‘CEO equals man’: Gender and informal organisational practices in English sport governance

Lucy Piggott, Elizabeth Pike

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5 Citations (Scopus)
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Despite the benefits of diversity amongst sport leaders increasingly being argued by both researchers and practitioners, English sport governance remains gender-imbalanced at all levels of leadership. Within this article, we aim to explore how informal organisational practices within two established English national governing bodies impact upon gender equity and gender balance within their governance. This is important to raise awareness of the power of informal organisational practices to favour one gender over another. We present findings generated through a multi-method qualitative approach of semi-structured interviews and participant observation. Official documents from the two organisations were also drawn upon to add specific detail or fill information gaps during the collection, analysis and write-up of data. Throughout the article,
we draw upon Bourdieu’s theory of practice to focus on the ways in which cultural resources, processes and institutions hold sport leaders within gendered hierarchies of dominance. We found that informal organisational practices contribute to the reinforcement of gendered structures of dominance which privilege (dominant) men and masculinity, and normalise and naturalise the
positions of men as leaders. Some examples of resistance against inequitable informal practices were also evident. Drawing upon Bourdieu’s theorising, we highlight that alternative practices must be valued more highly by the organisation than current problematic practices in order for them to become legitimised, habitual and sustainable. We suggest that one way of achieving this
is by linking gender-equitable governance to organisational values and performance to provide motivation for organisations to make genuine, sustainable change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport (IRSS)
Early online date5 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Aug 2019


  • informal organisational practices
  • sport
  • leadership
  • gender
  • governance


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