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Senior Woman Administrators

The senior woman administrator is the highest-ranking female in each NCAA athletics department or conference office. The purpose of the SWA designation is to promote meaningful representation of women in the leadership and management of college sports.

The NCAA membership voted to create the SWA designation in 1981 — the same year it added women’s championships — to ensure women were involved in the male-dominated administration of college athletics. Schools and conference offices are not legislatively required to have an SWA, although 99 percent of NCAA schools do. A staff member who meets the definition of an SWA is eligible for benefits such as serving on NCAA committees, participating in eligibility hearings and receiving select grants, among others. If an athletics director or commissioner is female, the school or conference may designate another woman as its SWA.

Many SWAs are involved in senior-level management decisions within athletics on their campuses and in their conference offices. Athletics directors and commissioners are encouraged to designate the SWA as a lead on major athletic projects, depending on her level of experience and professional development interests. SWAs should have oversight of both men’s and women’s sports, as well as sports deemed revenue and nonrevenue generators. Because of her senior designation and diverse perspective, the SWA and athletics director or commissioner should have regular communication, not only for leadership development, but also to confer on major departmental, university or conference initiatives.

Athletics departments and conference offices that optimize the SWA designation create the opportunity for these types of positive outcomes:

  • Enhanced quality of decision-making resulting from the inclusion of diverse perspectives at the campus, conference and national levels.
  • Professional success for the SWA, resulting in leadership demographics more reflective of the student-athlete population.
  • Visible presence of female role models for student-athletes and staff.
  • Diverse points of contact on the senior management team for student-athletes and staff to bring issues or concerns.


Overcoming Barriers to SWA Impact

These resources provide additional, division-specific education on the designation.

Division I

SWA 201 - Key Highlights
SWA 201

Division II

SWA 201 - Key Highlights
SWA 201

Division III

SWA 201 - Key Highlights
SWA 201

Maximizing the SWA designation

Resources to help maximize the impact of the SWA.

Report on the Senior Woman Administrator Designation

A report from a 2017 study exploring the impact of the NCAA senior woman administrator designation and the experience of women serving as SWAs.

Download the report >
Key Findings From the SWA Report

A summary of the biggest takeaways from the 2017 Optimization of the Senior Woman Administrator Designation report.

Read the key findings >
‘College Sports Insider’ Podcast With Jack Ford

In this episode of the “College Sports Insider” podcast, Jack Ford sits down with Northern Vermont University – Lyndon’s Kate Roy, interim athletics director and former associate director of athletics, compliance coordinator and SWA

Listen to the episode >
2012 SWA Best Practices Brochure

A guide to understanding the designation and the SWA’s role on a senior management team.

Download the brochure >