Why there is a lack of female managers in football - and when will women lead Premier League teams?

The recent World Cup has proven women have what it takes to lead their teams to success at the elite level Credit: PA Images

Managers of Women's Super League (WSL) football teams say there will be a time when female coaches will manage top-level men's teams.

It comes as rumours swirl about the Lionesses manager Sarina Wiegman potentially being the first to cross that territory.

Posing the question to one of just five female managers in the Women's Super League, Aston Villa's Carla Ward said: "I think there will be a time when women will manage men's teams. Women want the answers to everything, we want to know the 'why' to everything, and we want to know every single aspect of why we are doing things.

"I'm big on the best person for the job, but it's great that we do have now a pipeline of young female talented coaches and that will continue to grow.

"Coaches from the men's game can't believe the levels that the females need and want. But, who will be that first woman to manage a men's team at the top level, I'm not sure."

  • Aston Villa Women manager Carla Ward speaks about her journey to head coach and how she is very happy at Villa

The total attendance during the 2022/23 Women’s Super League season surpassed 680,000, 172% higher than the 2021/2022 season, according to the FA.

The Euros last year was a catalyst for spectators, economic and participation growth - and the FA has said in the last year, 2.3 million more women and girls have been playing football.

Yet despite a surge in enthusiasm and excitement around women's football, the number of role models with the head coach title remains low.

Just 12 of the 32 teams at the Women's World Cup were coached by women: England, Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Switzerland, Brazil, China and Panama.

A similarly low number exists in the Women's Super League, with just over a third managed by women, namely, Carla Ward (Aston Villa), Emma Hayes (Chelsea), Melissa Phillips (Brighton & Hove Albion), Lauren Smith (Bristol City) and recently appointed Rehanne Skinner (West Ham United).

It's felt that deeply entrenched stereotypes still need to be broken down for women to be considered capable of leading teams to glory - but, following the success of female head coaches at the elite level, progress is being made.

And the resolute helm of the English squad is among those doing just that.

Wiegman was the last woman standing among the elite tacticians of the game at the Women's World Cup, coaching the second-best team at the tournament.

While the men's game is far more advanced than the women's and arguably more males have been part of the game for longer, it is often said that the best players don't necessarily make the best coaches.

Key attributes needed from top-level coaches involve communication skills, people management and responding to individual needs, as well as a collective.

Carla Ward says her daughter wants to be a football manager too Credit: PA Images

And if this is true, are more women proving that they too can possess those qualities at the elite level?

Ward said: "When I was a young girl you didn't even consider being a professional football manager but now it's a career.

"I'm big on the best person for the job, but we do have now a pipeline of young female talented coaches and that will continue to grow."

When asked if Ward felt daunted by taking on a managerial role, she told ITV News Central: "No, definitely not, that would never intimidate me.

"I have a four-year-old now who lives and breathes football and she wants to be a manager.

"It shows everybody that you can."

Meanwhile, Leicester City Women's Head Coach, Willie Kirk, agrees there will be a natural progression of women filling these roles as the sport develops.

  • Leicester City Women's Head Coach, Willie Kirk, spoke to ITV News Central about the growth of the game

He said: "I think we always are pushing for women to fill managerial roles which is good but I also think we have to look after the standard of the game in terms of it being the best person for the job.

"We are seeing more and more women in football now which is really good, so we need to be driving that but we also have got to make sure the quality is there.

"I think Sarina Wiegman is an exceptional manager and tactician, I think her communication is second to none, there are even things she does that I have heard of and that I have tried to implement.

"The men's and women's games are becoming a lot more aligned in terms of what the players want now.

"[The difference when working with men and women is that] you would get the boy's respect instantly but you could lose it instantly, it takes longer to get the women's respect but once you've got it, you've got it for life.

"I think that's just the way that males and females work but I think the needs of players now are becoming very similar. You would used to tell the lads to do something and they would just do it but the girls want to know why they are doing it and I think that's the same with the lads now as well.

"The players are a lot more inquisitive now. Women needing to know what the 'why' is challenges you as a coach and I think that's a good thing because we use that to our advantage now.

"I think a number of things make an excellent manager, I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all, it's very unique to your style as a human being."

One day in the near future, we could be seeing female managers crossing over to the men’s game at the highest level.

Ultimately, it comes down to the best person for the job that matters and, according to both Ward and Kirk, the best managers possess the ability to understand people, how they learn, how they react, and they pick and choose how to get the best out of them, regardless of gender.

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