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Women in a Man’s World: An Examination of Women’s Leadership Work in the ‘Extremely Gendered’ Organisation of Men’s Football in England.

BRYAN, AMEE (2022) Women in a Man’s World: An Examination of Women’s Leadership Work in the ‘Extremely Gendered’ Organisation of Men’s Football in England. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Framed by the theory of ‘extremely gendered’ organisations, this thesis explores women's access to and experiences of leadership in men's professional club football and football governing bodies in England in the 'new' football era (late 1980s – present). Informed by feminist approaches to Constructivist Grounded Theory, I employed a qualitatively driven multimethod approach to data collection and analysis. First, I conducted archival research at the National Football Museum to gather data on the types of leadership roles women have held in football in the new era. I further collected data from the gender pay gap reports of football organisations to gain insight into current gender inequalities. Finally, I conducted biographic interviews with twenty-three women who have worked in football leadership.

My findings demonstrate that, despite occupying a significant number of leadership roles in football, women's access to the most powerful roles has been limited in the new football era. Specifically, women's leadership work has been largely peripheral to the core organisational function. Applying the theory of 'extremely gendered' organisations, I argue that core roles – roles with direct influence over and access to male footballers and the field of play– are the most symbolically important to preserving football's masculine character. Thus, having women in core leadership roles threatens men's 'natural' claim to football. I further contend that women’s acceptance in football leadership is conditional upon cultivating an ideal worker/ideal woman identity. Applying the concept of the ideal worker, I find that women are granted entry if they have insider status, i.e., they share the same racial, class, and professional characteristics as men in football. Moreover, I find that motherhood is incompatible with the boundaryless work cultures of football. Thus, women must remain childfree or minimise the impact of motherhood on their careers to keep their senior positions. Women must also perform 'respectable business femininity' to ensure their seniority. Crucially, I argue that the pressure to perform under the glow of the sportlight harms women. However, I also find that women use their positions to defend and challenge football from within. By considering agency as a social practice, I argue that women perform agentive acts of 'tempered radicalism' to quietly resist and challenge the extremely gendered regime of football. However, I find that this is additional physical and emotional labour for women. Nonetheless, women's reasons for leaving football are not always linked to the pressures of being a woman in a man's world. Instead, women are compelled to leave football to pursue an authentic life, free from the corruption and greed that has come to characterise the football industry. In this regard, leaving football was the ultimate act of agency.

I conclude that gender equality efforts must move beyond numerical measures of equality to address the peripheral and conditional positioning of women in football leadership. I argue that this requires a reimaging of the football industry, a reimagining that fundamentally disrupts the masculine blueprint upon which football was designed and rids football of its unscrupulous reputation.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Sport and Exercise Sciences, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:24 Apr 2023 12:21

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