The gender order in sport leadership. Constructions, explanations and challenges

Por: Jorid Hovden.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Despite political objectives to change the gender order in power positions in Norwegian sport, current statistics show that there has been almost no change in the number of women holding the upper echelons during the last ten years (1,2). I will in this paper highlight a few aspects of how the gender order in sport leadership is constructed, challenged and explained. The paper is based on a study, where male and female leaders holding central positions in the governing bodies of Norwegian sports, are considering their ambitions, gendered possibilities and the cultural and social context in which the gender order in sport leadership is constructed.


The study is mainly based qualitative interviews. The sample consisted of male and female representatives of executive boards of 8 Norwegian sports federations.


It was maintained that the persistent gender gap in the upper echelons represented an untenable situation, but the explanations of how to understand and challenge the gender order in leadership differed and those differences were among other factors shaped by gender and age. Most middle-aged male leaders asserted that women themselves were responsible for their marginal status and explained the situation as a consequence of individual priorities and competences. Most female and young male leaders explained the gender order mainly as a result of organizational processes, in which masculine norms and androcentric leadership images dominated.


The findings indicate a paradoxical situation. The gender order is seen as an untenable political situation and partly explained as a result of androcentric cultural biases, simultaneously as organizational gender/power relations were reported to be politically downplayed and only by exception made relevant on the political agenda.


  1. Hovden, J. (2000), NORA (Nordic journal of Women’s studies) 8, 1: 17-33.
  2. Norges idrettsforbund og Olympiske komite (2002): Tilstandsrapport for norsk idrett. Oslo.




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