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donnacumming The Writer
“It’s just the old boys’ culture of hockey that serves as a barrier of entry for women to get into leadership positions because it’s like an exclusive club, and they don’t really want to let you in. There’s a lot of sexism in it really, the men at the top just want to keep their friends in their circle and those are the people that get all the jobs, so it’s hard for women to break through.”Participant 7
Photo by Jessica Cumming.
Hi everyone! First-time contributor here, so I want to start by introducing myself. My name is Donna, I was born and grew up playing hockey in North Vancouver, British Columbia. As I got older, I became progressively more aware of the second-rate treatment of girls and women on the ice, around the rink, and in the boardroom. I’ve always believed that women deserve better in this sport, which is what brought me to pursue a master’s that focused on women in hockey.
It was almost two years ago when I decided to concentrate my master’s research specifically on women and hockey leadership, and I never could have predicted how timely this research would be. Never might be a stretch – if you’ve been exposed to Canadian hockey culture for as long as I have been, there’s a good chance you were not shocked by the recent tailspin of Hockey Canada. Horrified, disappointed, enraged? Absolutely. But not shocked. Either way, my research is wrapping up at a time when the dark side of hockey culture that has been simmering just below the surface has finally boiled over. While it’s been rather excruciating to endure the increasingly disturbing storylines that led to the eventual resignation of the majority of Hockey Canada’s leadership, we seem to have reached a point where the opportunity for change at the heart of Canadian hockey culture is perhaps greater than it’s ever been.
So why is my research important in light of recent events in hockey? Well, it focuses on young women hockey players as potential future leaders in the sport. Specifically, I spoke with Canadian varsity women hockey players about their experiences growing up in hockey, their experiences with leadership in hockey, and their plans to pursue hockey leadership roles (think coaching, sport management, etc.) after graduation. At a time when hockey organizations, sponsors, and governments are demanding a reformed hockey culture that includes more diverse perspectives, it is vitally important to consider the perspectives and experiences of women in hockey, who are so often overlooked and underrepresented.
In a four-post series titled ‘Out with the Old-School’, I will share some key takeaways from my master’s research. The first post will include a discussion of the inequities and discriminatory attitudes that young women face growing up in Canadian hockey culture, from minor hockey through to the professional ranks. The second will outline how the women in this study understand and characterize hockey leadership – what makes a great leader in hockey? What creates unpleasant experiences with hockey leaders? The third post will explore how leaders in hockey impact athletes’ beliefs, attitudes, and values. Finally, the fourth post will describe the study participants’ plans for hockey leadership involvement after graduation, along with a variety of reasons that they may or may not pursue these roles.
This study offers a unique glimpse into the lives of current women student-athletes and how they navigate the male-dominated world of hockey. Unlike much of the existing research on women in sport leadership that focuses on women who have successfully reached leadership roles, my study approaches this topic from the perspective of potential sport leaders to better understand what motivates or deters them from pursuing these roles in the first place.
Interested in learning more? Keep an eye out for the upcoming ‘Out with the Old-School’ series!
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