According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, the percentage of female ATs to male ATs is 53.53% to 46.4% as of February 2014. And out of all the settings in AT; collegiate, hospitals, recreational/youth sports, secondary schools, clinics, marketing, health clubs, military/law enforcement, professional sports, and others, only 2.31% of ATs are working in the professional sports. Just hearing that number makes it seem impossible.
However, it is not only the math stacked against me, but I’m also a female. The literature says there are stereotypical gender roles of women; that being supportive caring, and nurturing, “indicates incongruity between the roles of being female and being an AT”(O’Connor et. al 2010). In addition, the resistance to females in male locker rooms and the male athlete’s perceptions of female ATs also contributed to the underrepresentation of women in head athletic training positions.
But, why? Why are female ATs different than male ATs? Because we are more nurturing than males? We are all held to the same Standards of Practice and bylaws. We all receive the same entry-level education, and most of us continue on to graduate education. And we all live by the same mission statement of the NATA which states “The mission of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association is to enhance the quality of health care provided by certified athletic trainers and to advance the athletic training profession.”
Dorthy “Dot” Cohen became the first female member of the NATA 16 years after the NATA was founded. Gail Weldon became the first female hired by the US Olympics in 1979 to cover the Pan America Games and was the first female chief AT for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. Other great women have graced AT including Sherry Bagagian, Janice Daniels, Eve Becker-Doyle, Karen R. Toburen, Marje Albohm, and Julie Max. But breaking the barrier of female ATs into professional sports came by Michelle Leget. She was the first female assistant AT hired by the Houston Rockets in 1997. Following her was Janet Panek, female assistant AT for the Washington Wizards. Then in 2002 Ariko Iso became the first female assistant AT in the NFL for the Pittsburg Steelers. Then the biggest barrier yet was broken by Sue Falsone of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 as the first female head AT in the MLB.
All of these women have great things in common… but beyond their gender, they are just great ATs… but consider the math again… There are almost 40,000 members of the NATA, and I can only tell you about FIVE serving in professional sports. Women are just as qualified as men and we should have access to whatever position we want.
So… we have to continue to break barriers, fight for equality, do the RIGHT and LEGAL thing… and allow the most qualified candidate access to professional AT positions… because I’m coming after those jobs and expect to be considered for my skills and not my gender.
Emilie Miley, LAT, ATC