LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. – The Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference hosted its inaugural Women’s Leadership Symposium on Wednesday, June 26-27, in Dallas, Texas. The Purpose of the event was to focus on professional development opportunities to prepare female administrators, coaches and student-athletes in today’s challenging environment.
Over the course of the two-day event, more than 40 individuals attended multiple sessions that focused on a variety of topics, making it one of the more important non-championship events in the league’s 28-year history.
"The SCAC isn't an outlier by any stretch, but we recognize that a limited number of females are presently holding leadership positions within our conference. We need to be proactive in promoting opportunities for this underrepresented group, thereby increasing our talent pipeline and lifting our profession to higher levels,” said SCAC Commissioner Dwayne Hanberry on the importance of this opportunity. “The more diverse our voices at senior levels, the more we improve all of our student-athlete experiences."
Six speakers presented multiple sessions on various aspects of women’s leadership in athletics. The event opened with a keynote address from Nicole LaVoi, the Co-Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport. Additionally, former SCAC student-athlete Raven Scott and Linda Schirmiester-Gess of STRIVE Leadership gave presentations on ‘Foundations of Effective Leadership,’ ‘Know Thyself: Core Values, Personal Vision, Strength and Weaknesses’ and ‘The Art of Communications: Having Difficult Conversations.’
The symposium also featured Colorado College’s Vice President/Director of Athletics, Leslie Irvine, Head Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Coach/Senior Women’s Administrator Anne Goodman James and Southwestern University’s Associate Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics, Dr. Glada Munt leading a panel discussion on ‘The Women in Sports.’
Made possible by the NCAA Division III Strategic Initiatives Grant, the symposium was open to all female athletics administrators and staff, coaches, athletic trainers, athletic communicators, and select student-athletes from all 10 SCAC institutions.
Of the many takeaways from the two-day session, Hanberry found one particular statistic both alarming and eye-opening. While more women play college sports than ever before, just over 40 percent of NCAA women's teams have a female head coach. That number is down from 55 percent in 1981 - the year NCAA women's championships got their start. And, before Title IX – the 1972 federal gender equity law - more than 90 percent of women's teams were coached by women.
"It does raise a very valid question," said Hanberry, "Why aren't there more women coaching? As Dr. LaVoi said in her keynote, like a huge cruise ship, the problem is too big to be reversed on a dime. However, individually, each of us in our own way can be jet skis and make intentional decisions that result in immediate and incremental progress."
Hanberry was satisfied with the immediate feedback from those who attended and was hopeful that this would not be a one-time event. "This seemed like a very good use of our time and resources and I can see us doing this again down the road. For those attended this year's inaugural event, it is my hope that they left feeling more empowered and will take some nugget of information back to campus that will assist them to move forward as a student-athlete, a coach or as an administrator."
Founded in 1991, the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference was formed to provide an association through which the member institutions may encourage organized competition in intercollegiate sports among teams representative of their respective student bodies. Members of this conference share a commitment to priority of the overall quality of academic standards and quality educational experiences. The SCAC sponsors 19 championship sports, nine for men and 10 for women.