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Leaders help create sport organizational culture that values diversity

This is an excerpt from Contemporary Leadership in Sport Organizations by David Scott, EdD.


Diversity Management Strategy and Organizational Outcomes

Fink and Pastore (1999) introduced a framework for diversity management in sport based on an integration of research studies from business management published in the 1990s. Fink and Pastore’s framework identified four categories or descriptors of an organization’s approach to or strategy for diversity management:

  1. Noncompliant: The organization is unaware of or does not follow policies and federal laws, considers diversity as a liability.
  2. Compliant: It is aware of and makes great efforts to comply with laws and regulations regarding appropriate representation of diverse individuals and groups (e.g., Title IX).
  3. Reactive: It views diversity as an asset but often focuses only on racial and gender diversity and tends to offer such things as workshops or mentoring programs on a one-time basis.
  4. Proactive: It views diversity more broadly to include other differences beyond race and gender; leaders examine policies and processes regarding diversity before problems occur and also show commitment to diversity through the allocation of resources.

According to the authors, proactive management of diversity would be considered the goal for an organization, as it would be expected to produce more positive and lasting organizational outcomes.

Fink, Pastore, and Riemer (2001), building on this theoretical framework, surveyed NCAA Division I athletic directors (ADs) as well as head coaches of women’s softball and men’s baseball regarding their beliefs and perceptions about (a) the benefits of diversity management, (b) approaches to or strategies for diversity management, and (c) diversity management and organizational outcomes. Beliefs in the benefits of diversity management among ADs (particularly female ADs and those from larger departments) were positive and higher than expected, which possibly indicated that ADs were becoming more aware of and beginning to believe in the advantages of diversity. Relative to diversity management and organizational outcomes, the researchers reported that different strategies for diversity management resulted in different organizational outcomes. For example, compliance strategies were associated with "retaining talented workers," "avoiding lawsuits," and "having a diverse fan base" (p. 43) while proactive strategies were more predictive of all other outcomes including employee satisfaction, involvement in decision making, perceptions of a creative workplace, and overall workplace diversity.

Following up on the 2001 study, Fink, Pastore, and Reimer (2003) examined diversity management among athletic directors, senior women’s athletic directors, and men’s and women’s head basketball coaches in NCAA Division III. Findings from the study again supported the idea that strategies for managing diversity, particularly compliance and proactive practices and strategies, were related to positive organizational outcomes. A recommendation from the study was that it is very important for top-level managers who value and believe strongly enough in diversity, to provide the resources (both personnel and monetary) that are necessary for change.

Organizational Commitment

Research specific to sport organizations with regard to diversity-related organizational commitment, as well as the change process related to diversity, has been conducted primarily by Cunningham and Sagas (2004) and Cunningham (2008). In the 2004 study, Cunningham and Sagas examined the effects of racial dissimilarity on the organizational commitment of NCAA Division I men’s assistant basketball coaches. The study addressed the question, "Do coaches racially different from other coaches on the staff have less organizational commitment than do coaches racially similar to other coaches on the staff?" (p. 128). Findings indicated that within this population, being racially different from others in the work group does have an impact on coaches’ commitment to their organizations, although racial dissimilarity did not affect black and white coaches’ commitment in the same way.

Using a perspective of how an organization’s commitment to diversity across multiple dimensions can influence athletic department outcomes, Cunningham (2008) administered a survey to 258 NCAA Division I athletic departments to examine the influence of variables including sex diversity, race diversity, and categories of organizational commitment on the outcomes of (a) attracting diverse fans, (b) having satisfied employees, and (c) offering a creative workplace. Results indicated that departments demonstrating collective commitment to diversity were more likely to achieve these desired outcomes. Cunningham pointed out from the research that focusing primarily on department demographics or commitment to diversity alone is not sufficient, and that athletic administrators should look for ways to increase demographic diversity while also fostering a commitment to diversity among department employees.

Cultural Competence and Leadership

Cultural competence has multiple definitions and meanings across various contexts but is a term that is commonly used in health care and education. Cultural competence generally refers to such things as (a) having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and an appreciation for the cultures of others, and (b) providing assistance or services in a way that recognizes and responds appropriately to differences in beliefs, attitudes, languages, and behaviors of those being served.

Many of the academic articles addressing cultural competence in sport have been in the field of athletic training (Ford, 2003; Marra et al., 2010; Rodriguez and Romanello, 2008). However, several studies more broadly examine cultural competence or recommend the need for enhancing cultural competence among sport management professionals across all sport domains (Gill et al., 2006; Xian-feng, 2009).

In an article offering recommendations for how athletic trainers can work toward improving cultural competence, Ford (2003, p. 60) identified four key points pertaining specifically to athletic training, though they could be considered applicable in other sport environments:

  1. The willingness of certified athletic trainers and therapists to increase awareness and to confront biases and stereotypes will lay the groundwork for a culturally sensitive environment.
  2. A culturally sensitive environment is influenced by physical factors, as well as style of communication, values, behaviors, and attitudes.
  3. Certified athletic trainers and therapists should recognize that an individual’s choices, behaviors, and responses are affected by culture.
  4. Optimal outcomes in clinical settings are achieved when health care practitioners possess more knowledge and respond with sensitivity to cultural issues.

Read more from Contemporary Leadership in Sport Organizations by David Scott, EdD.



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