Aim and Research Questions The general aim of this study is to investigate public perceptions in Europe towards female athletes as role models. To this end, it is tried to find an answer on the following three research questions: (a) To what extent are European citizens fan of female athletes? (b) To what extent are European female athletes regarded as personal role models? and (c) Which characteristics are attributed to female athletes as role models? Theoretical Background and Literature Review Increasingly, major international sport governing bodies invest in the development of women’s sports in European countries. Still, gender equality within elite sport is rated rather low. A potential valuable resource put forward by research (e.g., Grix & Carmichael, 2012) to increase gender equality includes the use of female role models by sport organisations and institutions. In general, athletes can become a role model through social power, competence, expertise, fame, sporting success and above all by exhibiting ‘model’ and inspiring behaviour (Hoebeke et al., 2011). Nevertheless, according to former research, the concept of ‘gendered heroism’ in sports might not only result in fewer female athletes being recognized as role models, but also in people tending to have more requirements for female athletes as role model than for male athletes as role model (Meier, 2015; Vescio et al., 2004). Given the gender-stereotyped nature of elite sport, it seems that society traditionally tends to gravitate more toward male athletes than female athletes. However, targeted research on public perceptions in Europe toward female athletes as role models and the expected requirements of female role models is limited (Funahashi et al., 2015). Insights in those perceptions might be of importance in the pursuit of gender equality in sports. Research Design, Methodology and Data Analysis Literature research and input of consortium members of the ‘Athletes 4 society: Empowering the public value of elite sport through athletes as role models’ project, co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, resulted in the development of an online survey covering different topics in the context of perceived societal impact of elite sport (e.g., sociodemographic data, athletes as role models, consuming elite sport, trust in elite sports policy makers). The online survey was translated into 6 languages (Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, Polish, Portuguese) to be able to run the questionnaire among the population from seven different European countries (Belgium, Czechia, Finland, France, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands). In total, 10404 participants completed the survey (49,4% female; 19,2% Belgians, 13,5% Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, Polish, Portuguese). Independent samples T-tests were used to get insights in the significance of differences in order to formulate an adequate answer on the research questions. SPSS was used to facilitate data analysis. Results/findings and Discussion In total, 41,3% of participants are fan of an Olympic athlete of which 46,8% is fan of a female athlete. Within those participants who are fan of a female athlete, 45,9% are men. Women are significantly more likely to be a fan of a female athlete than men (p < 0,001). In total, 21% of female participants indicated to be a fan of a female athlete. In contrast to former research (Meier, 2015), our results show that male athletes are not significantly more often seen as a role model than female athletes. Nevertheless, results indicated that participants with a favourite female athlete find certain characteristics for athletes to display significantly more important than people with a favourite male athlete, namely: athletes are committed to a good cause, athletes live a healthy life, athletes behave in an exemplary manner during and apart from sporting competitions, athletes share messages that can be inspiration to initiate behaviour change, athletes actively engage in inspiring/supporting young sporting talents, athletes actively promote the integration/social equality of young people in vulnerable positions, and athletes speak out on social, environmental, or economic issues that are important to them. During the presentation more detailed research data will be presented. Conclusion, contribution, and implications Current research aimed at developing a broader understanding of public perceptions in Europe toward female athletes as role models. A better understanding of those public perceptions might lay the groundwork for sport policy to continue working toward gender equality in sport. Based on the findings of the current research, future studies could focus on building capacity within sport organisations to develop successful female role model programmes and consequently foster gender equality in elite sport.
Originele taal-2English
Titel30th European Sport Management Conference
SubtitelBridging Sport, Tourism & Leisure Management
UitgeverijEuropean Association for Sport Management
Aantal pagina's2
StatusPublished - 2022
Evenement30th European Sport Management Conference: Bridging Sport, Tourism and Leisure Management - Leopold-Franzens University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
Duur: 6 sep 20228 sep 2022


Conference30th European Sport Management Conference
Verkorte titelEASM 2022
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