Loughborough University
The thesis by Han Zheng - final version.pdf (3.29 MB)

Exploring women’s leadership in China’s sport national governing bodies

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posted on 2023-07-05, 07:39 authored by Han Zheng

This research explored women’s leadership in China’s sport national governing bodies (NGBs). The purpose of the research is to provide insight into the ways in which women’s leadership can be enhanced and increased. This is the first study in recent decades to focus on women's leadership in the context of the Chinese sport industry, covering the widest range of sport NGBs and female practitioners in leadership positions within these organisations.

Extensive researches have been undertaken internationally, which have identified and acknowledged the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions across multiple industries and global contexts. According to these studies, leadership specifically within the sports industry was both historically and is still currently male dominated. Within China, the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions is also evident, yet there is limited research which has examined why this is the case regarding women’s leadership in China, especially within the sport industry.

In response, this research gap aimed to explore the current situation of women’s leadership in sport NGBs in China. By using both questionnaires and interviews, data from NGBs in China were collected. This research achieved the following three goals: First, the research determined the low representation level of women in leadership position in China’s sport NGBs. Second, it identified six major barriers hindering women from achieving leadership positions in China sport NGBs. Third, it provided options for supporting women practitioners, and increasing their representation, in China’s sport NGBs.

This research yielded four sets of contributions. The methodological contribution of this research included the application of the theoretical framework of the barrier matrix, quantitative and qualitative research methods. The empirical contribution of this research was to answer the three key research questions through quantitative and qualitative research results. It further summarised thirteen key findings to explain the low representation of women's leadership in China's sport NGBs, and revealed how barriers were formed and perpetuated by comparing the results of primary data analysis with other literature. The theoretical contribution of this research was to develop a new “barrier matrix” model based on Burton's (2017) multi-level framework in light of the primary data analysis and discussion. It located six major barriers among three levels. Macro level included barriers of “male dominated culture” and “gender serotyping”. Meso level included barriers of “organisational policies and procedures” and “gendered organisational culture”. Micro level included barriers of “work-family conflicts” and “self-limiting behaviours”. The barrier matrix model also provided insights concerning the vertical correlations between barriers. These insights are helpful to understand the formation, evolution and influencing factors of barriers, so as to understand why barriers are difficult to weaken. The practical contribution provided targeted suggestions based on positioning and analysis of barriers through three aspects of guidance, namely social guidance, policy guidance and personal guidance.



  • Loughborough University London


Loughborough University

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© Han Zheng

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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Emily Hayday ; Aaron Smith

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  • PhD

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  • Doctoral

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