Pipeline problem: Factors influencing the underrepresentation of women in top leadership positions in sports organisation

Mirian Pabatao Aman, Aminuddin Yusof, Maimunah Ismail, Abu Bakar Mohamed Razali


National Sports Associations, National and International Sports Federations and even International Olympic Committee continue to struggle meeting the 20% representation quota of women in executive boards. Although women’s representation as athletes, coaches and officials increased in national and international sports competitions but not in leadership particularly in top positions. In sports leadership, empirical research showed statistical figures that women have gained access in leadership pipeline however, they still lack in representing the executive boards. This study is a part of a larger phenomenological investigation which purpose was to identify factors that may influence the persistent underrepresentation of women in top leadership position. From a purposive maximum variation sampling of seven participants, top women leaders in Malaysia national sports organisations were interviewed about their career path and experiences on how and why women top leaders continue to lag behind with their male counterparts. Results suggest self-limiting behaviors, work-life conflict and interpersonal relationships among other women contributed to the underrepresentation of women in top positions. Factors attributed to social perception of gender and leadership roles incongruence also limited women leaders’ access in organisations which subsequently contributed to pipeline problem. Moreover, participants offered suggestions in overcoming the challenges and personal strategies in advancing opportunities and career development.


Barriers, gender, pipeline problem, underrepresentation, women in sports leadership


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15282/mohe.v7i2.186