“No Girls Allowed:” Gender Bias in Athletic Training

February 29, 2016 – Rachel Maag

How many times have you as a women been told you are too emotional? Anytime you show emotion about something, right?  From guys being told they must be masculine and show no emotion to women being overly emotional, it’s hard to break through the standard gender stereotypes.

Emotions, though, are what make us as humans act and react to everything and everyone around us. In the world of athletic training, emotion is quite necessary and allows us to express empathy or sympathy with an athlete who may have suffered anything from an injury to familial distress. So you see the problem? How am I as someone in the healthcare profession supposed to reign in my emotion when it is one of the qualities that defines, in my opinion, a well rounded trainer?

I was once told by a friend that an NFL trainer they met at a yearly symposium for athletic trainers almost never interviews women for an assistant position. Specific criteria for this women, to put it bluntly, was that she had to be a bitch. Again, we run into that little problem I mentioned earlier that emotions — which again, are key to the human experience — are not valued by those who emphasize masculine stereotypes in sports.

By emphasizing the masculine stereotype, athletic trainers are encouraged to be devoid of emotion or excessively aggressive towards these professional athletes.   In other words, it appears this trainer was worried that an emotional attachment might occur between the woman and the athletes. And that means women were not preferred.

Because this trainer thought that being more masculine and hiding emotion was the appropriate method for being a professional health care provider, he eliminated women in his job search.  In others words, he ignored just over the 50% of working professionals in athletic training that are indeed women. The board of certification of athletic training reported that in 2011, 50.9% of certified trainers were women, and the number continues to grow. So in what we thought was a male dominated arena, half the players are indeed female. Even at at my university in a small town in Utah, our program is only 36% male. And in my junior class, all 7 of us are females.

These barriers — where the male bias against emotion is preferred over a female’s desire to act like a human being — is quite frankly laughable. It leads one to note that being emotional in healthcare is not really the problem; but rather the idea that has somehow discretely nestled its way into our culture that men and being manly is preferable when related to sports. Call me untraditional; but potentially working under an egotistical male shadow is not where I plan to continue my passion of being an athletic trainer.

I’m not really sure where along the way the men put up the “no girls allowed” sign in sports (or why a great number of people decided to follow that narrow road) but sports are definitely changing. As an athletic trainer I do not care if you are white, black, blue, male, female, tall, short, or rectangle. I am going to treat you according to the laws that govern me, which is with respect and indifference to any number of characteristics that may make us unique from each other.

So, I ask the males of the sports world and my chosen profession, why don’t we treat each other with this same regard?  The objective is to hire professional based on qualifications.  And if you are going to focus instead on gender stereotypes and eliminate more than half your labor pool, in the future you will most certainly not have the most qualified trainers working with your athletes.

You can follow the author of this article on Twitter at @rachmaag.

Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape, or form a certified trainer, only a student. My opinion is just that. My knowledge is based on my schooling for this degree which is ever-changing and may be outdated at some times. What I post is solely of my discretion and this article is in no way connected with my university, with my program, with any certified trainer’s I am associated with, or the National Athletic Training Association.

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