The Importance of Role Modeling in Mentoring Women: Lessons from Pat Summitt Legacy

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Abstract

The role of mentoring for women in sports industry has gathered attention among researchers in the past years (Bower, 2009; Bower, & Hums 2009, 2014; Weaver, & Chelladurai, 1999, 2002). Since few women are in leadership positions (Acosta, & Carpenter, 2014), cross-gender mentoring relationships are more likely to happen (Hopkins et al., 2008). However, according to Kram (1985), cross-gender mentoring relationships are more complex in terms of individual development and quality of the developmental relationship. In particular, role modeling function is limited (Kram, 1985). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the functions of the same gender mentoring relationships looking at coach Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA Division I basketball history and a woman in leadership position (Becker & Wrisberg, 2008). Due to the exploratory nature of the study and the huge impact of Pat Summitt on sport (Janssen, & Dale, 2002, De Marco, & Mccullick, 1997), a single case study design to analyze her relationships from the staff and players’ perspectives was utilized as the method for data collection. This study collected data published on American news sites located using Internet search engines Google News (http://www.google.com) for 7 days. The dataset included content published through national and regional online news media, radio, television and entertainment websites and blogs. Texts were qualitatively reviewed with a content analysis and coded (Patton, 2002). This study identified career and psychosocial functions that were important in developing an effective mentoring relationships. In particular, the psychosocial functions of “role modeling” was identified as the most important for the relationship. In fact a female mentor as a role model can be perceived as a woman that has successfully overcome discriminatory barriers to career advancement.

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