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Race Trumps Experience For Jobs In Sports

RALEIGH - If you want to get your foot in the door of the sports industry, your race may mean more than your experience. That’s the major result of a new study from North Carolina State University that examined hiring decisions for entry-level sports management positions.

“Previous research has shown that management positions in the sports industry continue to be dominated by white males – and that a prejudice against blacks in managerial positions exists because of a perceived ‘lack of fit’ between being black and being a manager or leader,” explains Dr. Heidi Grappendorf, assistant professor of parks, recreation and tourism management at NC State. “We wanted to find out – when all other factors were considered equal – what  impact  race had on hiring for entry-level sports management positions.”

In the study, researchers created one-page resumes for fictitious job applicants. The resumes  all included identical work and education experience, but changed factors such as race, sex and previous participation as an athlete. The results showed resumes with traditional black names rated significantly lower than their white counterparts in terms of overall likeability, competency and likelihood of being hired.

The study showed male athletes benefit most from having an athletic background – as they have been evaluated as more competent for upper-level positions when compared to male non-athletes, female athletes and female non-athletes with identical athletic qualifications. While white male athletes did not receive significantly higher ratings than the other applicants (i.e., both blacks and whites), they did receive the highest ratings of all groups in both hiring and competence ratings.

“Our findings indicated that for black males and females, athletic participation provided no advantage in hiring recommendations,” Grappendorf says. “Clearly, athletic participation is not ‘superseding’ race. This contradicts previous findings indicating that the athletic role could be beneficial in the hiring process.”

Grappendorf and fellow researchers Laura Burton, from the University of Connecticut, and Angela Henderson, from theUniversity of Northern Colorado, recently presented their findings at the 2010 North American Society of Sport Management Conference.

NC State’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management is part of the university’s College of Natural Resources.


“Examining the Influence of Race, Gender, and Athletic Participation on Hiring Preferences in Sport Management”

Authors: Heidi Grappendorf, North Carolina State University; Laura Burton, University of Connecticut; and Angela Henderson, University of Northern Colorado

Presented: North American Society of Sport Management Conference in Tampa, Fla.

Abstract: Lapchick (2008), in the Racial and Gender Report Card that reports the hiring practices of women and people of color in leading sports organizations, reported that representation of racial minorities at NCAA institutions declined in comparison to previous report cards. In addition, the majority of general managers, senior administrators, and professional administrators in major league sports continue to be dominated by White males (Lapchick). Overall, there exists significant racial inequality in the general United States labor market (Bertrand & Mullainathan, 2004). Studies have shown that when employers were faced with a White and a Black applicant who share similar educational backgrounds and work experience, the White applicant was more likely to be chosen for employment and that employer prejudice or the perception of race may signal lower productivity of the Black applicants (Bertrand & Mullainathan). Prejudice can arise from the relations that people perceive between the characteristics of members of a social group and the requirements of the social roles that group members occupy (Eagly & Karau, 2002). When perceivers hold a stereotype about a social group that is incongruent with the attributes that are thought to be required for success in certain classes of social roles, a potential for prejudice exists. These stereotypes may potentially affect how males and females perceive Blacks in management and could even impact how they are judged once they enter the workforce.



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