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Arkansas State University

Leading the Drive for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Sports

Picture a conference-size room with some yoga mats and a small weight tower. Now picture another room of the same size filled with athletic training equipment. These were the training rooms for the 2021 NCAA tournament. You can guess which was the women’s training room.

Oregon forward Sedona Prince captured this disparity in a viral TikTok video. “If you aren’t upset about this problem,” she said, “then you are a part of it.”

Every industry, including sports, can benefit from improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). If you are passionate about sports and want to pursue a career in the industry, a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Sport Management can put you on a path to being part of the solution.

Why Earn a B.S. in Sport Management?

Careers in sport management typically require a bachelor’s degree. As the sporting industry works to address issues in DEI, aspiring sport management professionals will want to build their skills in this area. For example, Arkansas State University (A-State) offers an online B.S. in Sport Management program that emphasizes the role of management in prioritizing DEI.

Students in A-State’s program develop industry-specific knowledge in such areas as:

  • Business and professional communications
  • Exercise science and concepts of fitness
  • Esports
  • Financial management
  • Promotion and sales
  • Sports program management
  • Facility and event management
  • International sports venue management

A-State’s emphasis on DEI may give graduates an employment edge. Students gain essential understanding of “promoting diversity in sport and athletics” and “implementing sports programs in socially diverse settings and for underrepresented groups.”

What Drives the Push for DEI in Sports?

Prince’s video led to outrage and an external gender-equity review of the NCAA. However, the tournament changes, including providing equal resources to women’s teams, are just the beginning.

Representation is another way to “measure” DEI. Representation relates to how well organizations reflect demographics such as gender and race. For instance, the NFL’s 2021 Diversity Report shows “five head coaches of color led NFL teams as compared with 27 White NFL head coaches,” and other top NFL positions have a similar lack of representation.

How would you improve the NFL’s DEI practices? The WNBA may have some answers. The league took the top spot in the 2021 Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport assessment of racial and gender hiring practices, a position the WNBA has held since 2004.

Other areas where DEI-informed sport management professionals can bring about positive change include:

  • Compensation: The U.S. Women’s soccer team won a long-fought victory to ensure equal pay for the men’s and women’s national teams. Will this happen in other sports? The gender pay gap in sports is not limited to athletes. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, women’s earnings in management roles were 71% of men’s. Pay transparency initiatives are one way to address gender pay gaps.
  • Access to Youth Sports: Basketball, dance, soccer, surfing — youth sports programs offer exciting opportunities, but access is not guaranteed. The National Recreation and Park Association notes barriers to participation, especially for “girls, LGBTQ+, Black, Indigenous, youth of color, youth living in low-income communities, and youth with disabilities.” However, graduates with a B.S. in Sport Management and a passion for parks and recreation can promote inclusion.
  • Media Coverage: While women make up 40% of sports participants, they receive only about 4% of sports media coverage. Parasports offers another example, with the Olympics getting almost 30 times more coverage in the U.S. than the Paralympics. This aspect of DEI provides powerful opportunities for sport management professionals to promote balanced coverage.

If your dream is to work in the sports industry, a B.S. in Sport Management can prepare you for diverse professional, amateur and high school sports careers. Recreation departments, esports, fitness centers and event management are just a few other options.

A career in the sports industry also provides long-term job security. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in entertainment and sports should grow 22% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. Another benefit? The chance to advance equity and inclusion for athletes and those behind the scenes.

Learn more about A-State’s online B.S. in Sport Management program.

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