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Study unearths evidence of inequality and discrimination in sport and exercise psychology

08 April 2022

Nearly one third of people working, studying or carrying out research in the sport and exercise psychology field questioned in a new survey faced discrimination or inequality, the findings reveal.

The study uncovered experiences of sexism, racism, ableism and homophobia/transphobia, with one female lecturer being told by a male supervisor that a career in applied sport psychology was 'too complicated for women and that it would be easier for her to be a housewife'.

A total of 129 people – half of them members of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology (DSEP) – took part in the survey, with 31 per cent reporting personal incidents of inequality or discrimination.

Those who identified as non-binary, LGBQ+, or as having a disability or long-term health condition, were most likely to have to have had these experiences.

The study authors believe that inequality and discrimination are systemic, stating that ‘for too long sport has placed the focus for addressing discrimination on condemning the acts of rogue individuals, instead of addressing the system that allows them’.

The study findings have been published in the latest issue of the Sport and Exercise Psychology Review, a special edition out this month which puts the spotlight on equality, diversity and inclusion. It has been guest edited by DSEP’s ED&I group.

Dr Emily Pattinson, DSEP chair and editor of the special issue, said:

"Although the findings are not entirely surprising, the extent of the discrimination and oppression people faced shows we have a long way to go to tackle these issues.

We are moving in the right direction, albeit slowly. The fact that people are prepared to talk about their experiences and that people are willing to listen shows that.”

The research also identifies barriers to training and ‘significant gaps’ in current training options for those who want to enhance their ED&I knowledge.

Just over half of the total sample and around 65 per cent of the DSEP members who responded said they had not received what they deemed adequate training in ED&I.

Dr Pattinson said:

“We need to look at how we educate our next generation so we give them the skills to be able to provide for a diverse range of athletes.

Alongside this, we need to provide lots of opportunities for current members to hear different viewpoints and voices through CPD, events, networking and conference speakers.”



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