Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Steven Waller, Sylvia Trendafilova

Committee Members

James Bemiller, Pamela S. Angelle


Despite years of progress by women in the workforce, climbing the corporate ladder is still a very daunting task for most women (Eagly & Carli, 2007; Evans, 2010; McKinsey Report, 2013), and occupational segregation still exists (Davidson & Burke, 2011). Research studies have reported that mentoring in general is critical to upward mobility (Allen, Eby, O’Brien, & Lentz, 2008; Allen, Eby, Poteet, Lentz, & Lima, 2004; Eby, Allen, Evans, Ng, & DuBois, 2008). To date there has not been a study with a focus on mentoring and female executives in professional sport. In the 2014 Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC), Lapchick reported the lowest grade, “F” (any position in which women comprise less than 22 % of the available jobs), for NBA teams regarding the presence of women in such positions as CEO/ president and vice president. The purpose of this study was two-fold: (1) to understand how female upper managers in the NBA describe mentoring; and (2) to understand what role mentoring plays in their leadership development.

Individual, in-depth semi-structured interviews with open-ended questions were conducted. The interview protocol consisted of a pool of 6 questions developed from the review of literature but modified to fit the specific objectives of this study. The study sample consisted of 10 female managers working in the NBA. The cycle of data reduction and verification was a continuous process, enabling six dominant themes to emerge. The themes for RQ1 included (a) professional and personal development, (b) the organic process of mentorship, and (c) organizational environment. The themes for RQ2 included (a) career functions, (b) psychosocial support, and (c) the power of organizational socialization. Another theme emerged from both RQ1 and RQ2: gender of the mentor. Based on the results of this study, a new conceptual model is proposed. The findings of this research have practical implications (e.g., develop human resources through mentoring, promote natural mentorship opportunities within the organization, identify the most beneficial mentor) for women who are interested in pursuing a career in the sport industry and for organizations that want to be able to nurture their talents.

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