New research explores the systematic underestimation of women in sport | Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics

New research explores the systematic underestimation of women in sport

Posted on Monday, May 3rd, 2021

women playing volleyball

Are women’s abilities and skills in sports systematically underestimated?

That’s the question two Lang faculty are collaborating on in a new research initiative, funded through Sport Canada’s E-Alliance gender equity research hub. Along with Dr. Katie Lebel (Ryerson University), Lang marketing professor Dr. Jing Wan and management professor Dr. Sandeep Mishra will receive funding through E-Alliance’s Canada-wide RFP.

The mandate of the Hub is to provide credible thought leadership and generate an evidence base to support gender equity in sport through innovative, transparent and sustainable research activities, data curation, network building and partnerships, to effect pan-Canadian behaviour change.

Below, Dr. Wan and Dr. Mishra explain their research project and the impact they hope to make


Can you briefly explain your research project?

"The purpose of our research project is to investigate whether there is a systematic underestimation of women athletes’ abilities, and if so, how this underestimation manifests. We predict that people hold implicit, unconscious beliefs about gender and athleticism, which will colour their perceptions of athletic performance. We further predict that people’s subjective perception of an athlete’s skill will be more heavily influenced by gender stereotypes, rather than factual information (e.g., objective speed of a kicked ball)."

-Dr. Jing Wan

Why is this an important topic to explore?

"People act on their perceptions, but subjective perceptions are not always tied to objective reality. Because of negative gender stereotypes about women in sport, people may see objectively outstanding performance by a woman as less impressive. That is, perceptual distortions of objective sports performance may be a product of pre-existing cognitive biases around gender roles. Understanding the mechanisms underlying these gendered judgments is the necessary first step towards ameliorating their damaging, systemic effects."

-Dr. Sandeep Mishra

What impact do you hope your research project will have? 

"With this project, we hope to more shed light on this issue of systematic and institutionalized bias within sports. By understanding how implicit gender stereotypes can distort the way people perceive objective performance of athletes, we would be able to challenge existing structures that currently uphold gender inequality in sports. We hope to reach the sporting community at large and challenge their assumptions about what makes a good athlete."

-Dr. Jing Wan

"This work has direct implications for people involved in sports at all levels -- athletes, coaches, audiences, fans -- anyone who has an interest in equity in sport. The more that we understand the attitudinal biases and distorted perceptions that lead to unnecessary inequality, the better we'll be able to develop interventions to reduce continuing gender inequity."

-Dr. Sandeep Mishra


Dr. Sandeep Mishra

Sandeep Mishra is an Associate Professor of Management in the Department of Management at the Lang School. He received his PhD from the University of Lethbridge. Prior to joining the Lang School of Business, he was an Associate Professor at the Hill/Levene Schools of Business at the University of Regina.

Dr. Jing Wan

Jing Wan is an Assistant Professor of marketing in the Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies at the Lang School. She received her PhD from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Prior to joining the Lang School of Business, she was an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Groningen (Netherlands).

Find related news by keyword

News Archive