Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, PhD

Committee Chair

Hums, Mary

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Hancock, Meg

Committee Member

Hancock, Meg

Committee Member

Alagaraja, Meera

Committee Member

Greenwell, Chris

Committee Member

Johnson, James

Author's Keywords

Interscholastic sport; athletic director; gender


Leadership in sport organizations continues to be male dominated, even as multiple scholars have argued and proven the importance of women holding sport leadership positions (Burton & Leberman, 2017; Darvin & Lubke, 2021; Schull, 2017). The lack of women attaining these positions leads to fewer opportunities for role modeling and mentoring experiences for female athletes. As Burden et al. (2010) argue, interscholastic athletic directors are important as they usually represent the first interactions for young athletes with people in sport leadership positions. Researchers have investigated this phenomenon at the intercollegiate level (Bower & Hums, 2013; Darvin & Lubke, 2021; Taylor & Hardin, 2016), but little scholarship exists exploring sport leadership positions at the interscholastic level (Johnson et al., 2020; Whisenant et al., 2015). The purpose of this two-paper study, utilizing role congruity theory, was to examine the experiences of women interscholastic athletic directors in attaining (career path and hiring process) and performing the role of athletic director. Using qualitative semi-structured interviews, the researcher conducted virtual interviews with 17 current women interscholastic athletic directors (average 60-minutes per interview). The participants represented 14 states, worked at high schools of various sizes, and all held their current role for seven years or less. The results from the first paper, focused on attaining the athletic director role, indicated the importance of holding a prior position in the school system (teacher, support services, and/or coach). Institutional knowledge of the interscholastic school system and sport facilitated participants in moving up the leadership ranks into the athletic director position. The researcher also found potential issues in the hiring system, suggesting that inconsistencies of job postings and the lack of structure associated with a ‘fair’ job hiring process for internal versus external candidates. The second manuscript, focused on the experiences of performing the athletic director role, found multiple factors of the athletic director position led to work/life and time challenges, potentially impacting the female participants more than their male athletic director counterparts. Overall, these two manuscripts confirm the tenets of role congruity theory, that women face significant barriers in attaining and performing leadership positions.