepresented coaches.

Pierson, D..pdf (193 kB)