As reported on our front page, Knox College pays coaches for women’s sports teams 84.2 percent of what they pay coaches for men’s sports teams. While there are many explanations as to why this gap in pay exists, we as an editorial board believe that it does have sexist roots. But perhaps not in the obvious ways we often discuss inequality in professional compensation.
When studying the relationship between the experience levels of sports coaches at Knox College and the numbers on their paychecks, it becomes apparent that coaches of Knox women’s sports teams happen to be some of the least experienced staff in the athletics department. Therefore, the discrepancy in the salaries of women’s coaches compared to men’s coaches is not surprising. Many of Knox’s women’s sports teams have coaches that have only recently been hired by Knox College or coaches who switch schools and locations frequently. Hence, they have lower starting salaries and don’t stay around long enough to get a raise. Pay is largely based on seniority and not on success at Knox College, so those numbers make sense.
Although the issue seems to solve itself, it would be irresponsible not to explore further. We do not live and operate as an institution in a vacuum. We can see that the way we interact with gender is modeled and supervised by patriarchal systems. This means that the act that these short-term coaches are mostly coaches of women’s sports teams is not a random coincidence. It is not a secret that this is happening in many of the women’s programs, more so than the men’s programs. The women’s tennis team has had three coaches in the last four years. The women’s softball team at one point had eight coaches in 10 years. The patriarchy affects us all and the way we view the world. In a binary view of gender, we dedicate more energy and resources to male athletes and their team needs compared to their female counterparts which is why this discrepancy in hiring and pay of coaches has not been successfully addressed yet.
The seemingly temporary state of coaches for women’s sports teams directly affects their success as collectives. If student athletes have to constantly get adjusted to new mindsets of new coaches and new drills and approaches to their respective sports, they are spending less time finding a routine and achieving steady progress. The importance of having the same coach for long periods of time is not to be questioned.
All that leaves us with no choice but to ask: why are Knox women’s team coaches leaving? And why isn’t the athletic department taking direct, immediate action in regards to this upsetting trend?
We call for research and attention to be dedicated to this issue. Potential students and current student athletes need to know that their success is of importance and priority. Any campus or faculty committees that discourse inclusion and diversity need to start demanding answers. We need to know why our coaches are leaving and how we can retain them. We also need to reach out to student athletes in women’s sports teams to consider their voices in how they can be better supported while we seek better retention of their coaches.