College Athletics Has Encouraging Signs For Diversity & Inclusion
A panel of female execs in the college space said diversity and inclusion is improving in athletic departments across the country, but that while the circumstances for women in general have improved, there is still a lot of work to be done throughout intercollegiate athletics. “Things are definitely better just from the experience standpoint,” said St. John’s Associate Provost Nancy Kaplan on Day 1 of the '19 Learfield IMG College Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. Kaplan, who oversees the student development program for athletics, noted that conditions for women have greatly improved since her days playing college basketball for St. John’s. “The school didn’t even pull out the bleachers,” Kaplan said. “There was no pep band. There were no cheerleaders. Little concern was paid to how we traveled. So things from that standpoint have certainly gotten better.”
SEEING PROGRESS: Wyoming Senior Associate AD China Leigh Jude agreed with Kaplan that positive change is happening. “Each position and institution that I would go to, I was the first, I was the only (woman of color),” Jude said. "It was pretty interesting, especially here in New York city when I was the Assistant Vice President for Athletics at Queens College. And so when the president made the decision to hire a woman of color to oversee their athletics office, the question was, ‘First of all, do you know what you're doing?’ Of course, because when you made that decision at Queens College, which was 20,000 students, that you know that you want to change. And so he said, ‘I'm very confident with myself to hire a woman of color to oversee my athletics office.’ And that made me feel very good."
SETTING PRIORITIES: So what did Jude tackle first? "We went about change and made sure that we were diversifying not only our coaching and athletic staff, but also our student athletes as well," she said. "So change did come in each department that I worked at. Overall in Division I, change is slowly turning the corner statistically. In Division I, it was 18% of women and ethnic minorities in 2008 were athletic directors, 20% in 2013, and 25% in 2018. However, when it came to student athletes, it was 64%, 68% and 70%. So the student athletes in terms of women and ethnic minorities data is increasing. However, when it comes to athletic administrators, it’s slowly turning the corner.” Both Kaplan and Jude emphasized the importance of expanding and emphasizing mentorship and teaching, engaging more men and coaches in the discussion and promoting diversity and inclusion outside of the workplace.