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Women Still Have Miles to Travel Before Achieving Equality


The struggles faced by women in attaining equality in the working world have been highlighted recently by two major news stories from the world of sport.  One of the angles of the Bobby Petrino mess at Arkansas relates to the hiring process that brought Jessica Dorrell onto the University of Arkansas football staff.

Freedom of Information requests by news organizations have produced documents that show that of the 3 people (out of 159 applicants) selected for the job with the Arkansas football program that Ms. Dorrell was hired for she was clearly the least qualified.  Posted job requirements required at least 2 years prior experience working in a football program.  One of the other two finalists was a former LSU and NFL offensive lineman who had worked for two years following his retirement as a player at an entry level job in the LSU football program.  That candidate has since taken a job as an assistant coach with Grambling State University in Louisiana.

The other finalist had worked for two years in an entry level position with the Arkansas football program.  He holds two master’s degrees and is currently a student in Arkansas’ law school.  Both of the other candidates have master’s degrees, which was also listed as “desirable” in the job descriptions posted.  Ms. Dorrell did not have a master’s degree.

Acting on requests from Bobby Petrino, Arkansas AD Jeff Long twice asked the university’s equal opportunity compliance office to “fast track” the hiring process because if the urgent need to fill this job quickly due to its involvement in football recruiting.  It has since come out that Ms. Dorrell’s round of interviews had been set up even before the university had granted approval to cut short the normal requirement that a job be advertised for 30 days prior to any interviews being set up.

Christianne Harder wrote an opinion piece posted on SI.com on April 16.  Ms. Harder currently works with the Western Kentucky football program and formerly worked at the University of Washington, where she earned a master’s degree in Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership there.  She was not one of the 3 finalists selected for an interview.  Indeed, a contact she had made at the recent coaches’ convention in Dallas had called her about an interview.  She was supposed to meet him for dinner and to discuss a possible job in the unnamed school’s football program.  When news of the Petrino matter became public the coach called and cancelled the interview.  He told her that he loved her work at Western Kentucky; but that he was afraid meeting her for dinner would create a bad appearance at this time.

Ms. Harder believes that the hiring of Jessica Dorrell at Arkansas and the subsequent scandal is a big blow to women trying to break into football administration jobs.  This has made a bad situation much worse.

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ran an article discussing how the male only membership policy of the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Master’s Golf Tournament, has angered several women college presidents around the country.

The article quoted Debora Spar, president of Barnard College in New York as saying, “It’s just an embarrassment that it’s still all male.  Any argument that can be made any more  for male-only recreational sites is just kind of past its day”.

The Master’s and Augusta National have drawn criticism for years over the club’s all male policy.  That criticism gained a new momentum this year because one of the tournament’s long-time sponsors, IBM, has a new chief executive officer who is a woman.  Both IBM and Augusta National have refused to comment on whether or not Virginia “Ginni’ Rometty, who took her present position with IBM in January, will be invited to join the club.

Many people have joined the chorus calling for Augusta National to end its seemingly archaic membership policy.   Both President Obama and likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have called on Augusta National to change its policy, as has former Duke University president (now a visiting professor at Princeton) Nanneri O. Keohane.  Ms. Keohane has also served as president of Wellesley College and is a fellow of the Harvard Corporation, which governs Harvard.

Women at many levels of sports administration know that discrimination is still a fact of life in sports.  Relatively few high schools, particularly in areas where football programs generate large revenues, serve as high school athletic directors.  State high school athletic federations are overwhelmingly run by men.

Title IX is now 40 years old.  That groundbreaking law has certainly opened the door for women to participate in sports at both the collegiate and scholastic levels.  It seems that there is still a glass ceiling for sports administrative jobs.  Perhaps the outcry from the situation at the University of Arkansas will help generate publicity and momentum to move forward towards real equality in the sporting world.


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