GAINSVILLE, Fla. — Ladies own the court, too. A new study finds that female basketball stars perform just as well when coached by a woman as those whose teams are led by men, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Florida analyzed data of 1,522 past and present WNBA players from 1997 through 2015, along with 4,000 recent NCAA athletes, hoping to find whether the gender of a team’s head coach played a role in the performance and productivity of its individual players. Those followed clocked at least 250 minutes of playing time over two seasons.

All-Navy women's basketball team assistant coach Diane Richardson mentors prospective players as they run through drills.
A new study finds that there’s no advantage to being coached by a man over a woman in basketball. WNBA stars and NCAA athletes performed just as well when their head coach was a woman.

Through their analysis, the researchers found that the gender of a given athlete’s coach was not a determinant in how they performed.

Instead, the numbers of games played by an athlete, the continuity of the team’s coaching ranks, and an athlete’s seniority were the best predictors of that player’s success.

“The results of this study challenge the gender stereotypes associated with leadership ability through an objective measure of followers’ [individual players’] performance and suggest that both men and women are achieving similar levels of success as head coaches,” says lead researcher Lindsey Darvin in a press release. “These results may also contest the gendered nature of the industry because they suggest that men are not outperforming women in one of sport’s more visible leadership positions— the head coach.”

Despite the apparent lack of difference in coaching ability between men and women, the former benefits from many systemic advantages, including better negotiating positions and pay, better working conditions, and an increased ability to receive multi-year contracts.

Darvin hopes that her research exposes how the prevailing stereotypes about female coaches are untrue, allowing more to join their ranks.

For now, she recommends that organizations reexamine the current paradigm of pay between male and female coaches, as that can precipitate further discrimination.

“Organizations cannot assume that hiring managers are free of bias, and will need to consider educational programs to remedy the situation,” she explains. “Organizations should also consider a more data-analytic approach to hiring that would include various measures of performance that are less prone to human bias in their interpretation.”

The study’s findings were published Aug. 30 in the journal Sex Roles.

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