Study: MLS gets A for racial hiring, but sliding in gender

A diversity report for racial and gender hiring in Major League Soccer reported a high score for hiring people of color but a fourth straight decline in the hiring of women at the team and league level.

Wednesday’s report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida assigned an overall B grade, with an A for racial hiring but a C-minus for gender hiring. The report examined a range of positions at the league headquarters and within franchises while reviewing data from July covering the 2020 season.

The gender score stood at 81 points for a B as recently as 2016 but has now fallen to 69.9 points for the 2020 report card, a decline of nearly 13.7%. It is the lowest gender score for MLS since 2007.

“Gender hiring generally is significantly behind racial-hiring practices in all the men’s professional leagues, as well as in college sport,” TIDES director and lead report author Richard Lapchick said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“When people talk about diversity inclusion at the league level or the team level, they are more frequently talking about racial diversity. I think we have to kind of equalize that discussion so it also includes gender diversity. And I think that will make a difference.”

The report emphasized the strongest performance in the league office, where the racial hiring grade was an A-plus with people of color filling 41.6% of positions. The gender hiring grade was a B-plus with women holding 39.3% of positions. The league also earned an A-plus for initiatives to promote diversity, while Lapchick also pointed to the 2019 promotion of JoAnn Neale to league president and chief administrative officer as an example of that emphasis.

The gender scores at the team levels were lower. MLS received a C-minus for professional administration positions along with an F for team owners, CEO/presidents, vice presidents and senior administration positions.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion are priorities for Major League Soccer,” Neale said in a statement Wednesday. “Major League Soccer has a longstanding commitment to recruiting diverse talent who bring varied perspectives across all aspects of our business and to creating an inclusive workplace culture.

“While we remain committed to hiring and retaining employees who reflect a multicultural workforce, we know there is still more work that can be done.”

For racial hiring, MLS had an overall score of 90.7, down from 93.9 in 2019. The league received A-plus grades for head coaches, players and assistant coaches. It also received a B-plus for general managers and team professional administration positions, and a B for team CEO/presidents and senior administration positions.

The league’s lowest grade for racial hiring was a C-minus for majority owners and vice presidents at the team level.

The report states that declines in the numerical scores for all three areas was “partially attributable” to a change in methodology, which added a category for team chief executive officers or presidents as well as team vice presidents.

This was the third study released by TIDES covering data for the 2019-20 or 2020 season, following the NBA in July and Major League Baseball in August. TIDES will issue diversity report cards for the NFL, the WNBA and college sports at later dates.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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