2021-DPsych student battles gender stereotyping

DPsych student battles gender stereotyping in youth sport through research

Wed, 24 Feb 2021 10:08:00 GMT
GCU DPsych student Elanor Cormack
GCU DPsych student Elanor Cormack

GCU DPsych student Elanor Cormack’s own negative experience as a young footballer has inspired her to take up the mantle to help eradicate gender stereotyping in sport through her research work.

She has just had her first research paper entitled ‘A systematic review of gender stereotype beliefs and their relationship with youth sport participation and performance’ published in the prestigious peer-reviewed Sport and Exercise Psychology Review journal.

Lead author Elanor is a final-year student on the University’s DPsych Sport and Exercise programme, and psychology lecturer and supervisor Dr Chris Hand is co-author on the paper. She is on her way to becoming a chartered sports psychologist and runs her own practice, Cormack Psychology.

After collating research and study papers for over six months, Elanor found that girls’ participation and performance in sport is affected by gender stereotyping.

Elanor, 41, explained: “My research is about gender stereotyping in sport and to try to understand what is happening so that people can then make changes to that. It is something that I have been aware of growing up when there were a lot of very blatant stereotypes.

“I looked at the stereotype threat effect, which can cause somebody’s performance to drop when they feel they are part of a negatively stereotyped group.

“If somebody underperforms because there is that threat there, you then enjoy it less, you are then less motivated to engage with it, then you can continue to underperform and then you may drop out.

“Coaches and teachers sometimes simply throw out phrases – though most people are not doing it deliberately, they are just not aware of the impact.

“It can be something as subtle as a teacher always using a boy to demonstrate a skill.

“Something like that is enough to introduce that stereotype that girls aren’t good enough or that it is not for them.

“The evidence shows children as young as six or seven can become aware of those stereotypes and picking up those messages.”

 Elanor spoke of her own experience at school: “I was the kid that was playing football in primary school when girls weren’t allowed to play football because it was a boy’s sport. I think when I started to look at sport psychology I realised that it was having a real impact on girls in particular.

“I wanted my research over the three years to be something that I felt was genuinely important and worthwhile in a societal sense. I stopped playing football when I was 11 and took up hockey which was seen as a much more acceptable sport for girls.

“I would have liked the chance to keep playing football. I was a decent footballer but couldn’t play in any of the school teams and I used to go along to a boy’s club and train with them but I couldn’t play because I was a girl.

“There was evidence in my research that stereotype threat was having an impact on actual performance. Combined with my own experience as an aunt to a lot of small children, I became more aware of the world they are living in and that gender stereotyping in sport is still there.”